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Janesville pets become stars on social media

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Shelly Birkelo
Monday, April 3, 2017

JANESVILLE—When her beloved Pookie died March 21, Crystal Phillips turned to social media to let friends and family know about his death.

“Don't be sad. Don't react with one of those crying or angry faces," she wrote on Facebook. "Like, laugh or love instead. Pookie would want that. He wants you to be happy. His favorite thing to do and purpose in the world was to make people happy.”

The 13-year-old pit bull/black Labrador rescue dog had become a celebrity among Phillips' friends, so she wanted them to celebrate his life.

“His last day on Earth, he was comforting me," she wrote. "Pookie will be greatly missed, but we should not be sad. Instead, we should be grateful and happy that we were all blessed by his sweet soul."

Phillips, a Janesville attorney, said she posted photos of Pookie up to four times a week on average—almost as often as she posted about people and events.

She's not alone.

Sixty-five percent of pet owners post about their pets on social media at least two times a week, according to a survey of U.S. pet owners by Mars Petcare.

Dan Wilcox, Fran Peyer and Tom Hathaway, also of Janesville, said they regularly share news about their pets.

Wilcox posts photos of his and partner Rich Fletcher's pets “at least three times a week” on Facebook.

As owner of the Merry Groomer pet salon in Janesville, Wilcox also posts photos daily of clients.

“People are so excited to see their dogs,” he said.

Peyer, a musician and music teacher, posts pet photos only a few times a month on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But she shared much more often—several times a day—when she and husband Bill Peyer's boxers, Ace and Coach, had three litters of puppies.

“We have a Facebook page, Boxer Puppies at Empire, dedicated specifically to the boxers to keep in touch with most of the babies we have,” she said.

Hathaway, a U.S. Postal Service employee, posts “at least five pictures of each pet a week” on Facebook.

“You can't make this stuff up. They're people animals with character,” he said of his Siberian husky and two cats.

The local animal lovers agreed their pets get just as much—or more—attention than they do through social media, similar to half of those surveyed.

“More people—65 to 70 percent—react to the animal posts than anything else. I get reactions from people I don't even know,” Wilcox said.

Peyer said her pet posts get close to the same number of reactions as her people posts.

“People love a memory of a puppy or video,” she said.

Phillips agreed: “Dogs and animals, like baby pictures, make you so happy. So whenever they see them, they 'like' it.”

Thirty-four percent of people surveyed said they post about their pets as often as they do about their human family and friends.

Wilcox, Phillips and Hathaway fall in that group.

“If you're a social person, you're going to talk about what's in your environment, and that's pets. They are our family because we don't have children,” Wilcox said.

“Pookie was part of my everyday life. I don't have children so he was my baby,” Phillips said.

Peyer said she doesn't talk about her boxers as much because they are no longer puppies.

“They've grown up, so I post a little bit more about humans than my canine family now. But it's close,” she said.

Hathaway said he posts more photos about his pets unless he is out and about. Then he will take pictures of himself and friends.

Local pet owners said they care more about the number of “likes” and comments their pet posts get than they do for posts on other topics. That mirrors 55 percent of survey participants.

“If you're going to post something, you want it to be a success, and you're a little disappointed when people don't 'like' or comment,” Wilcox said.

“When you see comments, it makes you happy,” Phillips said.

“When my husband would post on some of the boxer (Facebook) pages, he would get excited if he would get likes,” Peyer said.

“When I post my pets' photos, they get more likes than I do,” Hathaway said.

One-third of those surveyed said they follow pet celebrities on social media. Two of the four local people interviewed said they do, too.

“I have it (Facebook page) set up so if there's something newsworthy, it will come up,” said Wilcox, who follows animal trainer and "Lucky Dog" star Brandon McMillan.

Peyer said she's a fan of such celebrities as Chelsea Handler and Luke Perry, who have boxers as pets.



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