PHILADELPHIA — Anthony Smith ferries his two well-dressed dogs, Noodles and Diva, in his bicycle basket to events big and small around Philadelphia, charging smitten passersby a “$1 donation” to take their photo.
And hot dog, do the people pay.
In just 10 minutes at the Christmas Village at LOVE Park last month, Smith and his fancy fur babies made $7 from adoring fans who wanted to take pictures of the pups to post on platforms where cute pets in snazzy outfits equal serious social media gold.
“I have people chase me to get a photo,” Smith said.
A silver-haired man interrupted Smith and asked to take a photo of Noodles, who was dressed like a member of the Village People in a leather cap and shades, and Diva, who was dressed in sunglasses and reindeer antlers.
“There’s a sign right there, brother!” Smith said. A sign affixed to his bike basket reads: “Presenting Noodles & Diva. We pose 4 photos. Donations is greatly appreciated. God bless you.”
The man handed Smith a dollar.
Smith, 59, of South Philly, says the money funds Noodles’ and Diva’s wardrobe. Noodles’ fancy leather hat alone cost $30, he said.
“They got more clothing than I’ve got,” he said. “They got every outfit in the world. They got Eagles. They got the Phillies. They got the 76ers.”
Noodles is a 15-year-old Brussels Griffon with attitude and Diva is Noodles’ sweet 5-year-old daughter, a Brussels Griffon and Chihuahua mix.
“My sister babysat Noodles when I went to the Poconos once and she forgot she had a girl dog and that’s how I got Diva,” Smith said.
A woman approached and asked if she could take a photo.
“Here’s a sign right there, honey,” he said. “Doggy donation — one dollar.”
“Oh, I’m going to do it,” she said.
Smith propped Diva up in his bicycle basket for the photo
“The paparazzi always wants you. You famous, Diva!” he said.
Smith, who works for a private contractor, was born and raised in Philly. He used to be an urban cowboy and owned horses that he’d ride around the streets of Philadelphia. Due to rising costs, he gave the horses up two years ago and now focuses on his dogs.
“A lot of the things I was doing with the horses — block parties, birthday parties, family reunions — I can do with the dogs,” he said.
Smith also looks for public events in the newspaper and tries to attend with his dogs. Sometimes, they’ll even end up in the celebration.
“We were at the Thanksgiving parade,” he said. “We weren’t part of it but we made ourselves part of it and people didn’t even know.”
Another man approached and asked for a photo.
“They earn their keep. Read the sign, sir,” Smith said.
The man pulled out his wallet.
Smith said he takes his dogs to visit with elderly residents at a nursing home every other week. There, people are more interested in petting and interacting with the dogs than they are in taking their pictures.
And pets are always free.
Information from: The Philadelphia Daily News, http://www.philly.com