How Four Dog Lovers Found A Creative, Unconventional Life Path
All with the help of their most inspiring, stalwart companions—their dogs
Born and raised in Southern California, native west coaster Alison Turner has spent most of the last eight years on the road, accompanied by her adventurous four-legged sidekick named Max, her ever-present camera, and a pop-up camper. Alison and Max seldom stop in one place for too long, and their destination is decided on the morning they’re set to travel. For them, sleeping under the stars, running barefoot in the sand, and witnessing azure sunsets are everyday treats.
Before experiencing this kind of freedom and personal fulfillment, Alison, aged 45, spent 15 years working in advertising, jogging the corporate treadmill. Eventually, she felt as though she was losing her creative soul. So, in a decisive stroke, she quit her job and took to the road, searching for what was missing. Along the way, she found herself again through her love for photography and the open road.
Always along for the ride is Alison’s co-pilot Max, a Brussels-Griffin-possible-Affenpinscher mix, who breaks the solitude of an otherwise solo journey and makes things fun.
“He makes me smile everyday. I can’t imagine traveling the U.S. without him. Many of my destinations are chosen because I know Max will enjoy the area,” she says, referring with affection to her scrappy 14-pounder.
Max’s fondness for certain locales—sand dunes, beaches,
and places where he can run free are chief among them—have taken them camping at White Sands National Monument, and running on the shores of the Pacific Coast, Cape Cod, and Padre Island, Texas.
Max and Alison have now been on the road for seven years, off and on. (Allison’s journey began a year before Max.) Alison supports their ongoing series of traveling adventures through her savings from her years in the corporate world, wise investments, and freelance photography gigs she undertakes along the way. Since finding her calling, Alison’s work has appeared in many notable publications including Lenscratch, National Geographic, Salon.com, and Slate Magazine. She and Max have covered 48 states within the U.S. thus far, with Alison photographing the interesting people and places they encounter along the way.
The meeting of these two perfect travel companions was timely, to say the least. What started out as a trip to a Long Beach, CA-area farmer’s market to pick up strawberries ended with Alison bringing Max home from an adoption event held there that day. The rescue told her that they’d managed to save him from a high kill shelter just hours before he was to be put to sleep.
When asked if Alison ever felt the need to give up her freewheeling lifestyle and settle in one place, she shrugs. “We have no end date in mind. We travel when we feel the urge to go exploring. Max loves traveling. The joy on his face when he’s happy is contagious. He reminds me to calm down and play.”
Follow Alison and Max’s many adventures on Instagram (@alisontravels) as well as on her blog at alisonslife.com and alisonturnerphoto.com.
Rafael Mantesso and his Bull Terrier Jimmy Choo became social media sensations almost overnight when Rafael’s cheeky illustrations of the two of them broke the Internet last year, charming the paws off dog lovers all over the globe. Rafael had casually posted his illustrations to his Instagram account and from there, thanks to the mysterious alchemy of the Internet, they went viral. They were picked up by seemingly everyone, including media bigwigs like USA Today, BuzzFeed, and Huffington Post, but perhaps the biggest surprise came when Sandra Choi, director of Jimmy Choo, the luxury shoe brand for which Rafael’s Bull Terrier was named, reached out to them personally, expressing an interest to collaborate on a limited edition 2015 capsule collection. The duo’s stardom was now official.
The circumstances leading up to the Rafael’s success were less than ideal. On his 30th birthday, Rafael’s wife called it quits on their marriage and left him and their Bull Terrier with an empty, white-walled apartment devoid of furniture, photographs, or decorations. With only Jimmy for company, Rafael sought and found inspiration in the blank walls of his apartment. He began snapping photos of his dog gamboling around the empty flat and drawing him in different scenarios. With each image, Rafael found his thirst for art and life re-awakening.
Today, the pair continues to dominate social media with more than 540,000 Instagram followers. Rafael is also the proud author of a newly published book, A Dog Named Jimmy, boasting 120 illustrations of his canine muse, Jimmy Choo (100 of the illustrations are brand new). The book, Rafael says, is his declaration of love to his four-legged mate. With it he hopes to change public perception surrounding bully breeds and unveil the true nature of the breed, the love and their loyalty to their humans.
“When people didn’t know Jimmy, they were afraid of him on the streets. They would cross the street so they would not have to pass him. Now people cross the street to touch him and play with him. He loves it,” Rafael says.
Rafael is currently involved with building a foundation to help shelter dogs, and finding Jimmy his next gig, which could be as the star of his own cartoon show. While Rafael is still in the planning stages of this new project, we think Jimmy Choo could give Scooby Doo a run for his money!
Follow Rafael and Jimmy Choo on Instagram (@rafaelmantesso) and buy their new book at jimmythebull.com/book.
Amanda Tromp’s photographs have the power to awaken a craving for wild places in even the most non-outdoorsy people. The 22-year-old’s chief inspirations are Mother Nature and her muse and companion, Kyro, a wolf-like Husky with cerulean blue eyes, who features frequently in her work.
In addition to their creative partnership, this duo shares a unique survival story. Amanda, once a victim of domestic abuse, has since become an anti-domestic-abuse spokesperson. She shares her story in the hopes that it might inspire others to leave similar situations and find their safe harbour. For Amanda, her safe place began with Kyro, and from there grew her love for photography and travel.
When she was still with her violent ex, she “found Kyro through a Craigslist ad,” Amanda recounts. “The ad was asking for help with raising a litter of Husky puppies. Their mother was too young to properly care for them, so I volunteered to help bottle feed and rehome the pups. In the process, I fell in love with Kyro. His dark blue eyes looked right through me and I knew I needed him in my life.”
Part of her reasoning for taking Kyro in, Amanda admits, was because she was scared and lonely. Caring for the litter of pups gave her such comfort and joy, and reminded her of that part of herself that she’d closed off because of the violence she was experiencing in her life.
Kyro proved to be her saving grace, giving her the strength to face each day, as well as the urgently needed catalyst for change. When Kyro became the object of her now-ex’s rage for the first time, taking a hit in the eye, Amanda knew she had no choice but to escape. That very night, once her ex had gone to bed, Amanda grabbed Kyro and fled, leaving behind all of her belongings.
That nightmare is now the distant past. Today, their life is a whole lot different, full of two-am sunrises at Snow Lake, beachside explorations along the coast of the Orcas Island, and sunsets at the Deception Pass Bridge, just some of their explorations of nature’s many jewels in their home state of Washington.
“My life today is filled with adventures and endless happiness,” Amanda beams. “The future burns bright with possibilities and joy. Kyro showed me my talent and I’ve run with it. Having him and photography in my life has given me new perspective. Which is why I now aspire to help others find happiness in their lives.”
Follow Amanda and Kyro’s adventures on Instagram (@goldilocksandthewolf) or at facebook.com/goldilocksandthewolfphotography.
Morgan Lee Alain’s skills as a photographer makes you want to strap on your hiking boots and get lost in the wilderness. Or better yet, pick up a new skill like diving so you can experience the same spectacular underwater views as those captured in her photographs.
Morgan, now in her late 20s, credits her love for nature to her upbringing in the vast and unruly terrain of British Columbia, which she explored minutely as a child. Today, this very love is responsible for her path as a photographer, an explorer, and an environmentalist. She enjoys the thrill of daring escapades, and can often be found trekking through mountains or the woods with her beautiful co-pilot, a Husky named Luna, beside her.
As a solo female photographer, Morgan often finds comfort in Luna’s presence when they’re out photographing in the wild. Luna’s alertness provides Morgan with a heightened feeling of safety.
“Luna normally goes in front of me, wanting to know what’s ahead,” Morgan says. While Luna is independent, a common trait of Huskies, she also always ensures that Morgan remains in her line of sight at all times.
Luna’s stamina and fearlessness are constant sources of inspiration to Morgan. “Luna and I have trekked the Canadian Rockies many times. One particular hike, we were tested by the elements for four days, and our challenges involved extreme cold and steep rugged climbing. Luna overcame all the obstacles with determination and courage.”
While this Husky warrior is a force to be reckoned with out in the wild, on the home front Luna is just like any other pup, with a fondness for swimming, playing tug of war, chasing wild things, going on long walks, and eating bugs.
“She is every child’s teddy bear come to life.” Morgan smiles. “It’s hard to describe how much joy she brings to my heart.”
Follow Morgan and Luna’s wild explorations on Instagram (@morganleealain) or morganleealain.com.