When Your Dog Pays the Mortgage (2024)

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Six years ago, Bryan Reisberg was a struggling New York University film school grad whose first feature had been described by Variety as \u201Can 84-minute shoulder shrug.\u201D He was working in advertising and barely making the rent when he and his fianc\u00E9e Alex Garyn gave themselves a wedding present in November 2015 that changed their lives.

It was a corgi puppy, who they named Maxine. Reisberg started posting videos as @madmax_fluffyroad because, he said, \u201CI just wanted the world to see how damn cute my puppy was.\u201D Maxine built up a respectable number of followers\u2014about fifty thousand\u2014and within a year, Reisberg\u2019s filmmaker instincts returned. \u201CI shot a video with a cinematographer friend in Brooklyn,\u201D said Reisberg. \u201CThen I wrote a script, and hired the voice-over actor Jon St. John (he was the voice of Duke Nukem in the video game); he responded to a casting notice I put on Voices.com.\u201D

Reisberg posted \u201CMaxine the Fluffy Corgi\u201D to Vimeo on November 1, 2016. It became a Vimeo \u201Cstaff pick\u201D\u2014and @madmax_fluffyroad went viral. Maxine now has over five million followers across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Last year, Reisberg signed five-figure deals with MGM Rewards, Amazon, and Grubhub; Dell computer paid him $75K for two @madmax_fluffyroad posts. And if you live in New York, you recently saw Maxine\u2019s furry face on digital billboards showing New Yorkers how to travel responsibly with their pets on subways, buses, and commuter trains.

\u201CI\u2019m getting paid to hang out with my dog,\u201D said Reisberg, who is 34 and quit his advertising job in 2021. \u201CIt\u2019s incredible. I\u2019d do all this stuff for free. I probably shouldn\u2019t say that, should I?\u201D

Many American pet owners are finding that their dogs are a goldmine, and they\u2019re giving up their traditional jobs to turn them into a salary. \u201CI\u2019m making way more now than when I was working a regular job,\u201D said Chris Equale, whose corgis Hammy and Olivia (@hammyandolivia) have over 5.5 million TikTok followers. \u201CIt\u2019s all-consuming,\u201D added Equale, who said he was earning six figures in tech before becoming a dogfluencer. \u201CI work on this twelve hours a day. And when I\u2019m not filming or editing content, I\u2019m on social media trying to find inspiration for my next post.\u201D

Equale said he doesn\u2019t like to film with the corgis for more than an hour at a time because it\u2019s stressful for them. Even an hour can be too much for Hammy and Olivia, and it requires lots of treats, which make them fat. \u201CBefore COVID they were just regular pets,\u201D said Equale. \u201CNot social stars. It\u2019s been an adjustment.\u201D

Hammy and Olivia went viral early in July 2020 when Equale posted a video of the dogs \u201Ctalking\u201D to his vacuum cleaner. (A large part of their appeal is that they bark in sort of a singsongy way.) Response was strong and within a few weeks, Equale quit his tech job to focus on creating content for @hammyandolivia. In July 2021, \u201Cthings went rocket ship for us when we posted Hammy pretending to lose his legs,\u201D said Equale \u201CThe video got fifteen million collective views across every social platform\u2014TikTok, YouTube, Instagram. That was the inflection point for us. The video sent us from 50K\u2013100K on Instagram and got us 400K additional followers on TikTok. A follow-up has 73 million views on YouTube.\u201D

Views led to partnerships with companies like Southwest Airlines. \u201CWell, if you do the math, we\u2019re getting more views than a lot of Super Bowl commercials,\u201D said Equale, 35, whose three-bedroom home in Las Vegas includes a boudoir converted to an 8 \u00D7 10closet with custom cabinets for the corgis. Hammy and Olivia have 300 outfits (including 200 hair bows for Olivia). The dogs have outgrown traditional dog costumes; Equale buys them clothes for three- and five-year-old boys at Target and Walmart.

\u201CWe say yes to about three percent of brand pitches,\u201D said Equale, who posts about 1,500 videos a year and has been offered first-class tickets to Europe and a five-figure fee for his corgis to show up at an event. \u201CWe turn down five figures all the time if it doesn\u2019t feel right for the brand.\u201D

Maintaining the looks and health of one\u2019s pet is also paramount\u2014and pricey. Equale spends $500 a month on Hammy and Olivia\u2019s hygiene and grooming. Reisberg takes Maxine to swim therapy at Water for Dogs twice a month for $220 a session, though 90 percent is covered by pet insurance, which costs $95 a month. \u201CMaxine tore her shoulder and needed surgery,\u201D said Reisberg. \u201CShe had arthroscopic surgery, which is a $10K procedure that we paid $1K for. Pet insurance is incredibly important. The peace of mind is priceless. If she farts the wrong way I take her to the vet.\u201D

Cliff Brush was working as an accountant in 2020 when he posted a 10-second TikTok, as @brodiedatdood, of his goldendoodle Brodie wearing sunglasses with his head out the window of a car. The caption said, \u201CPosting the chillest dog every day till he\u2019s famous.\u201D

\u201CIt got like two million views in 24 hours, which was a lot then,\u201D said Brush, 32. \u201CI went from 4K followers to 40K followers in 24 hours.\u201D That year Brodie got his first brand deal, $1,200 from Warner Brothers, to promote Wonder Woman 1984. Brodie\u2019s size and strength\u2014he weighs 80 pounds and stands five feet, five inches tall on his hind legs\u2014allow Brush to create videos of himself, with Brodie on his back, as he downhill cycles, scooters, and water-skis. That first year @brodiedatdood brought in $70K in revenue, matching Brush\u2019s salary as an accountant. In 2021, that figure rose to $120K and Brush quit his job; last year, revenue surged to $800K.

\u201CSeventy percent is from brand partnerships,\u201D said Brush, who has traveled to 30 states with Brodie\u2014who now has six million TikTok followers. \u201CIt was insane seeing all of these people surrounding us in airports. I realized that all of these likes and follows are real.\u201D

Brodie will appear in the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail this summer as a sponsored athlete. \u201CGoPro Mountain Games fly us out, treat us like VIPs, and we get paid an appearance fee,\u201D said Brush. \u201CIt\u2019s really low, because it\u2019s a nonprofit\u2014Vail Valley Foundation hosts the games\u2014and it\u2019s an event I wanted to do. We\u2019ll make a vid for them, meet everybody at the event, and we\u2019re speaking on stage, probably about how to manage your dog\u2019s social media.\u201D

Today\u2019s dogfluencers need to diversify quickly and expand their revenue streams, particularly because their animals aren\u2019t going to live that long. Maxine is six years old; Brodie is three; Hammy and Olivia are eight and six.

Equale is working with Frederator Studios, the producers of The Fairly OddParents and Adventure Time, on an animated series based on Hammy and Olivia. A @hammyandolivia cookbook called Barkcuterie will be out this April from Quatro Publishers.

Reisberg, meanwhile, is expanding into dog backpacks. His first carrier, the Maxine One, launched last year, and he officially kicked off his company Little Chonk with $400K from an angel investor. \u201CWe\u2019re able to leverage Maxine\u2019s robust social channels to offset any potential out-of-pocket costs to Little Chonk,\u201D said Reisberg. Media outlets including Wired and Good Housekeeping gave the backpack, which sells for $120, positive reviews.

Most recently Reisberg signed a collaborative deal for Maxine to appear on the jumbotrons at Brooklyn Nets and New York Mets games. \u201CThere\u2019s no financial exchange that would categorize this as an ad,\u201D said Reisberg. \u201CIt\u2019s just an opportunity to make cool content with a local sports team. Also, a great opportunity to show off the backpack in a new environment. And obviously it\u2019s awesome to get on the court.\u201D

Equale has been making Cameo videos of Hammy and Olivia for fans at $160 a reel. \u201CI\u2019ve done around 1,500 personalized videos,\u201D he said. That\u2019s $240K in the bank.

\u201CIt feels like there\u2019s infinite demand for this,\u201D said Equale. \u201COur fans feel like Hammy and Olivia are a part of their lives. People depend on them. I\u2019ve had DMs from people who are dealing with depression, and found the world to be a fun, silly place after watching our content, and they began rethinking their lives. It was profound.\u201D

This is Noah Rinsky\u2019s first piece for The Free Press. Follow him on Twitter @oldjewishmen. For more trends changing the way we live, read Olivia Reingold\u2019s investigation into The Booming Market for Backdoor Ozempic.

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When Your Dog Pays the Mortgage (2024)

FAQs

Why do dogs listen to certain people? ›

This is because the dog sees that just one person if correcting them, enforcing the commands, doing all the pack leadership things that are built into the training, etc. So, the dog simply learns, “I have to listen to and respect this person; however, not so much this other person.”

Why does my dog only come to me? ›

Why does my dog follow me and no one else - do dogs pick a favourite person? If your dog only follows you around the house then it's likely that you're the one in your household that provides them with what they need the most. That could be food, affection, care or fun.

How much is Maxine the corgi worth? ›

Net Worth$5 Million
SalaryUnder Review
Source of IncomeDog
CarsNot Available
HouseLiving in own house.
Jun 15, 2024

How old is Maxine the Corgi? ›

A: As of 2024, Maxine is 7 years old.

Do dogs pick a favorite person? ›

Like their human counterparts, dogs develop favorite people over time based on positive experiences and positive associations with that person. Some people use tasty treats and other rewards to create strong bonds with pets, but the best way to build a healthy relationship with your dog is through play.

What do dogs hear when we talk? ›

"Scientists have observed that dogs respond much like human infants in understanding language." It could be a combination of learned vocabulary, observed body language, and tone. Through repetition, both dogs and babies associate certain words with certain objects or actions.

Do dogs get attached to one person? ›

Following the Leader. In households consisting of multiple people, there's a good chance your dog will become fixated on one person in particular. It might be the primary caregiver who provides food and walks, or perhaps it's the fun-time owner who plays games and hands out endless amounts of treats.

What does a dog do when he senses death? ›

Behaviors that may indicate an awareness of death include reclusiveness, lack of interest in activities, lack of appetite, and seeking attention from their owners.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Can dogs sense illness? ›

Over the past few decades, growing research suggests that man's best friend can also use smell to detect human diseases. Dogs are so effective at noticing a change in a human scent that many can sniff out signs of disease that medical tests cannot pick up.

Does Maxine's dog have a name? ›

Hallmark's Maxine!

It's Maxine and her faithful dog, Floyd!

What happened to Corgi the dog? ›

It was Sarah, duch*ess of York, who found the puppies that were given to the Queen. After the Queen's death in September 2022, it was announced that Andrew and Sarah would adopt the two surviving royal corgis, and they would be resettled to their residence in the Royal Lodge on the Windsor Estate.

Who is Maxine the dog? ›

Maxine the Fluffy Corgi knows she is talented. She just needs some help figuring out what her talent is. After trying out her friends' jobs—a lifeguard, a guard dog, a truffle dog, and more—none of which are quite right, Maxine recognizes that her friends are all doing what they love.

Who owns Hammy and Olivia Corgi? ›

Millions of pet owners have fake conversations with their beloved animals, but Chris Equale, the creator behind the popular social account @hammyandolivia and new resident of Great Falls, happens to share his conversations with his corgis, Hamilton and Olivia, with the world. It all started during the 2020 lockdown.

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