Like many new mothers, Devin Crouch took a lot of pictures of her beautiful baby boy. Soon she noticed the same thing in each photo of Carter. No matter which onesie the tow-haired boy wore or what cute pose she captured him in, the family dog Toby also appeared.
Rather than cropping out her rescue pet, Crouch opened an Instagram account to post picture after picture of dog and baby, baby and dog.
Friends and family started sharing with others. Then, on a friend's recommendation, Crouch, a Zionsville, Ind., stay-at-home mother, tagged one of her photos "Dogs of Instagram." That site reposted the picture of Carter in a sleeper with Toby's paws on top of him.
From there, Crouch's Instagram account took off. Her "carterandtoby" Instagram account has grown to more than 21,000 followers.
In late June, newspapers in England and Belgium shared the story of Toby and Carter — with plenty of pictures. Crouch heard from fans worldwide, some as far away as Korea.
"It went everywhere," she said. "It's been really crazy."
No doubt the appeal stems partly from Crouch's eye for too-cute shots such as just the boy's and dog's legs sticking out from under a bed. Toby's soulful eyes and floppy ears help, along with Carter's can't-you-just-pinch-them cheeks.
But Crouch hopes her fans do more than oooh and aahh.
She'd like the pictures to help other rescue dogs like Toby.
"My dream would be to publish a book so we could pass along profits or portions of it to help rescue," she said. "This is so good to show people that he is a rescue dog, but he's good with kids."
Shortly after Devin and Jake Crouch married in 2011, a former co-worker of Devin's contacted her about a man who needed to move and couldn't keep his dog. It was the pound or rescue for the pup.
Devin was sold, but Jake was dubious. We'll give him two weeks, he said.
By the end of the trial period, Toby was a member of the family.
In about a year, the Crouches learned that their family was about to grow again. By midway through Devin's pregnancy, Toby had become extra-protective, she noted. When Carter, now 20 months old, was born, Toby bonded instantly.
The dog would follow the baby wherever he went. If someone was holding the baby, he sat down right in front of him, Crouch said. And it was mutual.
"Carter was very good at tracking him, just with his eyes," she said. "When he was learning to crawl, he would lean forward to get closer to Toby. Once he was crawling, they were inseparable."
Although Crouch had no formal photography training, she started capturing shots of both of them on her iPhone. It doesn't hurt that both boy and dog have "go-with-the-flow" personalities, letting her play with hats, fake glasses and other props.
Other times, Crouch will sneak up on them, getting a surprise shot with either her phone or the Nikon camera she purchased six or seven months ago.
Expect to see more videos, as a few months ago, Carter started talking.
Crouch was hoping her son's first word would be "mom" or maybe "dad."
But the first word out of Carter's mouth was "dog."