19/11/2016 4:01 AM IST | Updated 19/11/2016 8:26 AM IST

Fairy-Tale Photos Cast Rescued Lab Animals As Heroes Of Their Own Stories

Look at these photos and try to say that rescuing animals isn’t magical.

Rachele Totaro is an Italian woman who volunteers her photography skills for La Collina dei Conigli, an Italian charity that rehomes animals that were formerly used as test subjects in laboratories. Ever year, she takes photos of some of the animals to be used in a calendar, and this year’s theme was children’s books and fairy tales.

Rachele Totaro
Don't worry -- no guinea pigs were actually airborne during Audrey's "Around The World in 80 Days" photoshoot.

“This year the theme of the photosession [was] children books and fairy tales, because they teach us that we can reach a happy ending even through hard times and that each of us can be a hero,” Totaro wrote on BoredPanda.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite photo, Totaro told The Huffington Post, but she said that one of the most moving experiences was working with Opicina, the rabbit in the Secret Garden-themed photo.

Rachele Totaro
Opicina in "The Secret Garden."

“It was the most magical moment of the photoshoot,” Totaro said, explaining that the photos capture the first moments the rabbit had ever spent outside — in a carefully fenced area, of course.

“It was the first time she felt grass underneath her feet, and she moved in a delicate way,” Totaro said. “When she stood up I took the picture that later we decided to use in the calendar, but all the pictures taken are precious to me, because they tell her first steps in a brand, bright new life.”

The images aren’t just incredibly adorable — they also carry an important message about the animals that often spend their lives in lab. Totaro noted she is not a professional photographer, but that these photo shoots combine two of her greatest passions — photography and animal rights.

“Many people have no idea that animals previously used in labs can start a new, pain-free life and make gorgeous life companions, or that rats are a lot of fun and among the most clever animals, or that guinea pigs ‘sing’ all together when they hear someone handle food,” she said. “These animals were considered objects for the first part of their lives … what the volunteers do is [make] them feel and be wonderful sentient live beings again, and with my pictures I try to celebrate their new precious lives and to raise awareness about how gorgeous they are.”

Those interested in purchasing a calendar — the proceeds from which go to La Collina dei Conigli’s animal care — can email lacollinadeiconiglionlus@gmail.com.