This charming little rescue pup from Hawaii is making waves on social media – and inspiring kids around the world to become responsible pet parents.
On the first of October in 2013, Shannon Ellis and her two nieces visited their local Humane Society in Honolulu, Hawaii to make a donation. On a whim, they decided to pay a quick visit to the dogs. An avid animal lover, Shannon said hello to all the homeless canines, silently wishing them well. As they made their way back to the door, a small terrier mix caught Shannon’s eye. To this day, she remembers thinking how lonely he seemed in the bare kennel. According to his information card, the dog’s name was “Rascal”. He’d been brought in as a stray, and didn’t like being left alone.
Enchanted by his big brown eyes and sad story, Shannon and her nieces decided to take “Rascal” for a walk. Partway through their stroll, they stopped to rest on a bench. To Shannon’s surprise, the little dog immediately hopped onto her lap, made himself comfortable, and fell asleep. At that moment, Shannon made a decision – this sweet boy would be coming home with them.
In order to give her four-legged friend a new chance at life, Shannon changed his name to Spencer. As it turns out, her name choice was more than appropriate. “Three months after adopting him, we moved to a building called Spencer Terrace on Spencer Street in Honolulu,” laughs Shannon. “I don’t believe in coincidences!” Indeed, it seemed every aspect of Spencer’s new life was falling neatly into place. He fit right in with his new fur family, two tuxedo kitties named Stella and Steve. And he adores Shannon and her nieces, who she’d also adopted.
To accommodate her growing family, Shannon stepped down from her full-time job. “To make extra money, I taught myself how to sew, and started making little bowties for Steve and Stella,” she says. “I shared photos on my personal Instagram account, and to my surprise, the internet loved them.” Shannon opened an Etsy shop, and began seeking famous social media cats to promote her product. That’s how she met Pookie, owner of Instagram stars @nala_cat and @white_coffee_cat. Shannon and her family had already planned a vacation to Disneyland in Los Angeles, and while they were there, she and Pookie met in person. The two animal-lovers hit it off, and a year later, the two families decided to merge into one.
Suddenly, Spencer was faced with another major life change – a move to California — but he handled it better than Shannon could have expected. He was small enough to ride in the airplane cabin during the move, and despite a few initial nerves, he slept through the entire trip. “After our move, he seemed to build up more confidence,” Shannon says. “We went from living in a small apartment to a house with a yard, so he was a very happy pup!” The easygoing canine immediately loved his new kitty siblings, Nala and Coffee, who Shannon credits with laying the foundation for Spencer’s fame. “But his floppy ears, big nose and charming personality helped too!” she adds. The five-year-old rescue pup now has over 87,000 followers on Instagram – and he’s using his fame to help other animals.
To date, Spencer has over 87,000 followers on Instagram.
Shannon and Spencer are on the board of PEP! The Pet Education Project – a non-profit organization that educates and inspires kids to be responsible pet parents. Through videos, livestreams and regular PEP! Talks at elementary schools, they teach kids about spaying, neutering, adopting and more. “We love PEP! because they’re creating a solution to the millions of animals entering shelters each year,” says Shannon. “We use Spencer’s social media platform to spread the word about all the magical things PEP! is doing.”
Shannon, Pookie and their animals have busy schedules, but sharing their home with a hoard of social media pets has made the women experts when it comes to maintaining balance in all their lives. Despite his fame, photo shoots and charitable work, Spencer’s routine is still that of an ordinary dog. As his Instagram account reflects, he spends most of his time exploring the outdoors and hanging out with his family. “Spencer takes me on three walks a day,” quips Shannon. “He also enjoys sunbathing, chasing lizards, and playing with laser pointers. Sometimes I wonder if he’s actually a cat!”
Indeed, Spencer is as quirky as they come. When one of his “moms” turns on the vacuum, he begins playfully chasing Coffee around the house. According to Shannon, it’s a game they’ve played since day one. He also persistently “knocks” on the bathroom door if one of his humans is occupying it, and insists on hiding some of his food before eating a meal. But perhaps Spencer’s most peculiar quality is his undying love of baths.
“When I first adopted Spencer, he had itchy flaky skin, and often had ear infections,” says Shannon. “We started with oatmeal baths which seemed to soothe him.” Though this might explain his fondness for bath time, it was only a temporary fix for his health issues. Luckily, the root of the problem was eventually discovered – an allergy to beef. Now, Spencer is thriving on a turkey recipe diet and salmon oil supplement. And much to his delight, he’s still given the occasional oatmeal bath!
Quirks and sensitivities aside, Spencer is extremely compassionate. “Coffee and Spencer have a special bond,” says Shannon. “Coffee was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2016, and Spencer went with him to most of his chemotherapy and follow-up appointments. He was there to comfort all of us during that difficult time.” Thankfully, Coffee fully recovered – and it’s possible he and Spencer are even closer than they were before.
In the four-and-a-half years since being adopted, Spencer has come a long way from being a lonely shelter dog. He has gained a large family, worldwide recognition, and a great deal of confidence. He still doesn’t like to be left alone, but in such a lively household, he never has to be! And he makes sure to reciprocate. “Spencer is always there for me, to make me smile and keep me company,” says Shannon, who says she knew there was something special about the little dog the moment they took their first walk together. “It’s hard to explain, but I felt an instant connection with him. It was love at first sight!
Find Spencer online at instagram.com/hello_spencer_dog/ and read Nala’s story at animalwellnessmagazine.com/nala/.