Meet Puka, the beautiful boxer with a cleft lip and courageous style. Puka was discovered at a bus stop wearing a bow tie, and she’s only gone up from there. Her skills, looks, and fun loving spirit inspire dog lovers across the internet—especially on Instagram, where #PukaIsMyHomie draws tags from around the globe. Let’s get to know this fearless canine and her loving family.
Rover.com: Thanks for talking with us! Can you tell me a little about Puka’s origin story?
Puka & Christine: Puka came into my life in 2011, shortly after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. My friend Roxy was driving one hot day in Los Angeles, when she spotted Puka sitting on a bus stop bench next to a passed out vagrant. Puka was very small, probably only about 12-14 weeks old, and she was wearing a bow tie. My friend noticed the deformity in her upper lip and was worried she needed surgery. Roxy bartered with the man and he handed the puppy over in exchange for $100.
Roxy took Puka to the vet immediately. Puka was born with a cleft lip, and even though it looked severe, her cleft was only cosmetic and no surgery was needed.
Roxy already had two rescue animals at home, so she asked me to meet Puka.
I raced over to Roxy’s house and Puka was asleep on her back steps. Puka didn’t greet me with whimpers, soft kisses, or a wiggly body—she didn’t have to. I just watched her tummy move while she slept and I fell in love. Puka and I have been inseparable ever since.
Rover.com: Puka has a big Instagram following and is beloved online—she’s even a spokesdoggy for Petbox. Can you share a few highlights from the life of an internet-famous dog, and her #PukaIsMyHomie fans?
Puka & Christine: I started my Instagram account in January 2013. I never intended for Puka to be the star of my account, but the positive feedback I received from my friends when I would post a photo of her was very cool.
Then one day a friend of mine commented on one of Puka’s photos saying, “Puka is my Homie.”
That’s when I realized Puka made people smile and laugh—people wanted to be a part of her life.
The #PukaIsMyHomie hashtag was born and the creativity began.
But my joy for Instagram doesn’t stem from the feedback I get or the amount of followers I have. I love Instagram because it challenges me and it strengthens the bond between me and my dog.
It takes a lot of courage and trust for an animal to pose for that “perfect shot,” but Puka and I have an incredible friendship. She trusts me and I reward her constantly with treats and positive reinforcement. My relationship with Puka is stronger because of Instagram.
Rover.com: Why do you think so many people respond so favorably to Puka’s photos?
Puka & Christine: People have a very positive response to Puka because they see how special our relationship is.
Most people want a strong bond with their dog. They want their dog to be respectful, listen to them, and most of all, show them love.
But what is most difficult for people to understand is you only get from your animal what you put in.
The only reason I’m able to get Puka to sit still in a cardboard boat, balance objects on her head, or do anything on command is because we have a strong relationship. Once you have established a bond with your dog, anything else you ask of them is simple.
Rover.com: What’s Puka’s favorite activity? What would a perfect day look like, from food to activities?
Puka & Christine: Puka loves to run. We go to the park every day so she can chase her Chuck-It balls.
She is obsessed with those orange balls! A perfect day for Puka would mean being outside all day. Puka loves to explore, run, and be free.
Rover.com: Tell me a little about Puka’s quirks.
Puka & Christine: Puka howls like a hound dog.
Plus, she’s buddies with my sulcata tortoise, Rocket Larry. She loves following him around the house and sharing his veggie snacks.
Whenever I come home, Puka greets me with a toy and a wiggly dance. She loves playing in water but she doesn’t know how to swim. She voluntarily jumps in our bathtub as if to say, “Turn on the water!”
Puka is also terrified of the wind, and she’s very shy when meeting new people.
Rover.com: After all these years of pet parenthood, does Puka still surprise you?
Puka & Christine: Puka is surprisingly gentle when it comes to small creatures. Bugs, cats, squirrels, babies, my tortoise, Puka just wants to give them kisses and cuddle.
Also, she loves vegetables. All vegetables. Kale, arugula, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, green beans, you name it!
Rover.com: What’s next for Puka? Do you have any exciting/fun plans for the future?
Puka & Rover: Puka and I are driving from Los Angeles to Kentucky in October. We love road trips! My dream is to travel to all 50 states with Puka. So far, she’s been to Arizona, Hawaii, and all over California.
Puka is also launching her own website in an effort to help raise awareness for animal adoption and rescue: http://pukaismyhomie.com.
On the site, we’ll be selling #PukaIsMyHomie tshirts, tank tops, hoodies, baby onesies, mugs, tote bags, stickers, and even homemade doggy treats! A portion of the profits will be donated to NKLA, “an initiative led by Best Friends Animal Society to turn Los Angeles into a no-kill city by the year 2017.”
Puka and I want to do everything we can to encourage people to adopt their pets. Rescuing an animal is a beautiful, life changing adventure.
Follow Puka’s adventures at http://instagram.com/chilberg.