Last fall, soon after adopting my first dog, I interviewed 'Bones or No Bones' creator Jonathan Granziano about life with his 13-year-old pug Noodle, and the ups and downs of having an internet-famous dog. I might not have a TikTok-celebrity pug with a famously floppy body, but I do have experience managing a social media follower base for someone with paws.
I adopted my dog, Simon, from Hearts & Bones Animal Rescue in New York City in August 2021. After fostering four lovable pups—Riverside, Fox, Lucy, and Meadow—of every age, size, and demeanor, I was ready to stop saying goodbye and make my apartment a forever home. I told Hearts & Bones I was ready to switch to the foster-to-adopt track, and the rest was fate.
The moment I spotted Simon in a pack of dogs from Dallas, I knew he was the one. I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight between humans, but I felt it when I saw a single photo of a stubby-legged, big-eared basset-mix named Sable staring straight into the camera. Less than a week later I “foster-failed,” and Sable officially became Simon. From the first day we met, we were inseparable.
I wasn’t the only one who was smitten. Last summer, I posted about my foster dogs on Twitter to increase their visibility for potential adopters, but the reactions to Simon were unlike anything I’d experienced before. “His ears!!!!” people squealed in reply to the photos I tweeted throughout the day. “I love him” they replied, to which I replied, “same,” because I already did.
Within a week, I couldn’t imagine my life without this goofy short boy and sharing some of the adorable digital material I captured each day became a part of my routine. I live alone and work from home, so it was a treat to share his photos and videos with other people. After all, there are only so many dog pictures you can text your friends on a Tuesday morning before they boot you from the group chat. Why not share the joy he brought me when there was so much of it to go around?
At first, I was hesitant to create an Instagram account dedicated to Simon. As a professional social media strategist who already spends an obscene amount of her time online, I didn’t want yet another reason to have my head in a phone. I’d like to say it took longer for me to cave to the pressures of the internet, but a month after Simon came home, @upperwestsimon was born.
“I’ll just use it as a personal photo album to look back on,” I rationalized to myself while admitting defeat on nabbing any handle that was even a variation of @simonsays. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person on the internet with a cute dog named Simon in need of a clever username.
Over the past few months, as the numbers on Simon’s posts began to climb (he is now getting close to 7,000), two things Jonathan Graziano and I talked about kept coming back to me.
The first is how good it feels to have your dog positively (sorry, pawsitively) affect a stranger on the internet. “Finding this page was nothing short of luck. I’m obsessed with Simon and needed this page in my life,” one woman wrote to me after losing her basset hounds of ten years. “Simon posts are literally one of the best parts of my day, just wanted you to know that,” wrote another last night.
Simon is the best part of my day most days, and I love knowing that he makes other people as happy as he makes me. Let’s face it: In year three of a deadly global pandemic, there are times when we could all need some help getting through the day. I know that sharing photos of my dog isn’t solving the mental health crisis or fixing climate change, but if I can make someone’s bad day even 1% better, I’m happy to try. The internet is filled with so much negativity, it means something to me to put positivity back into it.
Jonathan and I also talked about how important it is for him to elevate the message of #AdoptDontShop to promote dog adoption through Noodle’s accounts. "The attention is great, the brand deals are great, but the best thing that has come out of all of this is that I think people have adopted dogs because of it. That’s the best thing in the world,” he said.
Simon and I don't have any brand deals—and nowhere near as many followers as Noodle—but promoting dog adoption is still the single most important thing I hope to accomplish with @upperwestsimon. I love every dog regardless of whether they came from a rescue or a breeder, but in a city filled with doodle-mixes, I wish more people knew they could adopt their dream dog. Per the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASCPA), 670,00 dogs are euthanized every year in the U.S. Until kill-shelters are no longer a reality I’m going to scream about animal rescue on the internet.
Beyond adoption, I hope that Simon and I can promote fostering as not only the most direct way to save an animal’s life but also a great way to discover the right dog for your household. Fostering was one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life, and I know it has the potential to be the same for others. There is nothing that brightens my day like getting a DM from a follower telling me they signed up to foster because of Simon’s posts.
Just last week, as Simon and I approached our six-month anniversary, I emailed Hearts & Bones telling them that Simon is ready to be a foster brother. I’ve seen him with enough dogs in his space to know he’ll rise to the occasion, so we’ll soon have a stream of adoptable cuties making cameos in the apartment. I’ll do my best to live in the moment, but it won’t be long until I unleash a stream of adorableness onto the internet.
Simon teaching other dogs how to “dog” is too good to keep to myself.