Sunday, February 25, 2018
Pets

Juji the labradoodle is one of the big dogs of Instagram

Juji isn't really as big as he looks on Instagram, where he has become larger than life.

Bounding around the yard outside of Buffalo, Minn., Juji is, in fact, life-size. A little leggy perhaps, in the way that golden doodles — a cross between a golden retriever and a standard poodle — can be.

But neither is he the fuzzy white canine who towers over landscapes, people and cars, thanks to the digital wizardry of Chris Cline, who can't quite get over what's happening to his life.

"It's amazing," Cline says. "We live in a country where I can make a living taking pictures of my dog."

On Cline's Instagram account, @christophercline, Juji appears to be 7 feet tall, yet utterly normal — walking alongside Cline down a country lane, sprawled on the couch, leaping across a stream. The marvels of Photoshop also enable more fanciful scenes: Juji and Cline on a cloud, Juji as a mighty steed, or being buzzed by airplanes atop the Empire State Building.

You can't help but smile.

Chris Cline has been photoshopping his golden doodle Juji — in a massive proportion — into photos that have made his Instagram account a phenomenon and enable him to earn a living doing this for other people and their pets.

That's it: You scroll, you smile.

But hey, on some days, that's a gift of incalculable value.

"It's like people know you can get away from everyday stuff," Cline said of his more than 80,000 Instagram followers worldwide. "I don't really know how to explain it. It's an escape."

Cline's girlfriend, Chris Fagerlie, thinks the illustrations appeal to kids, "but also to the kid in the adult." Some of Cline's scenes recall childhood days when you and your dog were kind of the same size.

Little wonder that Cline says he's inspired by Calvin and Hobbes, the revered comic that, for 10 years ending in 1995, captured the hearts and minds of countless readers. It featured a little boy and his stuffed tiger come-to-life as an oversized pal. Only when an adult was around did Hobbes appear as the small toy he was.

"It was all about their adventures together," Cline said. "With Juji, I can see myself as a kid doing all this stuff."

Cline was a graphic designer in Virginia when he began corresponding with Fagerlie, a nature photographer. They'd met on Instagram.

After months of talking, "we agreed to meet," Cline said. "So about three years ago, I got on a bus for Minnesota and I've never left."

Fagerlie wanted a dog; Cline was less than enthusiastic. But after a hospital stay in 2014, he returned home to Juji. He was less than enthusiastic.

"I mean, she got a wussy dog," he said. A doodle. "I wanted a guy's dog."

Cline, 41, tries to tell a good story, but in truth, confessed that it didn't take long before he and Juji started their interspecies bromance.

There's not a dog owner in the world who doesn't loving sharing photos of their dog, so Cline began fiddling around on his computer, enlarging Juji until he loomed over his owner. He posted them on Instagram, to his 800 or so followers.

"There was no definite start to this," he said. "And when it happened, it didn't happen the way things usually happen."

Usually, he said, your local paper writes something, then maybe you get on something bigger, then maybe something national or international.

Cline and Juji went viral globally before anyone in Minnesota knew what was happening. Then nationally, @christophercline was featured on the Today show site. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Adam Levine and Lil Wayne are fans.

Now local media are making their way to Buffalo.

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