Every morning, a small crowd gathers at the side entrance to ABC News’s Times Square studio, waiting to see the talent exit and enter for Good Morning America. Last Wednesday, as I elbowed my way past some poster-board-holding fans behind a security rope, I noticed that the crowd included a dusty-brown mutt who, like the others, wore a look of giddy expectation. Inside, the security guard regarded me with suspicion and took my ID. “There’s a woman here,” she said into the phone. “She says she’s here to interview the celebrity dog?” Giving my ID another dubious look, she nodded, and I was through.
You can’t be too careful when you’re a celebrity as big as Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund. You never know what kind of crazy things fans might do. “We have this fan who sends us things on our anniversary, our birthdays,” said Lauren Dionne, who, upstairs in the green room, introduced herself as the “mum” of Crusoe, who at the moment was stretched out lazily on a striped shantung couch, occasionally rising to lap water from a silver cup. “It’s funny-scary.” Crusoe does not (yet) have professional security, but “we keep a close eye on him, for sure,” said Ryan Beauchesne, Lauren’s boyfriend. “It’s very rare that he’s ever by himself.”
Ryan calls himself Crusoe’s dad, which seems fair, since at this point he is at least as responsible for introducing him to the world as the stud who did the actual creating. It was Ryan, a 28-year-old marketing professional, who started a blog five years ago in the voice of his new puppy that became an internet sensation, and Ryan who kept that momentum going via a series of increasingly ambitious videos featuring Crusoe doing all sorts of things — Crusoe making coffee, Crusoe grilling a steak, Crusoe (in spectacles) playing poker, Crusoe riding in a police car in full uniform, Crusoe swimming in a shark outfit while the Jaws music plays in the background — that led to a beefy advance for the book he is promoting today, Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund: Adventures of the Wiener Dog Extraordinaire, allowing him to become his dog’s full-time manager. (Dogager.)
Still, even after all this buildup, Ryan and Lauren, who live in Ottawa, seemed a little flummoxed to be here in Times Square. They never expected to be parents of a celebrity dog. But then, does anyone?
A GMA producer bustled into the room with a cake: It happened to be Crusoe’s sixth birthday that day. “It was made by a doggy bakery,” she told everyone. “So it’s all safe. No chocolate.”
By this point, the GMA team know exactly where to buy high-end pet treats. “Just recently, in the past few years, we’ve had a lot of these celebrity animals,” a staffer explained. “We had Boo, who is a Pomeranian who was cut to look like a teddy bear, and he’s got a huge, huge, huge Facebook following. And Grumpy Cat, of course.”
“Did you have Tuna?” asked Ryan.
“Tuna is the dog with the tongue?” she replied.
“Marnie is the one with the tongue,” he corrected. “And the sideways head. Tuna is the one with the overbite.” Turns out that Good Morning America has not had Tuna on yet, nor has it had a visit from Doug the Pug, who is working on a book with Crusoe’s publisher.
“He’s an Instagram sensation,” said Daniela Rapp, who edits both dogs for St. Martin’s Press and is the force behind Miracle Dogs, Beautiful Old Dogs, and Dogs Who Smile, among others in the canine canon. “There’s a really solid market for these, which is why every other publisher is doing one,” she went on. “Probably three or four came out this week.” She cites Harlow & Sage (and Indiana), about the relationship between a Weimaraner and a dachshund, and Tails From the Booth, a collection of pictures of dogs in photo booths. “It’s getting more difficult to do straight memoir,” she said. “You can’t just say ‘I have a cute dog’ anymore.”
As Gypsy put it, you gotta get a gimmick. “I think what sets Crusoe apart, he doesn’t have that, like, look,” Ryan explained to me. “Like a lot of other celebrity dogs — Marnie with the tongue, Boo has the big puffy head — Crusoe is really the costumes and the stories. A lot of the other ones are just pictures.”
Superficial, I said.
Ryan nodded. “He’s probably the only celebrity dog with a blog and a voice,” he said. “Probably.”
“And he’s just so chill,” observed a producer, looking fondly at Crusoe. “He’s so docile. Though when we had Grumpy Cat in here, she was pretty chill as well.”
Animals are the perfect celebrities for our time. Not only do they sit and stay when spoken to, they rarely disappoint. No one accuses a dog of saying something racist, or sexist, or tone-policing. If dogs do have controversial opinions, they keep them private. “What do you think of Justin Trudeau?” I asked Crusoe after he finished his segment (in which he, wearing a pilot’s suit, stared into the middle distance while the host aahed over his cuteness, “though I’d be nervous if I saw him in the cockpit”). He was waiting patiently for the elevator. “Have you been following the Syrian-refugee crisis? How big of a threat do you think we should consider ISIS?” I got nothing. Just big eyes and a tail wag.
How does Ryan, who still writes the blog and wrote the book, capture what Crusoe really thinks? “Well, I know him very well,” he said. “And he has a pretty strong personality.” How so? “He is very comical,” Lauren said. “He will always bring a toy and try to get your attention. He will scratch for water. If he is hungry, he will let you know.” Ryan jumped in: “He lets you know when he wants to be tucked into bed.” Yes, Crusoe gets tucked into bed. With a blanket. He also sits at the dinner table with his parents, paws crossed. “He is very polite,” said Ryan. Canadians.
“Awwwwwww!” shouted an ABC staffer, catching sight of Crusoe. “He was so well-behaved.”
“When we go on airplanes, the flight attendant always asks, ‘Is he taking something?’ ” said Lauren, stepping into the elevator. “They can’t believe how calm he is.”
Outside, a black car was waiting. “Crusoe?” said a guard, beckoning him through the crowd, which had grown larger and parted curiously. There were assorted awwwws, but the mutt who had been there when I arrived looked indifferent; perhaps he was waiting for George Stephanopoulos.
As the car headed downtown, Crusoe lay his head on Ryan’s lap. He’d been up since 4 a.m. filming segments for GMA, and now he had a photo session followed by an appointment at BarkBox (a dog-treat and toy purveyor); a video shoot with Us Weekly; and, finally, a “pawtograph” book-signing at Barnes & Noble. Then, the next day, he and his entourage were headed to Los Angeles and San Francisco to continue their tour. “We’re meeting up with a pig in L.A.,” said Lauren. “What’s his name? Hamlet the Piggy or something — he has an Instagram account. And then a corgi.”
The car pulled up to the curb. Crusoe found a tree and took a dainty shit. “He never poops on concrete,” said Ryan. “And he hasn’t had an accident since he was small.” The same is true, one assumes, of his owners, who once inside the building headed for the restroom, leaving me holding the leash.
Maybe now that we were alone, he’d finally spill. “Crusoe,” I said, leaning down. “Do you consider yourself a feminist? What is your stance on abortion?” Crusoe blinked at me wordlessly. “Are you afraid that if you die they will replace you with someone else?” I asked. The Celebrity Dachshund just looked at me. It seemed he had nothing to say.
*This article appears in the November 2, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.