Maddie on Things

Maddie on Things
Maddie on Things
How a rescued Coonhound with extraordinary balance inspired a book and changed the life of her adopter during their cross-country road trip

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In early 2011, a recently heartbroken Theron Humphrey took a good close look at his life and found it lacking. A commercial photographer burnt out on the corporate world, he found his life’s journey coming up short both creatively and personally. The words of a girl he loved echoed in his ears: “You are the most disappointing human ever.”

Waking up Idaho mornings and venturing to work heavyhearted, he had a desire to change, to mix things up. And that’s when he had This Wild Idea. He would traverse all 50 states and meet one person a day, every day, and tell their story through images. In a flash of inspiration that was to become the focal point—literally—of his journey, he figured he better have a dog along for the ride. “If Steinbeck had Charley by his side on his American travels, I need a good dog next to me in my truck,” he said to himself.

And so he came to adopt Maddie, a sweet natured Coonhound, from an animal shelter that summer and by fall they said goodbye to friends and hit the road together. Inevitably, Theron would come to train his lens on his co-pilot, a dog whose steadfastness and uncanny ability to balance would prove to make surprisingly captivating photos. It all started simply enough. One morning Theron figured he “needed a photograph to remember how we travelled together. So I picked up Maddie and put her on the roof [of the truck]. She just stood there and smiled at me. Good things seem to start that way. You know, small.”

That photo led to others, taken in little—and not so little—towns, road stops, national parks. Shared through Instagram and Tumblr, these quirky photos of Maddie balanced on top of all and sundry zinged their way around the internet. Such was their appeal that they even ended up featured by media outlets like Good Morning America, Wired, Time, and People. These unpremeditated photos of a dog on the road would come to enthrall countless people and even inspire a book, released this spring by Chronicle Books. Rather perfectly entitled Maddie on Things: a Super-Serious Project About Dogs and Physics, it collects Theron’s photos of his well-loved dog as she placidly poses atop bicycles, construction barrels, a fridge door—even a watermelon the size of a small car. Quirky in the very best way, it is a testament and tribute to second chances, resilient spirits, the lure of the road, and, of course, our canine counterparts, which so many of us rely upon to remind us of the miracle that is the little things.

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