Initiative: Rescued Bestie Feature, in collaboration with The 13 Project
Featured Canine: Maddie, 3 y/o Red Tick Coonhound
Rescue Facilitator: Cobb County Animal Shelter, Marietta, GA
Despite what some may think, rescued and re-homed dogs are every bit as beautiful, trainable, loving and faithful as those born to champion parents, and in some cases, they actually exceed expectations for canine greatness in the most outstanding of ways. For our newest "Rescued Bestie" post, we're featuring a very special, red-freckled little lady who has managed to capture the attention of the entire internet due to a handy talent for balancing on things. If that tip didn't have you squealing "Maddie the Coonhound!", you've clearly been away from your computer too long, and you best read closely - this is one rescue story to top them all.
What we know of Maddie's story began in Georgia, in 2011, where a 29 y/o Theron Humphrey found her in the Cobb County Animal Shelter. Theron, a professional photographer, was about to embark on a year-long, 50-state tour via pick-up truck, and channeling a vision of the great John Steinbeck, he posited that the best companion for such a trip was a dog: a hound dog, to be exact, just like the ones he'd grown up surrounded by in North Carolina. Upon examining his adoptable options, his initial meet and greet with then one y/o Maddie was not the moment of insta-love that he had imagined - the "spark" it seemed just wasn't there. But on the walk back to her kennel, where he intended to return her, Maddie (perhaps sensing the urgency of the opportunity) leaned into his leg with every step... and as anyone who has ever been solicited for attention by a 4-paw will agree - it's darn hard to say no to that touch.
Maddie went home with Theron that day, and they've been inseparable ever since - most of that time has been spent on the road. Besides the obvious companionship, Theron is quick to point out that Maddie has grounded his perspective in a number of important ways; at the head of the list: "She always wakes up in a good mood. She's always pumped about life." Leave it to a hound dog to dispense the daily affirmation.
Theron's cross-country trek was originally motivated by a single "Wild Idea" (a project well worth checking out, if you're into great photography and powerful story-telling) - but as luck would have it, a second wild idea (that began as a test shot, and evolved into an epic series) was born on the trip - ignited by one gifted pup through the lens of an iPhone on the interwebs. And it wasn't long before Maddie's talents were being shared around the world.
On the back of a horse in South Dakota; inside a refrigerator in San Francisco; straddling the gap between two shopping carts in Wisconsin - it didn't seem to matter where Theron placed her, but when he gave the command, Maddie was a natural pro at holding a pose. And with each new set-up in each new state, Theron snapped a photo and passed it on to his followers via Instagram. The photos led to followers, the followers became a following, the following led to a book deal, the book release went on tour - and just like that, Maddie and Theron ended up in Boston this past May, speaking about their travels, and stamping the inside covers of hundreds of copies of Maddie on Things.
If you've been following Maddie's documented travels, you've probably been impressed by what a strikingly calm, zen-like hound she appears to be - how else would a mere pup be able to perch atop the fine rim of a basketball hoop, or contort within the pear-shaped confines of a guitar case, if it weren't for exceptional focus and naturally steady poise. Well, having met this fine young canine in person, I can tell you - she's every bit the graceful star when the cameras switch on... but at the end of an exhausting day, with hours of quieted exuberance wound up like a spring - when given a "release" from her duties, this stayed and obedient girl is refreshingly still a DOG. And good gracious does she know how to shake the hell out of a squeaky toy...
I love flipping through Maddie's year in deliciously clever photos - each image a frozen moment of whimsical contemplation and reflection - but I absolutely ADORED real-time Maddie, who pounced and bounced and shook and spun and reminded everyone there to witness it that the secret to a rich life is a balance of stillness and motion, of elegant control and rapturous spontaneity. Clearly, this dog does always wake up pumped about life - what dog doesn't?! The fact that her soulmate found her in the concrete barracks of county animal control is really just the luck of the draw.
*Meet the Maddie on Things book tour in your city (support your local booksellers!), or just keep up to date on where she's been and where she's headed at the Maddie on Tour website.