Stephanie Gustys did not expect to find a community when she started an Instagram account for her four-year-old mutt, Hunter.
More than 4,500 followers and a modelling gig later, Hunter and Gustys were mingling with nine other local dog Instagram stars at the Argyle Fine Art gallery on Saturday. The pets and their owners were promoting the opening of a dog-themed art exhibit.
Wearing accessorized collars and custom-made tags, the dogs met their fans and drank (non-alcoholic) doggy beer. This was just one of the many social events that have been organized by and for the Halifax Instagram dog community.
“It’s really strange, but just having this little being in my life has opened up this whole new world,” said Gustys.
“I honestly probably have the best girlfriends I ever had in my life because of him, because I have met all of these dog moms.”
Gustys, an animal rights supporter, learned the power of her dog’s social media account after posting about an animal shelter in Texas.
“I saw this shelter in Texas that had, like, 50 dogs that were going to be put down the next day. I posted it on Hunter’s Instagram and within a couple of hours three rescues had reposted it and had the dogs saved,” said Gustys.
In recent weeks, the Halifax Instagram dog community organized an auction to help with the cost of hip surgery needed by a canine community member. Whether it’s health advice from veterinarians, donations for the SPCA or a friend for a playdate at the beach, Gustys said the online dog community is there.
“Whenever I meet someone I always ask if they have an Instagram for their dog, not even to make your dog famous, just because of the community support,” she said.
Mayannda Webber attributes some of the Instagram success of Clover, her golden retriever and Irish setter mix, to mentorship from other people with Halifax dog accounts.
“I met a lot of people that we actually hang out with now through the accounts. Lots of people are obviously dog lovers and our dogs go to the local dog daycare together,” said Webber.
Clover’s account has almost 27,000 followers and has a viral TikTok video with 2.5 million views. As a result, Clover has become a promoter with pet brands such as Kurgo and Petcurean.
“Instagram has actually helped lessen the cost of having a dog, which is funny,” said Webber. “Sometimes I do like to go shopping for accessories for her. But other than that, we pretty much get all of her basic needs through Instagram.”
Running Clover’s Instagram has also sparked Webber’s interest in photography and photo editing. She now has a digital camera and an in-home photo studio for Clover. She does photoshoots and online engagement with Clover’s fans while working as a mental health and addictions registered nurse.
“I have a usually stressful job so it’s kind of an outlet for creativity in that aspect,” said Webber.
Daria Fantaci and Parker Jackson, dog parents of chihuahua and pug mix Luna, started their dog’s Instagram account to stay in touch with friends from New York. They are also part of the Halifax Instagram dog community.
“It’s definitely a fair share of work, but I think it’s rewarding in that we get to meet a bunch of friends,” said Fantaci. “We have gotten to meet a bunch of people we never would have met if it wasn’t for our dog.”
All these dog parents belong to a Facebook group called the Halifax Dogs of Instagram. The dog-inspired art exhibit was organized through this Facebook group and Adriana Afford, the owner of Argyle Fine Art. The gallery is pet friendly.
“The idea really is to get the word out that a lot of businesses downtown are actually dog friendly or pet friendly,” said Afford. “A lot of people don’t realize that.”
The exhibit, which features dog-themed artwork by 12 artists, runs until March 21.
About the author
Wilson Henry is a writer and amateur comics artist based in Halifax. Their interests include visual art, horses and podcasting.