Best friends Henry and Baloo have a lot in common – they have both been rescued and now enjoy long walks in the great outdoors. What makes them special to their many fans is that they are a dog and cat travelling duo.
Their unlikely friendship and hiking trips around the beautiful mountainous landscapes of Colorado have gained the pair a cult social media following.
Hundreds of thousands of people follow their adventures on the photo-sharing platform Instagram.
For owners Cynthia Bennett and Andre Sibilsky, their popularity is surreal.
Cynthia and Andre met in Boston, but as New Hampshire and Texas natives, the couple say they are both nature lovers who were destined to move away from city life.
“We wanted to head west, toward bigger mountains. We came upon Colorado and moved on a whim, there wasn’t a lot of planning involved,” Cynthia told the BBC.
The pair started hiking regularly and once settled, decided to extend their family by adopting a dog.
Henry – a tall and lanky German Shepherd, Husky, Boxer, Staffordshire Terrier and Aussie mix – stood out right away.
“He was the same age as all the other puppies but twice the size. As soon as I got into the pen to see him, he crawled onto my lap and went belly up,” Cynthia explains, laughing.
“Andre knew then we were taking him home. I feel like he chose us in a way.”
Born as a street puppy, Henry was adopted from a rescue centre that re-homes animals from other states whose shelters have high abandonment and kill rates.
A mix of high energy dogs, he took to hiking and long walks straight away.
A year later, Cynthia realised that she was posting too many pictures of Henry on her social media accounts, and decided it would be a fun idea to give him one of his own.
It took three years to get 30,000 followers on the account. That number spiralled out of control when they got Baloo.
“Henry had really bad separation anxiety when we weren’t home. He would be so stressed out that he didn’t eat or drink, so we decided we really wanted a buddy for him,” Cynthia says.
“I love to take my animals everywhere – and because of Instagram I had seen other people hiking with cats, who really loved being outside,” she adds.
An unlikely bond
Like Henry, Baloo was a rescue animal. He was part of a litter of eight kittens belonging to a mother whose owner refused to have neutered. He and his siblings were abandoned immediately.
“As soon as he met Henry he attached himself right away. Baloo definitely has an obsession with Henry – if I need him to calm down, I’ll put him next to him and he’ll just fall asleep.
“I truly believe he [Baloo] thinks Henry is his Mom,” she says. “For the first few months he would actually knead him looking to nurse.”
Cynthia believes the Siamese mix thinks he’s a dog, too.
“If he sees a dog out on a walk he’ll run up to it, but if he sees a cat he will pretend it isn’t there and ignore it. Like, do you not understand what you are? It’s quite funny.”
Photographs and videos of the cat and dog together, with Baloo riding or running alongside on a leash, have exploded in popularity on social media.