Anyone who has ever watched dogs meet and play knows how interesting, and often amusing, those interactions can be.
But capturing those Kodak moments up close on film can be challenging—dogs tend to pull away from the moment when a camera-wielding human approaches. Minnesota high school student Susie Kixmoeller found a solution when trying to photograph her dog, Tula—she outfitted him with a GoPro harness and set the device to take photos while Tula romped around with her playmates.
After Tula conducts a photo shoot, Kixmoeller painstakingly wades through thousands of photos to find one or two great shots. Pictures show dogs leaning in for a sniff, presenting a toy, even crouching down for a play bow. “The photography becomes like performance art because we never know who she’ll want to engage with,” Susie’s father, Ken Kixmoeller, told AKC.org.
“At first, the social media was just a way to share the photos with friends we made at the dog park and our other daughter, Katie, who was away at college,” said Ken. But thanks to a Buzzfeed article Katie wrote to promote her family’s project, Tula’s Instagram took off, attracting more than 12,000 followers. The photos have been covered by the Washington Post, People Pets, and many more national and international publications.
“We didn’t set off to create an Instagram sensation,” says Ken. “I never thought I’d be my dog’s social media manager.” He adds that as photographer Susie is “the boss,” and Katie serves as “publicist.”
But while not gaining fame romping around at the park, Tula has a serious job to do. She also helps children as a certified therapy dog through Pet Partners. She participates in several programs geared at youth, including one that allows children to read to dogs. She also visits a children’s hospital and a school to help calm kids who are stressed or ill.
“Tula just loves [therapy work],” says Ken. “One mother said when Tula visited, it was the first time she’s seen her daughter smile since she got sick.”