In May 2018, brothers Henry and Elias Friedman set off on a cross-country road trip to deliver a stray puppy rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico to the pet's new family. The plan was to travel from New York to Southern California while Elias, the 32-year-old founder of The Dogist, documented the rescue dog’s "freedom ride."
Henry, 30, had recently left a career in advertising and was living in a converted cargo van. After the dog’s adoptive family changed their minds about adopting the pup, Henry decided to adopt Finn himself.
"It was a test drive, very literally a test drive. I was already living in a van. He turned out to be a really good travel dog," Henry Friedman says. "We just got really, really close."
After adopting the dog, Henry launched @KeepingFinn, an Instagram where he documents their hikes in beautiful places and their meet-ups with some of the account's 196,000 fans.
Finn, now a 50-pound, 2-year-old "super mutt," has exponentially improved Henry's #vanlife experience.
"You don’t feel like a stranger everywhere you go," he tells PEOPLE.
Wanting to do more with his social media platform, in August 2019, Henry started a project to help rescue pets like Finn. Each month, the account features a local rescue from the area that Henry and Finn visiting on their travels, helping to raise awareness and funds for the rescue.
"Most people only know the rescue they got their dog from or the one around the corner from their house," Henry says about why highlighting rescues is important. "It allows us to make this enormous impact wherever we’re going."
Henry and Finn raise about $13,000 a month via Patreon – and the pair have raised over $150,000 to date. Along with this monthly initiative, Henry and Finn have hosted spay and neuter clinics, offered free vaccinations, and held pet food drives as well. The duo has also helped more than 60 dogs find forever homes, even fostering pooches in the van while they wait for the perfect match.
"We bring dogs on the road with us, live the van life, bring them on big adventures and find them families," Henry says. "What I’m doing is undeniably good."
Most recently, Henry and Finn joined Wings of Rescue and The Sato Project on a transport flight of over 150 rescue dogs from Puerto Rico to their new families waiting on the east coast. Tito's Vodka and @KeepingFinn sponsored this special flight, each donating $10,000 to make it happen.
Two of the pups from the flight are now on their own freedom rides with Henry and Finn. The adoptable dogs are joining the pair on several stops to scenic destinations and animal rescues, so they can have a few adventures and donate money to other animals in need before meeting their new families on the west coast.
It's a story that has come full circle for Henry, who planned to live in a van for about six months – it’s now been three years. Two years ago, Finn was brought to the east coast by Wings of Rescue and the Sato Project and it was Henry who had volunteered to drive him home, which ended up being the van they're in now.
Henry can see him and Finn living the van life for five more years at least.
"He’s never peed in the same place more than once, he is living his best life. That makes me really happy," Henry says.
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