(RESCUE DOGS/DOG PICTURES) Photographer Theron Humphrey was named one of National Geographic’s Travelers of the Year after he embarked on a 365-day mission to document untold stories of Americans across the country.

His project entitled “This Wild Idea” was spontaneous and brilliant, and earned Humphrey international acclaim.

His companion during his cross-country journey? A coonhound named Maddie, who Humphrey adopted from a local shelter in Marietta, Georgia right before the start of his journey.

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Humphrey and Maddie pose for a photo in San Francisco during their 356 day journey across America. Photo Credit: Theron Humphrey

“I figure after three years on the road, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Maybe it’s a bit like when you have your first child: You can’t imagine giving up the life you knew and all the freedom you felt you had, but once you hold that baby, you wouldn’t trade it for anything. That’s how I feel about Maddie,” Humphrey said.

Wanting to document his experiences alongside his companion, Humphrey decided to take Maddie’s picture atop the pickup truck they would call home for the next year. He was surprised at her amazing balancing abilities, and wondered what else she could balance on—thus inspiring his project “Maddie On Things,” which eventually became a book called Maddie on Things: A Super Serious Project About Dogs and Physics.

Maddie has never been hurt while posing for her photographs, and exhibits an intense calmness and focus while doing so. In all other respects, Maddie is your average three-year-old puppy, bounding along and wreaking havoc wherever she is unleashed.

“She has two personalities,” says Humphrey. “She’s all play, pure dog, running on the beach, chasing other dogs. The other side is like Eeyore. She’ll be standing in the middle of the room doing nothing with her head down.”

In late 2012, Humphrey quickly detoured into yet another project called “Why We Rescue,” in which he featured 50 rescue stories—one from each state in America.

Inspired by his incredible friendship with Maddie, Humphrey wanted to raise awareness about the benefits of adopting rescue animals instead of purchasing them from pet stores. His project features one incredible rescue story per state, accompanied by an oral recording of each guardian’s story.

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Fan Art. Photo Credit: natalyazahn.typepad.com

“The story of the sad dog in the cage with weepy music has been done before,” says Humphrey. “We want to change that perception.”

The stories really hit home as each forever friendship is explained in detail, with emphasis on the life-changing effects of adoption. Accompanied by several photos detailing the life and home of the guardian and companion, each “Why We Rescue” excerpt is unique yet profoundly touching.

Humphrey partnered with Purina One to complete his project, and explains his decision in his bio:

“Purina ONE believes the best way to help shelter pets is to shine a light on what makes them so wonderful. It might surprise you to learn that roughly three out of four people acquiring a new pet aren’t considering adoption from a shelter. That’s because people too often associate shelter pets with poor health or problem behaviors, thanks in part to media stories and images that fuel these misperceptions. The truth is that shelter pets can be loving, devoted, delightful companions, just like any other kind of pet. By partnering with shelters all over the country and supporting projects like Why We Rescue, Purina ONE is working hard to change perceptions and show the world how awesome every pet can be.”

Maddie and Humphrey embarked on a book tour in 2013 and released a promotional video, which you can watch below.

Check out Humphrey’s projects at: http://theronhumphrey.com/

— Kayla Newcomer, exclusive to Global Animal