Being philanthropic is often based on your personal experiences. Celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz has been so moved over the past five years that he released the latest edition of one of his philanthropic endeavors “HeartThrobs and Hounds” 2018 Calendar. Thirteen stunning photographs of beautiful, hunky men with adorable hounds in need of forever homes are the subjects of the photos. This year, all proceeds from the sale of the calendar benefit two pet rescue groups, Fur Friends in Need Animal Rescue and Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue.
Corey Wesley and I had the pleasure of chatting with Mike Ruiz about this latest calendar and his efforts to bring more awareness to animals in need. Wesley opened the conversation by referencing a movie Ruiz stared in called, Latin Boys Go to Hell. Wesley joked that was the reason his latest project is called, “HeartThrobs and Hounds.” In the movie, Ruiz was the heartthrob being stalked. They both laughed and it was the perfect lead-in to make everyone comfortable and willing to freely share their thoughts and experiences about this fantastic initiative to help rescue dogs.
If you’re not familiar with the story, Ruiz’ heart was stolen five years ago by Oliver, a pup pit bull left for dead and in need of a home. As we discussed “HeartThrobs and Hounds,” it was clear that Ruiz’ paternal side has really blossomed since adopting Oliver. When we asked about Oliver, Mike’s voice reached a pitch that signals unconditional love, love most parents feel when they see their child for the first time. Ruiz said that Oliver, and every other animal, is a living entity. The responsibility and the connection he has developed with Oliver has given him greater empathy towards other living things. Wesley asked how Oliver’s transition to a stable home life was and Ruiz joyfully said “wonderful!”
It’s clear Ruiz is passionate about helping animals in need and doing what he can towards the cause. He shared with us that he has been compassionate towards animals since he was young. He recalled watching National Geographic as a child and breaking into tears when the gazelle was captured by the lion. Ruiz remains compassionate and is extremely passionate about the “HeartThrobs and Hounds” calendar. In 2012, after meeting Oliver he was empowered to conduct his own research to learn all that he could about pet adoption and animal cruelty. He decided he wanted to do something about the issues and chose to undertake a project utilizing two of his passions, photography and dogs in need, to photograph hunky men with adorable pooches.
Ruiz reminisced with us about the first calendar he produced with hunks and hounds. Since Ruiz had plenty of experience photographing fitness models, in the first year, he photographed guys from his gym with puppies in his studio. It went viral and had major success and he became an animal rescue rockstar. Since then the project has become more produced and strategic. Being the “robo photographer” that he is, this year’s calendar was shot in about three to four days using guys in different locations, London and Los Angeles.
Since they couldn’t transport the rescue dogs from the shelters to London or LA, the heartthrobs posed holding fire extinguishers in place of the dogs. Since it was critical to have the actual dogs in need in the photos, other human models posed with the hounds from the shelters and the images were merged in post-production. And we think you will agree that the outcome is purely amazing. The exception is hunky cover model Mike O’Hearn who posed live with his hound. Ruiz mentioned there are many others who participated on the calendar and have given their time and effort. He gave thanks in particular to Joanna from Blend Marketing for supplying the graphics.
During our conversation we also took the opportunity to explore what it takes to adopt a pet. We asked Ruiz for his thoughts to help people consider adopting a pet in need. He says it is important to do your research. Wesley mentioned the idea that adopting a dog might help someone who is depressed, but Mike clarified to ensure Wesley was clear that adopting a dog is not, nor should not be used as a cure for depression. Ruiz expressed his concern for Wesley’s misunderstanding and he politely clarified that rescue dogs are living and breathing beings and should not be used as service dogs. Service dogs have specific training and purpose and so when you adopt a dog you should be doing it for the appropriate reasons. Ruiz also mentioned it is important to read up about the breed of the dog so you’re familiar with its traits. Reading and talking with others about the overall experience of adopting an animal can help in the process.
Ruiz also mentioned that an alternative to adopting is fostering. Fostering is just as important as adopting and shelters, which are often run by only a few individuals, are always in need of people who will foster an animal to prevent them from being euthanized. Michele Shafer from Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue says, “That’s why we urge people to consider fostering animals. The more fosters we have, the more animal lives we can save.”
“HeartThrobs and Hounds” has been Ruiz’ way of helping broaden people’s understanding of rescue dogs and give them some level of comfort when adopting. There is often a misconception of rescue dogs that they are too injured or not suitable for the home or a family. Based on his research and experience, Ruiz shared that this is not the case. On the contrary, rescue groups and shelters, such as this year’s beneficiary Lilo’s Promise, conduct significant rehabilitation with the animals so that they are ready to engage in a home environment. Shafer says, “Shelter pets are not second-hand goods. There are amazing animals in shelters all over the US, including Aladdin and Bordeaux who are featured in the calendar. They simply need a little love to shine!”
Although it was outside the scope of the calendar, we took the liberty of asking Ruiz our signature question; what would you consider to be an edgy, unconventional, or tight-lipped moment in your life and how did it impact your life? Ruiz shared a moment when he was 15 years old. Ruiz was being marginalized and bullied “up the wazoo” and was in a very rebellious time of his life. His father, who was 1/2 buzzed, came to him and said that sometimes in life you’ll have to do things that you don’t want to do. Ruiz retorted by saying, “That’s not me, that’s you.” From that moment Ruiz told himself that he was not going to be marginalized and dismissed, that he was going to make something of himself despite being bullied. He attributes much of his drive, passion, and success to that pivotal moment.
Every dollar made from the sale of the “HeartThrobs and Hounds” 2018 calendar will go directly to Fur Friends in Need and Lilo’s Promise animal rescues.
Whether you’re interested in the heartthrobs or the hounds, get yours today!
HeartThrobs and Hounds 2018 Calendar | Purchase Now
Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue | Website