Put down your horoscope: These days, it’s not your astrological chart that determines what kind of day you’ll have, but a squishy, elderly pug on TikTok named Noodle.
Noodle doesn’t just have 4 million followers on TikTok — he has devotees. On TikTok, the Vikings football team posted a video boasting that it had secured a win despite it being a no bones day, the Smashing Pumpkins allude to Noodle in a cryptic video with the words “the pug has spoken” on the screen, and even Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is a fan. The Democrat referenced the pug in a video announcing that “Today is a bones day, and while every day is a great day to get your vaccination, today is an extraordinarily good day.”
Dionne Warwick, meanwhile, thinks the 13-year-old pug deserves a break. “That dog has earned no bones every day as far as I am concerned. Let the dog rest,” she said on Twitter.
That dog has earned no bones every day as far as I am concerned. Let the dog rest.— Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) October 20, 2021
Some Noodle fans joke that he holds their mental health in his paws; others, says Graziano, get upset when the bones report isn’t what they want for the day. “A no-bones day is not a ‘bad’ day,” he says, wanting to make things clear. “It’s not that you can’t accomplish things, but you need to make sure to take care of yourself. That’s what Noodle does.”
“They are, for what it’s worth, my favorite of the two,” he says. “Goals are great. Ambitions are amazing, but I love no bones days.”
That’s part of why we love — and sometimes need — Noodle as the pandemic continues.
“I think that Noodles is the personification of how we all feel,” says Lia Haberman, a media and marketing consultant and UCLA extension adjunct professor. “We’re all exhausted, we’re all overwhelmed. We all want to have a no bones day. And I think Noodle just kind of empowers us to be able to push back a little bit.”
Pets are, according to Haberman, “almost the perfect influencer.”
“They’re not too complicated to understand. They’re easy to love. They’re predictable. There’s never going to be any scandal. They’re never going to have a social or moral choice you disagree with … they’re fur babies or good boys and girls,” she says. Noodle fits that exactly: he has no ulterior motives. He is not, as his fans joke, a cult leader (“that we know of,” jokes Graziano). He’s a silly, cute pug.
Before the coronavirus upended our daily lives, pet influencers were getting more exotic — think reptiles, ferrets. But when life slowed down, Haberman says, we seemed to want comfortably familiar dogs and cats like Noodle.
“The industry has definitely changed a lot,” says Loni Edwards, owner and founder of the Dog Agency (TDA) which represents pet influencers, including Noodle. “It’s gotten a lot harder to stand out.”
Edwards is one of the original pet influencers; she entered the space in 2013 on Instagram with her late French bulldog Chloe, used her law background to open TDA in 2015 and released a book last week titled “How To Make Your Dog #Famous: A Guide to Social Media and Beyond.”
A successful pet influencer needs to have a great connection with its human. But as the market has become more competitive they also have to be more creative, she says.
Another TDA client, Tika the Iggy, an Italian greyhound with an enviable wardrobe that her owner documents on social media, has 1.6 million TikTok followers and appeared in Vogue Magazine. “In pandemic times,” she says, “content that brings you joy is just going to take off.”
Graziano, a social media manager at GoDaddy, agrees. “People just seemed to really need this right now,” he says.
Noodle’s no bones routine is not new; shortly after the pug entered his life in 2016, Graziano learned that his then middle-aged companion liked to sleep in. In old Instagram posts, Graziano attempts to rouse the pug checking if he’d be a “wet” or “soggy” Noodle.
After two months of regularly documenting the brief bones check-in on TikTok, his fandom took off, growing from about 25,000 followers in August to 4 million currently. The app knows about Noodle too — a few of the suggested search terms include “Is it a Bones Day” or just “Bones or No Bones.”
Noodle now sells merchandise in between naps, including T-shirts (starting at $25), stickers (starting at $6) and pillows (starting at $27).
Social media influencers often fade quite quickly, but Noodle may be able to keep his fans returning with an eternal question: Will we get the bones we want today?