Photos courtesy of Mike Ruiz

If sex sells, then hunks can help rescue homeless hounds.

So goes the strategy behind the 2015 Hunks and Hounds calendar, for sale recently at a pet adoption event at the Sharonville Convention Center.

Amid the standard fare of leashes, pet food and electric fences for sale, the $10 calendar showcases well-oiled, bare-chested men with bulging biceps, ripped six packs and faint “come hither” smiles. All softened by the adorable shelter dogs they hold close.

Money raised from the calendar benefits Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue founded in 2009 by Cincinnatian Emily Gear, 36, who lives in Monfort Heights with her dogs Joey, Cyrus Jones, Sandusky, Louie Jr. and Herbie.

The calendar is a production of New York City celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz,  www.mikeruiz.com, whose   celebrity clients include Kim Kardashian, Betty White, Nicki Minaj, Kate Perry and Prince, among many others featured on his website.  The rescue calendar may be purchased and donations made at  www.louieslegacy.org.

“Mike is an animal advocate in his own right,” Gear explained.  “When Millie, our volunteer, suggested a calendar collaboration, he famously responded, ‘you get the dogs; I’ll get the guys.’  Mike has been unwaveringly supportive and generous beyond measure.  Having him on our team has been a tremendous blessing.”

Gear said her journey into animal rescue was life-saving personally, as well as for homeless animals.

A 1996 graduate of McAuley High School in College Hill, Gear earned a B.A. in Studio Art at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.  After spending eight months in Russia and the Middle East, she took a position as a curator/director of a museum in Staten Island,  N.Y.  With an interest in working abroad, she had planned to enter the U.S. Foreign Service.

However, all plans changed when she was physically assaulted in New York City.  “I was living with post- traumatic stress at the time that I adopted Louie,” she explained.  “Through adopting him and working to get him healthy–he came to me with heart worm disease–it reopened a previously closed door to empathy.  It reinstated a sense of self at a time when I couldn’t do enough to make myself invisible and detach from all feelings.  I can’t stress enough what an important bridge Louie was in my life.”

The experience so moved her that she decided to return to Cincinnati where she could rescue full time.  Her dog Louie died in 2009 and Louie’s Legacy began. Gear said the rescue group saves about 1,100 animals a year locally and in surrounding states. “…We can provide to our funders a high degree of transparency that people appreciate,” she explained. “Because of how we are organized, we are able to responsibly and safely place 1,100 animals a year into heavily screened, vet and home-checked homes.”