In a grand Edwardian home in North Avondale, Sarah Crannell Rich takes a break from her telecommuting job as project manager for a research and development company. She plops down on a couch and scrolls though photos on her phone. “Here we go,” she says, stopping on the moment when her 3-year-old daughter put a pink plastic bracelet on the paw of the family’s 6-year-old bulldog. “He looks aggravated.”
“He” is Harrison Ford, named after the human who is also, Rich explains, wrinkly and handsome. A sort of dog version of Garfield meets Grumpy Cat, the pooch looks perpetually aggrieved. Rich posts the image to the Instagram account @harrisonfordbulldog with the caption, “HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND.” It garners more than 4,000 likes and hundreds of comments, including “You are the absolute best brother” and “Let me know if you need some muscle…I know people.”
@harrisonfordbulldog has around 34,000 followers (as of early 2019), and no one is more surprised at its success than Rich. She started her pup’s account in 2015, not long after the birth of her daughter, as a fun distraction from all the diapers and bottles. “I’m surprised at how much people love Harrison,” Rich says. “Sometimes they write that seeing photos of him brings them joy.”
Five-figure engagement is not only unusual for a pet IG account, it is something the lead New York Times tech writer, Brian Chen, failed to do when he attempted, in December, to game the platform and make his own dog a star. Unlike Chen, Rich does not sweeten photos or buy followers or use much video. She simply snaps amateur pics—“I have zero photographic skills” she insists—and adds funny, family-friendly captions. It is perhaps Rich’s sweet, authentic, non-needy approach that has resonated most with fans. “There’s no trick to it,” she says. “It’s just engaging with other people. I only follow about 227 other accounts, almost all bulldogs, because that’s all I can read every day and comment on.” In doing so, Rich has beat myriad wannabes angling to achieve influencer status. Harrison’s stardom has resulted in gifts of free pet beds and tchotchkes bearing his miffed-looking face. “I’m not sure we want to become paid influencers,” says Rich, who has rebuffed many offers of commercial placement. She would rather wield the dog’s popularity for local good—such as a benefit for Queen City Bulldog Rescue this past fall, which raised $1,000.