'Why We Rescue' project shows shelter animals 'aren't second rate'

Erin Flashner Buckley adopted her "angel baby" Shimmy nearly nine years ago. Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
Erin Flashner Buckley of Louisiana adopted her "angel baby" Shimmy nearly nine years ago.

Remember Theron Humphrey, the wandering photographer with the wildly laid-back coonhound named Maddie? Humphrey attained Internet and book fame with his photos of “Maddie on Things” — happy images of his dog perching patiently atop bicycles, horses, shopping carts, skateboards and more — and his latest photo project packs a similarly blissful wallop.

Sponsored by Purina ONE, Humphrey’s “Why We Rescue” project involves photos of rescued shelter animals in all 50 states along with audio interviews with the animals’ owners.

“I really wanted to show that rescue and shelter dogs aren’t second rate,” Humphrey told TODAY.com. “They’re amazing animals and amazing pets. Maddie was a rescue dog — she cost me $40 at a shelter — and she changed my life.”

This rescued dog named Reggie lives aboard a 27-foot sailboat in Florida with Katie Smith. Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
This rescued dog named Reggie lives aboard a 27-foot sailboat in Florida with Katie Smith.

Humphrey, 30, spent most of 2013 traveling with Maddie throughout the United States in his “off-road camping machine,” a 1987 FJ60 Toyota Land Cruiser. This gave him an opportunity to meet people who enjoyed his book, “Maddie on Things: A Super Serious Project About Dogs and Physics,” and also photograph dozens of animal lovers for his “Why We Rescue” project.

Chara Lemley hugs her Coonhound/Foxhound mix Lipton. She also has another rescue named Luna. Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
Chara Lemley of West Virginia hugs her coonhound/foxhound mix Lipton. She also has another rescue pet named Luna.

“It’s easy to think about the world as this really big place that we can’t change,” Humphrey said. “But when you’re in someone’s home with their rescued dog, there’s a real tangible example of a person making the world a better place.”

To see more of Humphrey's "Why We Rescue" photos, check out the slideshow below and visit Humphrey's website, ThisWildIdea.com.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Theron Humphrey

    'Why We Rescue': Photos of grateful people with their shelter animals

    Theron Humphrey, the photographer who attained Internet fame with images of his dog "Maddie on Things," recently completed a new photo project called "Why We Rescue." It features photos and stories of rescued shelter animals in all 50 states.

  • 'Why We Rescue': Photos of grateful people with their shelter animals

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    By Samantha Okazaki, TODAY

    Theron Humphrey, the photographer who attained Internet fame with images of his dog “Maddie on Things,” recently completed a new photo project called "Why We Rescue." It involves photos of rescued shelter animals in all 50 states along with moving audio interviews with the animals’ owners.

    In this photo captured by Humphrey, a woman named Aila relaxes with Quinn, her rescued Labrador retriever/Weimaraner mix, in Maryland.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
  • 'Why We Rescue': Photos of grateful people with their shelter animals

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    Sponsored by Purina ONE, the “Why We Rescue” project has the goal of showing that “rescue and shelter dogs aren’t second rate,” Humphrey told TODAY.com.

    This photo shows Karen Rizner’s daughter, Celia, who has grown up with Ginger, a coonhound mix. The family rescued Ginger after moving to Boston. Adopting was “one of our first priorities,” Rizner told Humphrey for the “Why We Rescue” project.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Dave Perkins and his rescue dog Annie enjoy a low-key life in Idaho. “All these people I met were so grateful about how their dogs changed their lives,” Humphrey said.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Stephen Calsbeek sits outside his Georgia home with Triple Coupon Thursday, one of his four rescue pets. "We like interesting names," he told Humphrey.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Ben Edward of Minnesota relaxes with his cat, Ruth.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    David, Tereasa, Charlie and Frankie live and work at Camp Wandawega in Wisconsin. Frankie's "our first kid," Tereasa told Humphrey. "It was love at first sight."

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Charise and David live in Wilmington, Del., with their two cats, Fang and Lulu, and their mutt, Olive.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Gavin Cottrell of Washington and his rescue dog Ripley spend time together in the great outdoors. Cottrell manages a kennel for an organization called Conservation Canines.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Radley is Kathleen Bulger's reason to get out bed in the morning. "He doesn't know how big he is," Kathleen told Humphrey. “He's just a goof."

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Jim Bob Strothers of Arizona sits on the bed with his 14-year-old boxer, Punky.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Jenna Lyons and Tillie enjoy life together in Lawrence, Kan.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Sonnie Tompkins has 12 adopted horses at her ranch home in Mission Viejo, Calif. She first began rescuing horses when she was 13 years old.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Mike Becker of Homer, Alaska hangs out with his border collie, Gus. Gus helped Mike overcome the loss of his first collie, Max.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Phillip Kim lives in New York with his 8-year-old pit bull, Sienna, and his 10-year-old rabbit, Luka.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com
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    Katie Smith lives in Florida on a 27-foot sailboat with her best friend, Jessie Zevalkink, her cat, Bird, and her dog, Reggie. Reggie had fleas and a skin disease called mange when Smith rescued him. Smith nursed the dog back to health.

    To see more of Theron Humphrey’s “Why We Rescue” photos and hear owners’ stories, visit his website, ThisWildIdea.com.

    Theron Humphrey / www.thiswildidea.com

Need a Coffey break? Connect with TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

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