Candice Miller has always had a dog in her life. She grew up with dogs. She’s owned them since she married her husband two decades ago and as she was working in retail management. But something was missing from her life: passion.
So she left her job after nine years and found her calling in rescuing and volunteering with dogs.
“My heart was in it,” she says.
And that’s where her heart has remained. She started working part-time at shelters in Sacramento, and Miller’s home—which she shared with her husband and their two kids—became a refuge for foster dogs. When her husband got a promotion to work in Oregon, and the family moved to the city of Marcola—about 30 minutes outside of Eugene—they settled on a 3,000 square-foot home on 12 acres of land. Miller’s plan? To eventually establish a bona fide 501(c)(3) nonprofit for rescue dogs.
Now, she and her family live in Oregon with their six dogs and a rotating cast of foster pups. Miller estimates she fosters a total of 20 to 30 dogs in a year. Sometimes Miller takes in healthy puppies. “They go fast,” she says. Other times, it’s dogs who need to get healthy and recover from mange or other diseases. She has two rooms in her home dedicated to the foster dogs. How just does she manage such a full house?
“For me personally, I have to give my dogs their own space. I don’t force them to be cute and cuddly with each other,” she says. Her big fenced backyard means that the dogs have plenty of space to exercise.
“I show them respect,” she says. For instance, her dog Kilo doesn’t like anybody around when he’s munching on bully sticks.
“I don’t force it. If they need a break, they have their own spots where they can get a break,” she says.
The foster dogs range in age from nine months to two years old—an adolescent dog stage—and she says they almost always get along with each other.
One tool that helps Miller get her fosters adopted is her Instagram account Roofus and Kilo (pronounced key-low), which has grown to over 373,000 followers.
Like many Instagram users, she initially started with her own personal account. She began posting roughly five years ago about her son’s Pit Bull Roofus—a rescue who was living with a homeless man in Oakland, California—in an effort to dispel the myth that Pit Bulls are aggressive dogs.
“I started posting on Instagram to change [my viewers’] minds,” she says. “Not by being an advocate, but just by showing that [Pit Bulls] are normal.”
She also started following other animal accounts, and it took off from there. Miller named the account after her two dogs that seemed to photograph well. She has never pushed the account or promoted it. A few memes she created went viral. But she isn’t quite sure why she has the audience that she does.
“I don’t try with my social media. Whatever I’m doing at the moment is what I share when I’m on there,” she says.
She recalled she once shared with her followers about how she rescued two dogs, one of whom died when Miller was on her way home. The other was very sick.
“It was touch and go. I just kind of kept everybody in the loop. I think people felt very invested in the account,” she says.
Her account features an array of images and videos of her many dogs. There are short clips of three puppies—two brothers and one female—jumping around and being active. Another “throw-back-Thursday” image is of three of her pit bulls looking directly at the camera—one is even wearing a pink dress. A more serious post documents the story about how one dog she fostered, Vinny, was adopted by another family. She frequently uses hashtags, emojis and the occasional curse word in her posts.
She also doesn’t take sponsorships.
“I want to keep it real. Keep it personal regardless of how many people follow us,” she says.
Above all, she wants to use her influence to encourage her viewers to rescue dogs.
“I try to remind people all the time constantly that these dogs are in your local shelter. They’re everywhere all across the U.S.,” she says. “Every single day I get a note from someone saying ‘I foster because of you. I adopted our dog because of you.’”
Miller says many pet parents will keep in touch with her via social media after they’ve adopted her dogs.
“I get to see these great lives that they have later. And how happy and healthy they are. It’s so rewarding,” she says. “It’s just really cool to know that you’re making a difference in people’s opinions and in their life choices.”
All photos courtesy Candice Miller via Instagram
Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix-based writer, editor, traveler and dog mom to Chihuahuas Autumn and Rocket.