A dog's life: Tula the rescue dog is a better photographer than you

Tula is a pretty talented photographer. Her Instagram account is better than yours, probably. It's definitely better than mine. This all seems fairly impressive to me, because Tula is a dog.

The four-year-old rescue dog is the photographer behind Canine Happy Hour, which features pictures of dogs at dog parks, from the perspective of a dog. You can find her on Instagram and on Twitter. Facebook too, naturally.

The brains of the operation (no offence, Tula) are the dog's owners, the Kixmoeller family of White Bear Lake, just outside the US city of Minneapolis.

"I've always loved photography, and I've always loved dogs," 17-year-old Susie Kixmoeller says. "So when we started taking Tula to the dog park about a year ago, I'd go along and I'd see how interesting the interactions between the dogs are, like how they play together and all that stuff.

"And so I started to try and get pictures of that, on my own camera. But the thing about when they are playing together is that if I get close enough to actually capture it well, they're going to stop playing ,and they're going to look at me because I'm too close to them."

It's a dog's life

But, Susie thought, if Tula wore the camera, then she could capture those interactions, and the photos would be from her point of view. So Tula was fitted with a GoPro. "And the pictures have been really great," Susie says.

"One of the reasons that she takes photos well, we think, is that she doesn't really love the rough-and-tumble play, she's more ... she likes puppy play," says Susie's dad, Ken Kixmoeller. "Even though she's four-and-a-half years old, she likes to play with puppies, and the way puppies do, she's not very rough-and-tumble, so when the other dogs are rough-and-tumbling, she sits and watches them."


Leila is preparing for take off! Since Tula's paw shows in the lower right corner of the photo, it is highly possible that she was about to pounce on Tula. Leila and Tula had a lot of fun playing together. Leila was a gift to her owner from her adult children. People always ask her if the dog was named after the song (Layla). She said that she asked her children that question and their response was "what song?" Either way she is a sweet, fun-loving dog. This picture was taken by our dog, Tula, who wears a GoPro camera attached to a harness while she runs and plays at the dog park. #caninehappyhour @gopro #gopro #dogs #dogpark #offleash #photosbytula #dogsrunningfree #therapydog #otterlakedogpark #whistlelabs @whistlelabs.

A photo posted by Canine Happy Hour (@caninehappyhour) on

After the account started, Susie's sister, who thought the pictures deserved more shine, posted about it on BuzzFeed, Ken says. It's grown from there; you can find stories about Tula in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, for example, and the Daily Mail.

"It's definitely taken on a life of its own," Ken says, when asked how long the family would keep the account going. "We're suddenly with thousands of followers. Picking that picture gets a little more pressure-filled - you know, we don't want to disappoint our crew."


Speaking of which, here's how that process works: Tula stays at the dog park for about an hour, the Kixmoellers say. The GoPro, attached to Tula's harness, takes rapid-fire pictures in time-lapse mode. In total, they collect about 7200 images, which the family then combs through to curate the accounts.

"Well, often times when we're looking through them, honestly what happens is we'll come across a picture and start laughing, you know?" Ken says. "And that's probably the one."

"I mean, it's pretty quick to narrow it down to the ones that would work," Susie says, "because there's a lot of pictures of just the ground or the sky or the trees or something . . . but normally I can find one that just has a special something that makes it stand out."

Tula has nearly 7000 Instagram followers now, and Susie says the goal is 10,000, which she says she thinks is "pretty doable." In the meantime, Tula has become a bit of a local dog park celebrity, and the family is thinking about turning the photos into a book.

"I just thought it would be fun to see what happened," Susie says. "I for sure didn't expect anything this big."