A little over a year ago, a deceased Jack Russell terrier named Phoebe opened an Instagram account and started posting photos and videos with a little help from her former owner, Mitch Byer. Her adventures from beyond the grave made Phoebe an immediate Instagram sensation, though four years have already passed since her demise. Despite long ago surpassing her expiration date, her fame and social following continue to grow.
Maybe this isn’t all that surprising. After all, Forbes puts out an annual list of deceased celebrities who continue to earn big bucks. In 2018 alone, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, earned an impressive $40 million, and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, raked in an astounding $400 million. That said, the difference between these musical icons and our friend, Phoebe, is that these stars established their fame well before their untimely deaths.
Phoebe has known no such luxury. She has pulled out all the stops to achieve social media fame post-mortem. Mitch has supported her through the media blitz and, it’s safe to say, he’s enjoying the limelight even more than she is.
My Dead Dog and Me
Twenty-seven-year-old Mitch and timeless Phoebe are definitely doing their parts to keep their hometown of Portland, Oregon, weird, and Mitch has the Instagram snapshots to prove it. Accompanied by fitting hashtags such as #mydeaddogandme, #deadandthriving, and #sleepydog, these images both pique your curiosity and make your spine tingle.
For one, Mitch loves taking Phoebe on road trips. In fact, the stuffed pooch’s social media stardom began November 20, 2017, after he posted a photo of her in the passenger seat of his locked vehicle with a sign reading: “Don’t worry, the dog is already dead. She’s taxidermied. Please don’t break my window.”
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This is the photo that kicked this account off. After taking my family’s taxidermied pet dog to the coast to get some fresh air, I realized how special our adventures are together. There’s always more adventures to be had with Phebs! #taxidermied #mydeaddogandme #phoebethedeaddog
Not only did his photo highlight some of the problems that arise when traveling with a dead dog, but it inspired a cult-like following that has burgeoned to more than 4,500 fans. The creepy pics and tongue-in-cheek notes have continued—a macabre knockoff of Steinbeck’s sprawling travel narrative Travels with Charlie. Only this Charlie is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified mummy.
Dead and Thriving
But, Phoebe proves more than a one-trick puppy. Besides road trips with Mitch, she continues to participate in family gatherings.
Instagram photos show her dressed up for Halloween, complete with a witch hat, helping out with Thanksgiving dinner, and getting in the Christmas spirit. In fact, a video of her wearing a Santa’s hat and riding a model train around the Christmas tree racked up more than 2,464 views. She also participated in the New Year’s Eve countdown, complete with a tinfoil hat.
Phoebe has made appearances at plenty of bars and other public spots, too. Mitch’s favorite “stuffed” experience occurred at a truck stop along the Oregon Coast. After being granted permission from the confused bartender to bring Phoebe inside, patrons soon warmed up to the ice-cold pooch. Mitch believes he even convinced a few people to get their own pets stuffed when the inevitable happens.
For reference, there are also a few images of pre-fame, pre-death Phoebe on Instagram. These provide a welcome respite from the otherwise “stiff” vibe.
Phoebe’s Immortal Transformation
A beloved family pet, Phoebe originally passed away in 2013. Mitch’s mom made the fateful decision to have Phoebe’s body preserved for posterity. But, as one may imagine, she faced huge obstacles. As she called around to taxidermy businesses across Oregon, she learned that Northwestern taxidermists wanted nothing to do with stuffing family pets.
Fate seemed to have taken another sad turn until she widened her taxidermist-search to a national scope. After extensive research and countless phone calls, she found a firm in Colorado that was up for the challenge. They transformed Phoebe into a remarkably lifelike pup, posed ever-alert, and waiting for her next adventure.
Living on in Hearts
Mitch’s mother wasn’t sure how the rest of the family would react to Phoebe; initially, she hid her. When Mitch finally saw Phoebe, he completely cracked up, but Mitch’s sister had a very different reaction. She couldn’t stop crying.
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This was from our last day in Yosemite. I didn’t get many pictures as being busy the whole time. The car rental place upgraded my mom and I cause of Phoebe to a Jeep. Many yells of “Jeep Life” from the sun roof. We will be going back in June for some fly fishing and rafting! #mydeaddogandme #deadandthriving #yosemite
Instagram viewers have also shared mixed feelings about Phoebe, cycling through everything from amusement to love and revulsion. Comments run the full gamut from the.real.skippy02’s “This Is a freaking stroke of gratuitous genius!” to drpepperpepsi’s “There are limits, sir.”
But, apparently, there are few limits when it comes to a man’s love for his dead family pet.
By Engrid Barnett, Contributor for Ripleys.com