Celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz, has taken a break from his stunning leathermen project to turn his lens to fitness models and man’s best friend, launching the ninth edition of his annual Mutts and Muscles 16-month calendar. All the men featured in Mutts And Muscles—including Michael Otule, Caylan Hughes, Austin Wolf, and Alex Hessam—have generously donated their time to the project, with and 100% of proceeds going directly to Harley’s Haven Animal Rescue. “They do so much to help dogs who have been abandoned, neglected and abused by taking them from shelters where they are languishing and finding them loving fur-ever homes”, says Ruiz, explaining why he selected Harley’s Haven as this year’s beneficiary.
An active animal rescue advocate since 2012, Ruiz’s inspiration for the calendar was the connection that he made with a rescue dog. “I fell madly in love with a sweet Pit Bull-type dog named Oliver”, recalls Ruiz. “He was being fostered by my good friend Tim Brock with whom I would stay when I was in Los Angeles. One look from his soulful brown eyes, and it was love at first sight. Within 24 hours I had filled out all of the adoption paper work and he was my son. As a responsible dog dad, I wanted to make sure I was armed with all of the necessary information to raise him, so I did a a lot of research. I was horrified to find how many dogs were discarded, abused and neglected in the US. The numbers are staggering. I decided that I needed to do something to try and help these poor souls, which led to me starting the Mutts & Muscles calendar to raise money and awareness for the plight of dogs everywhere.”
“I wanted to do something that would get attention and spark media interest” shares Ruiz, “so I decided that pairing cute rescue pups with beautiful male fitness models would be a sure fire way to create a buzz!”
Ruiz is no stranger to the gym himself. “As a visually creative person, I’ve always found the human body to be such and incredible work of art” shares the musclebound photographer, “especially when people put so much effort into sculpting them into masterpieces. Body sculpting is another form of creative expression for me. I like seeing what limits I can push beyond physically and mentally to change my body into something I like. Not to mention that working out is a tremendous form of stress and pain relief. I’ll be 60 in a couple of years and I feel like working out keeps me young.”
Ruiz encourages anyone looking to offer a home to a dog to be responsible. “Breeders are not the only ones to blame for filling the shelters. Many people get dogs for the wrong reasons. They aren’t accessories to be discarded when the fad, like the current one for French Bulldogs, passes. I challenge anyone looking for a specific breed of dog to visit Pet Finder, a database of animals who need homes, where you’ll see thousands of dogs of all breeds who’ve been thrown away like garbage. Please don’t be one of those people!”