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Polo, French Bulldog, 2 years old. “Polo frequents hospitals as a therapy dog, participates in cancer awareness walks, and helps raise money for homeless shelters.” Excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC

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Lexi, Mix, 1 year old. “People look at her and think she’s disabled. We consider her ‘specially abled.'”

Before he was The Dogist, New York City-based photographer Elias Weiss Friedman was a little boy who loved dogs. As soon as he could walk, he was found sneaking out with his grandmother’s dog Oreo, who steadfastly and heroically stood between the toddler and the street until they were found by adults. When he got his first camera, his black lab Ruby became his constant muse, always ready to break out a smile and strike a pose. Years later, Friedman has earned his epithet by photographing literally thousands of dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors out and about in the streets of New York and throughout the globe.

As The Dogist, the photographer meets literally dozens of dogs each day; it’s a certain canine je ne sais quoi that compels him to approach each subject, and in each brief encounter, he strives to capture what makes each particular dog special. A tennis ball and treats are as indispensable as his camera, he’s learned, and he always kneels down to each animal’s eye-level, no matter how low-to-the-ground that might be (he even wears protective knee pads).

Each dog photographed by Friedman has a different story to tell; some, like the dogs rescued from the Michael Vick fighting ring (and rescued by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary) have suffered through abuse and come out the other side as loving and devoted companions. Others, like those working with The Good Dog Foundation, are therapy dogs who work with children by lending an open ear as they learn to read aloud. Still more have been taken in from the streets and forged an unbreakable connection to those who saved them. There are doggie fashionistas, athletic pups, and wizened seniors.

Here too are also animals who are in desperate need of a place to call home. Friedman launched the Give A Dog a Bone program in order to help dogs in need. With donations, he gives bones to shelter animals, chew toys provide comfort in what can be a very stressful time in their lives. He then posts his portrait of the dog—bone in paw—in hopes of getting the dog seen and adopted. Most have since found their forever homes.

The Dogist is loosely based on The Sartorialist, the fashion world sensation launched by street photographer Scott Schuman, but since its inception, The Dogist has become a phenomenon all its own. No matter how many Instagram followers Friedman receives (the number is now well over one million), it all comes back to the dogs. His portraits are poignant, funny, and most of all, sincere; collectively, they are a tribute to the ineffable bond that ties us to these animals, and a heartfelt ode to those who never leave our side, whether we’re walking down the avenues of Manhattan or sneaking out of grandma’s house for a stroll around the neighborhood.

All dogs deserve to be loved, but sadly, many remain without homes. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month (and National Pit Bull Awareness Month), so now is the perfect chance to check out the adoptable animals from a shelter near you at the ASPCA.

Purchase The Dogist: Photographic Encounters with 1,000 Dogs here.

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Bob Marley,Labrador Retriever, 11 years old

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Larry, Pit Bull. “I created the Give a Dog a Bone program to tell the story of shelter dogs and to bring awareness to the plight of pit bulls. Since Spring 2013, the series has featured more than 50 adoptable dogs in more than 20 shelters, most of which have since found homes.”

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Ray, Pit Bull, 9 years old, rescued by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah. “Ray is a dog from the Michael Vick dogfighting ring. He’s come a long way- it took him six years to pass the American Kennel Club Good Citizen program. He’s now one of the sweetest animals at the sanctuary and serves as a symbol for what we do every day.”

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Popeye, Mix

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Pudding, Pit Bull. Pudding is a victim of breeding abuse. This was the first time I felt emotional about photographing a dog. Pudding had clearly suffered trauma in her past, and yet she had enough trust to sit for a complete stranger. It felt as if she knew who I was, and that she posed for the world to see her, thinking, ‘Look what they did to me.’ I realized that my images had the power to tell stories beyond words.”

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Rosie, Rottweiler, 8 years old. “She’s been coming here for seven years.”

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Dorji, Mix, Shibanqiao Village,Yangshuo, China. “Dorji is a very lucky stray dog. The porch on which he’s lying is his home. The man behind him gave him a name, a place to eat and sleep, haircuts in the summer, and an overall sense of belonging. Having seen many stray dogs in China thus far, it was moving to see a special case like this. Drogue has scars on his snout and body from rocks thrown at him by locals. Dorji is also the prototypical type of dog that’s seen in cages and sold for food in the Guangxi region of China. I’ve never met a dog with a stronger air of grateful humility than I have in Dorji. I wish him and his human continued happiness.”

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Kal-El, German Pinscher, 4 years old

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Cooper, German Shorthaired Pointer Mix. “I met Cooper in Santa Monica, California, as he was being walked by his owner. This was one of the last photos taken of Cooper- his owner emailed me a few days later to tell me Cooper had passed away unexpectedly, and she wanted to thank me for the comfort the photo had provided. For me, it was a touching reminder of how important a single image can be.”

All images and captions excerpted from The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by The Dogist, LLC

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