A dedicated yoga practitioner, photographer Robert Sturman is known for his portraits of this ancient practice – whether it’s yogis perched on rocks surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, African orphans in Kenya, San Quentin Prison inmates, U.S. veterans or breast cancer survivors. His beautiful work tells human stories that bridge different people from all walks of life.
But after he adopted his dog, Otis, he added a new subject to his work and humanitarian efforts: laboratory dog rescue.
The Beagle Freedom Project rescues dogs from animal testing
Otis was rescued by Beagle Freedom Project, the world’s leading organization for rescuing and rehoming animals used in experimental research. Although Otis looks like a Beagle, he’s not – he’s an English American Coonhound.
“He’s about three times the size and has a very different temperament than the Beagles I’ve known,” Robert says.
Robert was told by Beagle Freedom Project that Otis is a miracle dog. “It’s unheard of for a dog who has been through what he went through to have not been euthanized,” he says.
Raising awareness to stop animal testing
With that knowledge, Robert became inspired to raise awareness about animal lab testing with Otis.
“On his social media, which is dedicated to raising awareness, we always credit @BeagleFreedom for saving his life,” he says. “We also always mention an app called @crueltycutter, which was developed by Beagle Freedom. It allows you to scan any household item to see if it was tested on animals like Otis. People want to know how they can help. This is the first step.”
Robert mainly uses his phone camera to capture everyday life with Otis. “I share our life together in hopes that people will connect with him and begin to put a face to these animals who are subjected to horrific experimentation in laboratories,” he says.
Otis has become a loyal and grateful ambassador to the mission.
Living the good life after laboratory rescue
Otis now spends his days hanging out with Robert. When Robert is in his studio, Otis rests, runs around the backyard, chases squirrels, lies in the sun and plays with toys.
“He is very relaxed in his kingdom,” Robert says. “We play a lot of reggae and he does yoga consistently – I leave a mat out for him on the deck, and he does a lot of downward dog poses. That has to feel so good, coming from life in a small cage. As a yoga photographer, it was pretty cool when I saw how much yoga he did – and how beautiful his practice is.”
Otis is clearly enjoying the good life. He loves car rides and going to quiet beaches for walks and splashing along the shore.
“There’s so much joy inside of this guy after all he’s been through,” Robert says. “His loyalty is like nothing I’ve ever experienced with a dog. It’s very special. “This dude and I are buds for life.”
You can follow Otis’ adventures on Instagram @otisthehandsomehound.