Philomena is a sassy pug and one of Instagram's most inspiring dogfluencers. Partially paralyzed on her left side, Philomena is unable to use her left paw and wears an orthopedic brace to maintain mobility. Despite having special needs, Philomena has an incredibly uplifting and joyful attitude and is always out and about in Alpharetta, Georgia with her owners.
We caught up with Philomena and her owner, Stefan Glazer, to hear about Philomena's massive wardrobe (think rainbow tutus, pink wigs, and power pearls), how she copes with a disabling injury, and get valuable tips on how to successfully grow a pet instagram account in 2021.
It’s nice to speak with you, Stefan! Tell us a little more about Philomena. Where did you get her, and how old is she?
We picked up Philomena from a breeder in Pennsylvania when she was about 4 months old. Right now, Philomena is 5 years old. She is endlessly sassy and never slows down when it comes to getting what she wants.
Her sassiness definitely shines through her Instagram account! It is also great to see she is so lively and active, especially given her disability. Would you mind sharing more details on Philomena's injury? How did she get hurt?
When Phil was 1 year old, she jumped off the bed. The bed wasn’t that high, but she missed the rug and hit the wood floor wrong. All of a sudden she couldn’t move the left side of her body. After an MRI, we found out she’d torn her brachial plexus and damaged her cervical spine. This caused paralysis and weakness in the left side of her body. With snacks and our love, we were able to slowly get her to use her left side. She has also gotten some feeling back in her front left paw.
As time went on, we needed more stability. We were referred to My Pets Brace in Pennsylvania. Philomena was then cast and fit for her first custom brace. Through more physical therapy (learning to walk with the brace too), she started improving her flexion of the left front paw. We ended up going through 4 iterations of braces as her front paw became more flexible. Though she couldn’t use her paw, she could use the brace to get around.
Will Philomena always need the brace to move around?
She’ll probably never be able to walk properly without the brace, but she can easily get around. She’s just as happy and playful as she was when she was a puppy.
It is so inspiring to see how happy and spirited Philomena is despite her disability. What was her physical therapy like?
Physical therapy with Philomena was long and strenuous. In the beginning, it was difficult to do a lot of the work every day with her. We stuck to it, and it ended up being the easiest thing to do because we had done a lot of training before her accident. She was highly motivated to do the work with snackies. We did everything from balance therapy, core work, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and aqua therapy. If you name it, we’ve done it with her.
Philomena is lucky to have such wonderful parents taking care of her and helping her get the therapy she needs. Does she need any other gear to get around?
We have a set of pet steps. But Phil has grown accustomed to not having to do anything. She comes to us, by the couch, and gives us a motion and little hop to pick her up. She does the same thing when she wants to come down. Philomena doesn't jump anymore, because she knows she’s not supposed to. Plus, she loves being carried everywhere, even though she can walk on her own without any issues. She also has a few different dog carriages, which the girls love hanging out in and getting pushed around town in.
That's right! Philomena has a beautiful black pug sister named Penny. How old is she, and did you get her and Philomena from the same breeder?
Penny is 6 years old. Though a lot of people think they’re related, they aren’t even from the same place! We adopted Penny when she was 4 years old. We were surprised that Penny’s birthday is just 2 days after Philomena’s.
No way! Definitely meant to be. How did you pick Philomena's and Penny's names?
I purchased a stuffed pug for my wife after surgery. She named it Phil. We vowed that once we got a house and we could have pets, we’d get a pug and name it Phil. Just a few weeks after we moved into our first home, we started looking for pugs and found the cutest little girl. Four months later, Philomena was home with us. We still call her Phil, and we have the original “Phil 1.0” stuffed animal too.
Penny, on the other hand, went through a lot of thought. We wanted to stick with a cute “P” name. We settled on Penelope, but we ended up just calling her Penny and it stuck. And she seems to love her name!
Both are such great names, and I love the story behind Philomena's name. What is Philomena’s personality like when she’s not in the spotlight on Instagram?
Philomena is demanding and highly intelligent. She’ll lead you to what she wants, tell you what she wants, and get mad if she doesn’t get it. Imagine an angry toddler. That’s Philomena. We didn’t notice how much more intelligent she was until we had Penny. We saw what a huge difference between them in personality and thought process.
Phil is a boundary tester and a problem solver. She knows hundreds of words and what they mean. She listens to every single word and reacts accordingly to what she wants. While she has a good citizenship award and passed the test to become a therapy dog in New Jersey, she’s still stubborn until she gets her way.
She sounds incredibly intelligent and resourceful. I've also compared our dog Django to an excited toddler. Django definitely knows what he wants, how to get it, and will whine relentlessly if we don't give in to him!
What is Philomena's favorite treat and toy?
If you ask Philomena, her favorite dog treat is all the food in the world. Though she has a snack that’s always top tier, and that’s Stella and Chewy’s Wild Weenies. But she’s a huge fan of fresh veggies.
As for Phil’s favorite dog toy, we have a glow worm that we bought her when she was a puppy. It’s been through the wringer because Phil loves to play tug. It’s been restitched, restuffed, and cleaned hundreds of times. It is barely holding on, but whenever Phil sees it she knows it’s time to play.
Let's address Philomena's amazing wardrobe. From what I see on Instagram, she easily has hundreds of different dog outfits and accessories! I can't decide if I like her pink denim jacket or hot pink wig best... What do you think is her favorite outfit to wear?
Philomena’s favorite is a custom prom dress that The Stylish Bisou made for her. Philomena has a pink one and Penny has a purple one, and they always look incredibly fancy in them with their large pearls from Accessorize Your Pug.
You've had a lot of success growing Philomena's dog account on Instagram. Would you mind sharing a few tips for our readers who are looking to grow their own dog's Instagram following and boost engagement?
Be consistent in your content. Get high-quality shots of your pet with a good phone or professional camera. Give your pets the voice you think they have. That last one is important. Everyone loves the sass of Philomena when they meet her, so it translates to her posts as well.
Great advice. What about pet photography—do you have a number one tip for taking great dog portraits and landscapes?
Get down on your dog's level. People usually shoot from above their pets. That’s fine when they’re doing something cute. If you get down on their level and shoot head-on or even below their head, you can get some larger-than-life photos and a better perspective of them. It does get hard with smaller dogs. You’ll see me laying on the ground often during a pet photoshoot, but everyone loves the results.
Our dog Django is 8 inches tall, so I can definitely relate to getting low for photos! How much time do you spend on Philomena's Instagram account?
I spend roughly an hour a day liking and looking at content from others, interacting with her fans, and answering DMs. A lot of people send their questions about special needs pets and what works for us.
I saw that you and your family (pugs included) take a trip to Las Vegas each year. Can you share more details about this annual tradition?
Vegas is a yearly adventure for the pugs, my wife, Nina, and myself. We go for the Las Vegas Pug Party. It's an annual event where over 100 pugs gather in a hotel. We rent space for events, shopping, food, and other fun pug-related things. It’s always a blast. We can’t wait for it to come back since this year was canceled due to the pandemic.
Agreed! We loved going to doggy and dachshund meetups in New York City before the pandemic. We're incredibly excited for them to return this summer and fall.
How is flying with two pugs? Do Philomena and Penny enjoy riding in cabin with you?
We fly into Vegas from Atlanta, pugs in tow, in their dog carriers. Then they hang out between our legs the whole flight. As long as your pug is close to you, they’ll not fuss at all. On some flights, the attendants are really nice. They let Philomena and Penny sleep on our laps for the flight. When we get there (outside of the festival's activities), we visit anywhere and everywhere that allows dogs.
Sounds like a great time! What about your hometown? What is your favorite place to visit in Georgia with Philomena and Penny?
Before the Pandemic, we loved going to the Alpharetta Farmers Market and Roswell Farmers and Artisans Market. People love seeing the girls in their stroller. Philomena really hams it up by showing off her brace. To this day, 4 years later, she knows it gets her attention.
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