Sisters Sheena & Marie Yamazaki have done the seemingly impossible: they've nurtured the "careers" of not one but two famous pets! Celebrity pets on Instagram have become a fast-spreading phenomena, with some of these famous furballs' participating in meet & greets, special appearances, and even wear couture dresses designed for their wedding day. But for Sheena & Marie, managing their pets' public profiles isn't about the flash and glamour; these two talented sisters are dedicated to making a difference for special needs animals. After their huge successes as "dog-momagers" maintaining their dogs' busy social media accounts, they've both landed jobs in the pet industry.
Sheena & Marie took some time out of their busy day helping dogs to give us some valuable advice about creating an Instagram profile for your pet and how to grow your pet's following. And with the following numbers, it's a good idea to pay attention: Pixie has 34.5k followers on Instagram and Daisy has just under 200k.
How do you juggle your daily life and managing the social media presence of your pets?
Sheena: I like to plan things out ahead of time and have photos already prepared for upload most of the time. However, there are times when I snap a photo or a video and post when Daisy happens to be doing something that I can't resist capturing and sharing right away.
Marie: It's hard! I'm very lucky that I get to take Pixie to work with me. Since lighting is important, I usually spend my lunch time taking photos of Pixie. I also try to snap as many photos as I can during the weekend.
How did you grow your pet's social media following
Sheena: I've had my @underbiteunite account for 3 years and I think posting consistently is what really helped me grow over time.
Marie: I was extremely lucky that Daisy was already famous by the time I started Pixie's account @toothfairypixie . Sheena posted a photo of Pixie and Daisy together and that's how I got a jump start on my followers.
What are the qualities that make a great social media account for a pet?
Sheena: It is so easy to me to snap a lot of photos in a matter of a few minutes with Daisy. I always make sure to pick out the best photos and have variety in my posts to keep my account interesting while staying consistent with the quality of the photos. Also, have fun! When Daisy and I are having fun together, it is so easy for me to capture different expressions, especially of her smiling. Dogs smile, too!
Marie: As much as I love a beautiful photo with the right angle and lighting, I love reading other people's captions. Keeping it short, witty, and unique is very hard so when I see that, I'm always impressed.
You both work in the pet industry. How did you first become involved with working with animals?
Sheena: I simply wasn't interested in career fields other than ones involving animals, especially dogs. I love my job and I hope to always be involved in working with or for animals.
Marie: Pixie's horrible past. When I found out why she was toothless which you can read about here I was working at a tech company and I just knew that it wasn't the right job for me anymore. From a professional standpoint, I'm still very new to the pet industry so I'm pretty sure Pixie charmed our way into the industry.
What came first: your jobs in the pet industry or your dogmom-ager social media "jobs"?
Sheena: My social media "job" came first. I created my account for Daisy about 3 years ago and it has quickly become a part of my life to be a part of the social media community and raise awareness for dogs with special needs. So many wonderful things have happened to both Daisy and I through our social media account and I hope to be a part of the community for a long time.
Marie: Dogmom-ager. And being a Dogmom-ager is harder than I imagined and is a job. I have to make sure that Pixie's comfort and happiness comes first. For example, she isn't the biggest fan of little hats so I only have her wear it for 2 minutes and try to get a shot. I give up if I can't get one and reward her with treats and belly rubs. Also, we keep all of our photo shoots super fun and short for her. Believe it or not, she loves it when I take photos of her now and will look straight at the camera because she knows that she will get treats and tons of love. Being Pixie's mom helped me get my foot in the pet industry. People trust that you love dogs when they see cute (or in the case of Pixie more like silly) photos and in quantities of literally hundreds. I'm so obsessed with Pixie that my entire photo album on my phone is just Pixie. When I get that pesky little notification that I don't have any more space, I will 100% delete a photo of myself before a picture of her.
What drives you to do so much to give back to rescues & animal welfare causes?
Sheena: As a child, I was very shy and timid that often times, my dogs were my only friends. After learning about the reality of shelter animals in my adolescent years, my love and appreciation for animals grew immensely. Because my dogs helped me so much throughout my life, now it's time to for me to give back and help those in need as much as I can.
Marie: Growing up, we always had dogs. And over 20 years ago, our family was not aware of the horrendous conditions many store bought pets come from. It's hard to admit but our first dog came from a pet store. He was a super sweet dog but very sensitive and now that we look back, probably came from a bad place that reflected in his personality. Then I was told about how Pixie was a puppy mill girl used to only produce babies. That broke my heart. She has much more to give than a good profit margin. I just want to do my part of making a difference for dogs because they fulfill my soul in a very rewarding way.
What advice do you have for people looking to start working in the animal or pet industry?
Sheena: If you are passionate about animals, working with or for them is one of the most rewarding things! I look forward to going to work, and am happy and proud to be a part of an adoption team. If you are on the fence, you should definitely take the job opportunity because I can guarantee that you won't regret it!
Marie: I think being involved in your local shelter group helps a lot to open you up to opportunities as well as experiencing what area in the pet industry you will enjoy. I walk the dogs at NKLA where I adopted Pixie. Before I started volunteering there, I thought my dream job would be an adoption specialist. However, I realized very quickly by just being a volunteer that I am way too emotional for that job. I realized that I do much better being more behind the scenes and telling the story of a dog through the power of social media.
What advice do you have for pet parents who want to make social media profiles for their pets?
Sheena: Keeping up with posts every day require a lot of creativity and can actually be quite time consuming. I always make sure to post photos that are clear and bright. Don't pressure yourself into posting every single day and just have fun with it! You will find a wonderful community of people who love their pets, just like how I found many accounts of dogs with an underbite and dogs with special needs.
Marie: Do it! I think that just like humans, some dogs like their photos taken and being the center of attention and some dogs don't. Pixie loves attention and the camera so if you think that your pet is a natural at it, I think that there's no reason not to. I recommend having a personality for your dog and having that reflect through your photos and captions. For Pixie, when I speak on her behalf in my head, she's a middle age woman that's sweet but a bit sassy and just wants to chill and sleep. Yup, totally a dog lady move but I embrace it. I'm a proud crazy dog lady.
Do you think you'll adopt more pets to add to the Drool of Happiness team?
Sheena: Most definitely! It won't be any time soon because I have Daisy and another rescue dog, Mickey. I will always need a furry companion in my life and would love to continue adopting dogs with special needs and senior dogs.
Marie: I want to adopt another pup so bad and think about it a lot. When I adopted Pixie, I was "just looking" but it just felt so right. My ideal rescue pup would be a small sized senior dog with no teeth. Probably not the most typical ideal dog that you hear but if I ever run across another toothless chihuahua, it just might happen. For now, I'm thinking of making a difference by fostering so stay tuned!
By Sara Stuart