The only thing more satisfying than giving your dog a little bit of peanut butter is watching their faces contort into hilarious shapes as they attempt to eat the sticky treat.
Ohio-based photographer and dog dad Greg Murray found this to be true when he gave his rescue Mastiff, Bailey, some peanut butter in 2014 just months before her passing. Murray recalls giving his beloved dog peanut butter to “help her look a little bit more animated.” Those photos of Bailey would ultimately be the ones that started it all.
In early 2016, Murray had the idea to turn the photos into a project and had friends, family, clients, and local foster dog parents come by his studio to have their pups photographed while they ate peanut butter.
The project became an instant hit with both the dogs and the humans and, over the span of just a few months, Murray photographed 160 dogs. “It’s been a crazy year,” Murray told PawCulture during a chat in early March.
While the book began as a Kickstarter campaign (Murray had plans to self-publish), it was eventually picked up by publisher Gibbs Smith. The hilarious, adorable collection, called Peanut Butter Dogs, will be available March 14.
Murray recalls the shoots, featuring predominantly rescue dogs, as being “hectic and crazy” but ultimately “really fun.” He adds, “It was challenging, but I’m really patient.”
The individual shoots were fairly quick (usually around ten minutes), because, as Murray points out, “You don’t want to keep stuffing a dog with peanut butter. Like with anything you feed your dog, especially treats, you don’t want to give them too much. We didn’t want to get any of them sick.” Participating pups would get, at most, two to three small spoonfuls.
However crazy the shoots were, Murray is thrilled with the response the photos have gotten.
“When you see people and they don’t expect to see these awesome, fun, silly photos of dogs, it’s the best,” he says. “To see people laugh and smile is the greatest feeling in the world.”
On March 11, Murray will host a fundraiser and food drive to celebrate the launch of the book, which features 140 of the dogs he photographed (including the late, great Bailey). Proceeds will go to Neighborhood Pets Outreach & Resource Center, an organization in Cleveland that helps low-income residents provide proper care for their pets.
Helping people and animals is a cause that’s near and dear to Murray. “My wife and I are very active in the animal welfare community here in Cleveland. We believe in giving back.”
Murray plans to continue to give back and use the success of Peanut Butter Dogs to help out in other ways. He jokes that he is “peanut buttered out,” but is continuing the project for one more important cause: featuring Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes.
“I live and work in Lakewood, Ohio and they have a ban on Pit Bull and Pit Bull-type dogs here. It infuriates me. I want to get rid of that.”
To help advocate for Pit Bulls, Murray will photograph the breed and mixes with peanut butter, too.”They’re amazing dogs and I want to continue with the original success of this series and focus on these pits.”
Murray’s goal is to not only raise awareness, but to help reverse the ban in his area. “I hope someday my wife and I can rescue a Pit and bring them into our home.”
Images via Greg Murray
Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world, and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.