Gemma Gené has lost count of how many times she’s been stopped in New York because people want to take a selfie with her dog, Mochi.
The pug, who has more than 288,000 Instagram followers, is ready for even more close-ups as one of the stars of PetCon NYC next Saturday.
“He is loved by everybody he meets or who sees him on social media,” said Gené, 34, an illustrator in Ridgewood, Queens. “He is very laid-back.”
The 7-year-old pug’s endearing quality inspired Gené to transform Mochi into a cartoon four years ago.
Back then, she had a long daily L train commute to her Manhattan job as an architect. She would pass the time by drawing whimsical pictures of her beloved pet.
Her sketches showed Mochi trying to swipe a sandwich from her hand or begging her to take him to work with her. A thought bubble showed him jealously imagining Gené taking a carefree stroll in the park with rival dogs rather than sitting behind a desk.
“People would look over my shoulder and comment on the drawings,” recalled Gené of her fellow straphangers. “They related to them so much that, after a while, I decided to post them to Instagram.”
She already had her own cartoon blog, 157ofGemma.com. But when she started to include pen and marker pictures of Mochi in 2014, things took off — attracting more than 20,000 subscribers in the space of six months.
Barcelona-born Gené was able to monetize the success and quit her day job. A publisher released her first book in 2018, written in her native Spanish and translated as “My Life with Mochi.”
Three English-language books are in the pipeline for 2020, and there’s a host of merchandise available at online shops Etsy and Society6.com, including Mochi tote bags, T-shirts, phone covers and even bathmats.
Gené also takes private commissions for Mochi-related portraits and has benefited from crowdfunding through the website Patreon.com.
Meanwhile Mochi’s fans often gift him luxury items, including a faux-fur bed.
But treats of an edible nature go down best. “His favorite food is the traditional Spanish ham jamon,” Gené said. In one cartoon, Mochi greets a set of thieves robbing Gené’s apartment before leading them to the home’s “treasure”: the fridge.
In another cartoon, Mochi is seen ignoring Gené’s engineer husband, Peri, until he brings out some tortillas and the dog love-bombs him.
”He has something of a love-hate relationship with my husband,” said Gené with a laugh. “I let Mochi get away with anything — sleeping in our bed and snuggling on the couch — but Peri is more strict. It’s a case of good cop, bad cop.”
She came to own Mochi, a gift from her godmother, in 2012, three months after getting married.
The pug is also devoted to Gené’s other pets, twin long-haired chihuahuas named Huey and Duey, who often appear in her cartoons.
“The three of them are very funny together,” she said. “They constantly inspire me in my work.”
When Mochi is not appearing at events in places like Los Angeles and New York, he loves traveling the world to cities such as Barcelona.
“He comes with me everywhere I go,” added Gené. “We can’t bear to be separated.”
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