As Maxine walked in to Joe’s Coffee Company near Lincoln Square, everything came to a halt. With her butt swinging from left to right, people took photos of her while making faces that were a mix of a pout and surprise. I couldn’t help but feel cool, knowing that the most desirable lady in the coffee shop was here to see me, no one but me.
Maxine was followed by Bryan Reisberg, 30, who held Maxine’s bright orange leash around his wrist, with a poop bag and her ID dangling from one end. As he made his way to the counter, at least three people touched Maxine, petting her soft, stout body. And as Bryan ordered his coffee, sat across from me and talked for a couple hours, she did not bark once.
Maxine, or “Max” as Reisberg prefers to call her, is an Instagram-famous corgi. Getting attention is something she is used to and Reisberg has grown accustomed to it after a couple of odd interactions, such as being stopped on the subway by people asking to pet Maxine’s soft fur or being interrupted by a fan while having a loud fight on the streets with his wife.
“I was about to pick up her shit and some lady walked up to me while [I was] talking on the phone and started talking about Max and I was just like, ‘I am on the phone,’” Reisberg told me, laughing as he remembered the weird interaction.
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Once it hits your lips it’s so good! #OldSchool • • • • • #corgi #corgis #ruffpost #weeklyfluff #dogsofInstagram #welshcorgi #thedodo #corgiworld #myfavcorgi #corgi_ig #dogsofinstaworld #sploot #buzzfeed #puppy #9gag #corgibutts #marvel #deadpool #ryanreynolds #myfavcorgi #welshcorgi #corgistagram #corgicommunity
“It’s pretty unbelievable having an Instagram-famous dog,” said his wife, Alex. “What I really mean is that I can’t believe that over 175k people follow my dog. It’s wild, funny, and super strange to me. I’ll never get used to it.”
When they were featured in a segment of Good Morning America a year ago, they had 47,000 followers. Now the count has more than doubled.
After reaching 40,000 followers last year, Reisberg signed Max with Dog Agency, one of the most popular pet influencer agencies in the United States, run by Harvard Law graduate Loni Edwards. Through the agency, they get paid to do sponsorships with companies like Polaroid, host events such as a red carpet for Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and have meet and greets.
“Brands spend a lot of money on it because people like dogs more than humans,” Reisberg said. “So they have dogs doing ads for non-dog products. It is crazy.”
Reisberg moved to New York in 2006 to attend NYU Tisch and graduated in 2009 with a degree in Film and Television. He has been living in the city ever since then, currently working as a creative director at an advertising agency called Anchor. He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland with his brother Josh,38, and sister Samantha, 35, in a dog-loving family and had a Cocker Spaniel, a Chocolate Labrador and later on a Westie.
“Bryan and I grew up with dogs our whole lives,” Samantha said. “We both always wanted dogs of our own one day.”
He met his wife, Alex, when she was a junior at Barnard College, introduced by mutual friends. When they got married in November 2015, they decided that getting a dog would be their wedding gift to each other and on February 2016, two-month-old Maxine came into their life.
Reisberg and his wife wanted a corgi solely because of the cuteness factor, and named her Maxine because they thought it suited her personality.
“We did not like really girly names and we did not like dog names — we liked people names,” he said. “And it worked because she was kind of tomboyish.”
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Yeah, I guess you are Mom. #RequiemForADream • • • • • #swoveralls #corgisofinstagram #corgination #dogsofinstagram #corgicommunity #corgilove #welshcorgi #pembrokewelshcorgi #corgistagram #corgipuppy #dogstagram #instadog #corgis #instacorgi #corgiaddict #petstagram #corgisarelove #corgigram #corgis_of_instagram #love #puppiesofinstagram #doglover #puppies #dogoftheday #buzzfeedanimals
Reisberg and his wife got Max from a breeder, which involved an intensive and long-lasting application process. “The process is kind of crazy because when you have a reputable breeder, they usually want to interview you a few times to make sure the dog goes to a nice home,” he said.
They found a breeder in New Jersey and waited to be matched with a dog. Reisberg explained that some of the red flags breeders look out for include people who ask about the cost in the first email, or ask if their corgis can be “fluffies.” (The genetic trait, which makes their hair a long single coat rather than two short coats, can happen naturally, as is the case with Max, but trying to breed them is very unhealthy.)
Ever since she joined their life, Reisberg has been taking Max everywhere with him — from a work trip to Miami to his office in the West Village. When Reisberg was applying for jobs in the advertisement business after working for a production company, he brought Max with him and told them that he needed to have her with him. They kindly accepted his request.
Jeremy Leder, 25, works on the same creative team with Reisberg at Anchor Worldwide. Word of Max’s fame had made it to the office before Reisberg even started working there and Leder was very excited to meet her. “Max is pretty mellow in an office environment, known for her variety of chill-axing poses (often on her back),” he said. “Sometimes if we’re in a creative brainstorm on the couches, she’ll come and snuggle up to you and just kind of wait for you to pet her.”
Their daily commute to work includes lots of Instagram videos that Reisberg takes of Max, who is comfortably placed in his backpack, barely staying awake during the subway ride. They show people petting her or taking videos of her. This makes up some of the content that Reisberg posts on the Instagram account @madmax_fluffyroad. The rest of the account consists of photos carefully taken and curated by Reisberg himself, whose background in film allows him to take quality photos that have good composition and lighting.
Reisberg and his wife, Alex, 29, started the Instagram in 2016 just for fun — as many proud dog parents do. They split the work between themselves; Bryan as the photographer/creative director and Alex, who works at a startup as the Lead Planner, as the “supervisor” who finds movie quotes for the captions, decides on what content to post and weighs in on business decisions. They had no idea it would become this popular.
The first wave of fans came after a video they did with Reisberg’s best-friend Owen LeVelle, of Maxine’s everyday life being narrated by a man. Reisberg believes that people love looking at cute animals and find it funny when they have “human personalities.”
“I think people like to see what weird situations dogs get into,” he said as he bent down to pet Max, who was sitting under the table between our feet. “Like when I went to Miami there were a ton of comments like ‘Max living a better life than me.’ People just like it.”
Reisberg started the account with his wife because it made them happy and it grew to become something that made a lot of people happy. He is honest, however, in admitting that the money aspect is also important.
“You have this thing that can keep you living and doing things,” he said, adding that it is expensive to live in New York. “We work really hard on the Instagram, so why shouldn’t we — sure you want us to advertise whatever thing? Great pay us for it and we will do it.”
Though Reisberg did not share how much he made per post but he did give me a ballpark estimate, explaining that a post can bring in from $1,000 to $5,000.
“Once you get above 250 [thousand followers], it could be $10,000 a post, but it all varies,” he said. “I think that economy is figuring itself out. There is a girl that we know that has 6 million followers and gets paid $50,000 per post.”
Being Instagram famous is very competitive, with so many people chasing the same dream all around the world. @simon.stumps is a growing corgi account with a little over 6,300 followers; though its owner, Lauren, 30, considers it more of an hobby, she can see how competitive it could get. “I suppose if my objective was to earn money, yes, competitive, as this Instagram influencer business is a thing,” she said. “Many accounts have over 10k followers so I don’t know how you would set yourself apart.”
Reisberg uses movie quotes as captions, and said that it has been working out for the account. He walked me through some of the photos he took and explained the editing process. One of his most time-consuming and Photoshop-heavy ones was a series of film posters, including a photo of Maxine in the A Star Is Born poster.
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“I had to reconstruct Bradley Cooper’s kneecaps because they weren’t originally there,” he explained. In order to get Max in the right position, he set the camera on a tripod and set the camera on a timer. He sat like Bradley Cooper in the poster, got some Cheerios and had her upper paws on his jeans, looking at her favorite snack.
Most of the photos on the account, however, are more organic and simple. Reisberg snaps photos of Max when he thinks she looks cute and the light works. He then goes back home to color correct them and edit the leash out because he doesn’t like the way it looks in photos.
“After you take a lot of photos and see what does well in Instagram, I know what will work really well,” he says, showing me some of the photos he archived because they didn’t get as many likes. “I get psychotic about it. It is weird what people do not respond to.”
He usually spends between an hour to five hours a day after work, editing photos for the Instagram account. This is a relatively normal amount of time to spend on a famous Instagram account. A UK-based corgi account with 108,000 followers, @lecorgi, has a similar schedule. “Several hours a day (2-3) to prepare content, interact and engage with others as I like to reply to as many people as I can,” Aurélie Four, 30, co-owner of the account, wrote via Instagram direct messaging.
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French people are hardcore, they eat pain for breakfast, lunch and dinner 🍷😑🥖 ____________________________ 📍No. Fifty Cheyne in Chelsea (London) where we were invited for lunch so I could critic the super dog-friendly restaurant with a delicious cuisine influenced by France ____________________________ DISCLOSURE: the lunch was #gifted – I was allowed to go on the chair by the management and did not get to touch the wine or bread because Maman got to them before me (but seriously alcohol is toxic to dogs). Humans: please always ask before putting dogs on chairs/tables, check that food is safe for them before feeding it and consider their wellbeing before putting them in uncomfortable or dangerous situations (it’s sad we have to write this but it seems many would do anything to get attention on the gram these days 🙄) #DisapprovingCorgi
But another dog Instagrammer, with a follower base of around 2,400 followers, says that she spends much less time. “Takes an hour each day at most maybe,” said Janet, 30, who runs @zoey-darkloaf for her Tricolor Welsh Pembroke Corgi. “I like to post once a day and I usually take pictures of my pup when I am with her, so it’s not like I’m taking any extra time to take pictures.”
Reisberg enjoys having the creative liberty with Max’s Instagram account, but also really enjoys his day job. He’s also working with a friend on developing a video series that focuses on pet influencers. When he first got Max, a fellow film director told him that it was a very bad idea to get a dog, as he should be focusing on making a movie. He thinks that these two aren’t necessarily independent from each other.
“It stuck with me because I was always worried about that it would distract me from doing other things, but it kind of just changed things,” he said. “So instead of making a movie about x that interested me, now I want to make a series about Max because it is really weird and funny.”