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 week, 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.
“Because I’ve been born and raised here all my life, baby. All my loopholes is here.”
You ever had a classic Philly moment?
“That’s when the pope came. She was the pope and he was the pope security.”
If you had a wish for the city, what would it be?
“I would wish there’d be less homelessness and more jobs for the people.”
Know someone in the Philadelphia area whose story deserves to be told — or someone whose story you’d like to know? Send suggestions for We the People profiles to Stephanie Farr at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 215-854-4225. Send tips via Twitter to @FarFarrAway.
Want more We the People?
- Last week’s profile: Danie Ocean is a musician with a rare eye disease that’s left her legally blind, is one of the founders of a co-op music studio that requires its members to do community service.
- From Nov. 22: Nearly every day for 17 years, oil painter Mark Campana has hauled his easel from his home in South Philadelphia to Rittenhouse Square to paint scenes in and around the park.
- From Nov. 15: Haircuts 4 Homeless barber Brennon Jones continues to serve people who are homeless at his new barbershop, which was given to him by a stranger who was inspired by his mission.
- From Nov. 8: Street performers Eli Capella and Seraiah Nicole create music in real time that’s inspired by the people who pass them on the streets of Philadelphia.
- From Nov. 1: John Sebastian, the maintenance director at Reading Terminal Market, was a steel drummer who toured with a Caribbean orchestra and jammed with Jimmy Buffett.