two dogs winter snow

Everyone Needs to be Rescued, an Interview with Rachael Rodgers

This interview was originally published in our Mountain Brew newsletter (February 21, 2021). We were so honored to interview Rachael Rodgers with trailsandbears, enjoy!

What inspired you to start Trails and Bears?

"trailsandbears" was merely a name for an Instagram account that I wasn't quite sure why I was opening. My plan (if I had any) was to post local trail info for mountain bikers as I was out everyday and saw the need for up to date information on conditions (and my friend said I was posting too make bike pics on facebook).

When a photo I posted of our pup Denali went viral I gained a few thousand dog-loving followers. There was nothing intentional or planned about it, but what the heck did I have to say to a few thousand dog-loving followers?

I saw it as an opportunity to use my account as a platform for dogs who need some exposure. I signed up to volunteer at one shelter and now have experience volunteering in this odd way at over 20 rescue organizations.

How do you connect with rescue dogs, how do dogs end up on a hike with you?

First, I need to be signed up as a volunteer at their host shelter. This comes with a wide array of paperwork, orientations, and sometimes training walks with a volunteer. All this is to ensure I'm familiar with each shelter's policies and can follow them while I'm responsible for a dog in their care. After that, it varies at every shelter.

resuce puppy

Some have more formal procedures than others, but whatever the procedures are for each shelter, I usually network with other volunteers and fosters to figure out which dogs have been in care longest or are having the hardest time finding the right family. Having connections who spend time in the shelters daily is so important since I don't spend much time in any of the shelters myself.

Often other volunteers will text or DM me a picture of a dog with some info on why they might benefit from an adoption adventure and then I make arrangements to go get them or sometimes they have volunteer chauffeurs who bring them out and drop them off (confused) for a day with me.

How can people start volunteering to take dogs for hikes?

There are so many dogs in shelters who would be excited to join people on their hikes. I wrote a short (free) PDF guide that covers how to safely hike with a strange dog, how to take photos, and what information is important to include (and exclude) when posting them to social media. I also have a book "Adventures with Adoptable Dogs" that has more in-depth coverage. (it's available in Canmore at Cafe Books and by multiple retailers online). 

What's the most important part of showcasing an adoptable dog?

The most important part of representing a dog looking for the perfect family is an accurate representation. There's a weird human out there for every weird dog and if you try to cover up something you think is weird or bad, you have muddied the way for the dog rather than helped make the perfect match. The goal is for each dog to end up in a family where they are loved for their quirks rather than asked to change every day.

What kind of dogs do you have and what are their names?

We have Beans, a 15 year old goober and Anna, a 2.5 year old psychopath.

When did you start selling your art?

Art and landscape photography is something I had more time for before I started volunteering. I don't make many new pieces anymore but have been selling them for about 10 years.

If you have one "go to" destination in the Rockies, what would it be?

The Icefields Parkway is beautiful.

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing instead?

That's hard to say. I'm sure I would be spending more time with Beans and Anna and much more time biking. I've worked in restaurants most of my life and I still do (though now I volunteer full-time and work very little).

Having an opportunity to change a creature's whole life isn't something I imagined having. Now that I know I can do that, I feel responsible to do it as much as I can and helping others who want to do the same.


female and rescue puppy banff alberta

What's the next big thing you are working on?

Good question! I'm open to ideas.