The People Behind Chicago’s Most Famous Pets

captureWe all take pictures of our pets, and many of us share those images with friends and family on social media. But only a few make the leap to the big time, sharing photos and stories about their animals with a cadre of fawning fans. The inner dynamics of what makes a pet a social media star are as elusive as they are intriguing, but these savvy pet parents seem to have cracked the code.

For this installment of “Behind the Brand,” we connect with the humans behind some of Chicago’s most famous online animals, learning a bit about what makes their furry ones so special and what goes into being a successful pet blogger or Instagrammer.

Kat Kuda

Pet: Samson
Followers: 11.1K

What is your day job?
Graphic designer.

When did you start Sam’s Instagram?
Three years ago, after I picked him up from a long vacation in Florida.

What inspired you to start it?
I needed a place I could share all of these quirky photos and experiences I had with Sam and not feel like I had no life always taking pictures of this dog! I wanted to remain anonymous with my obsession with Sam, until now I guess.

What is it about Sam that you think his followers love so much?
I think it’s a combination of his good looks and quirky personality—he’s like a three year old child every single day. When I write captions, I channel what Sam would say if he could [talk]. And secretly, I think he enjoys the outfit changes.

What has been the most surprising thing for you about Sam’s social media stardom?
The most surprising thing is that I wasn’t aiming for Sam to be famous on social media at all. It just kind of happened, and now I can’t stop! Also, there is a “family like” culture on Instagram. You have this support system of other people you don’t know, but feel connected [to] in a way.

Are there any messages you try to promote through Sam’s Instagram?
Positive sarcastic vibes, if I had to sum it up. Just trying to make people smile by showing who Sam really is. I am not really interested in promoting products when companies reach out. I mean as far as I know, Sam doesn’t need a cell phone case… why should I market that?

Cody VandeZande


Pet: Chuck
Followers: 8K

What is your day job?
I’m a hairstylist and an illustrator. I’m currently in the middle of writing and illustrating an ABC children’s book about Chuck and his Instagram pals!

When did you start Chuck’s Instagram?
About three years ago. I wanted to post pictures of Chuck but didn’t want to be obnoxiously posting on Facebook… so I started an Instagram account for Chuck and figured if people liked it, they could follow! Now that I’m illustrating a book about Chuck, it has become a fantastic avenue for me to reach an audience.

What is it about Chuck that you think his followers love so much?
I think Chuck’s followers really love his costumes and dress up pictures the most. Being a hairstylist helps a lot when I’m crafting a tiny hair extension wig for him to wear (especially for his Beyoncé and Princess Leia posts!). He actually loves it. He purrs and purrs while I’m adjusting his “hair.”

You have other pets in addition to Chuck. Do they feel left out of the social media stardom?
No way! Stevie (the black cat) hates to dress up. She pops in for pictures here and there, but for the most part she could care less! Brody (our dog) has his own Instagram: @windycitybrody.

When he’s not posing for pictures, what is Chuck’s favorite thing to do?
Sleep! He loves lounging on the cat shelves, the top of the couch, in the bathroom sink, etc.

Any tips for aspiring pet parent Instagrammers?
Be active with your account and respond to your followers. Be sure to use appropriate hashtags and take clear pictures. And of course have fun!

Alicia Boemi


Pets: Izzy (pictured), Hudson, and Mylah
DIY Dog Mom

What is your day job?
Right now I am working on shifting The DIY Dog Mom, my shop, and The Pet Pro Society into my full-time job!

When did you start the DIY Dog Mom?
October 2015.

Where do you find the inspiration for your projects?
My dogs are the inspiration for all the projects and the entire blog. Anything I write about, review, or create I truly use in my daily life with them. I wanted a way to share my DIY projects and holistic approach to dog care with others.

What has been the best or most surprising part about starting the DIY Dog Mom?
When you start a blog you think in the back of your head “will anyone even read this or want to listen to me?”. As it has grown I have dedicated readers and social media followers and now make an income from the blog. It is pretty awesome to see something you are so passionate about grow and really take off.

What tips do you have for aspiring pet bloggers?
Don’t get discouraged and give up. You have a unique voice and something to lend, I guarantee it. I created The Pet Pro Society for aspiring pet bloggers and businesses. I was constantly getting asked to share helpful tips on getting started and how to grow a following on social media, so I decided to put it all out there in one place.

What makes Chicago a special place for pets?
It is such a pet-friendly place to live, with so much to offer. From the amazing veterinarians to all the boutique food and specialty stores, not to mention we have so many dog parks and activities for dogs. [And] we have an amazing amount of rescues dedicated to helping Chicago’s homeless pets.


Amber Chavez


Pet: Manny
Followers: 1 million

What is your day job?
I used to have a regular job, working for the spa at The Peninsula Chicago. Now managing Manny, his website, and his foundation is my full time job.

What was the first social media page you started for Manny?
His Instagram page was first.

Did you have any idea Manny’s social media stardom would take off like it has?
I never thought we’d be here now, with a network of millions of followers and publishing a book! We just thought it was funny to share Manny’s pictures and try to caption them as though he uploaded them himself. We didn’t intend to make Manny “famous.” We’re very lucky to be where we are.

Does Manny get recognized a lot when you’re out?
He does get recognized sometimes, especially in airports. He has fans all over!

What’s it like to be pet parent to what many call Chicago’s “most famous” dog?
It’s been quite the ride with this little guy. It’s heartwarming to know that so many people love my dog. Often when we meet people they thank me for sharing Manny with the world—it’s always so sweet to hear.

What has Manny’s popularity enabled you to do that you might not have been able to do otherwise?
Manny takes me everywhere with him! I get to travel all around the U.S., go to awesome events—and with VIP status to boot. He’s even taken me to meet Snoop Dogg!

Amy & Edward Kang


Pets: Miss M and Mr. B
Two Pitties in the City

What are your day jobs?
A teacher and a small business owner.

When did you start Two Pitties in the City?

What inspired you to start it?
When we were out walking the dogs, we were always getting stopped by people asking about them. We decided to start a blog to answer a lot of these questions, mainly sharing how you can live in the city with bigger dogs and showing the realities of Pit Bull-type dogs.

Do the dogs get recognized when they’re out and about?
Yes! It’s always fun to run into people who have followed the pups for a while and are meeting them for the first time. They know so much about the pooches already, it’s like we’re all old friends.

Is there something about the blog that you are particularly proud of?
We were able to turn our blog into a real-life community by starting our Chicago SociaBulls dog-walking group. It’s a great way for dogs to socialize just by walking together, and it’s structured to be inclusive to all kinds of dogs. We have shy dogs, senior dogs, fearful dogs, and they all just walk together. We have [also] heard from several people who decided to adopt Pit Bull-type dogs after reading our blog.

What makes Chicago a special place for pets?
We love that Chicago is so inclusive and there are so many things to do with your dog in the city. Even with our larger dogs we have gone on Architectural Boat tours, “stay-cationed” at downtown hotels, ridden in cabs, seen Shakespeare in the Park, and gone to many neighborhood festivals.


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