UNO alumnus finds Instagram stardom with rescue dog @grumpysheeb

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Kamrin Baker
EDITOR IN CHIEF

A man is holding a dog.
Kaufman snuggles up to Chester; the two are inseparable. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

He eats chicken nuggets, naps all day and has RGF: resting grumpy face. His name is Chester, he’s 13 years old, and no, he’s not your lazy younger brother.

He’s a local celebrity.

Chester the Shiba Inu, otherwise known as @grumpysheeb on Instagram, is a notable Nebraska Humane Society rescue that lives a life of luxury. At the time of this writing, Chester has amassed 18.4 thousand followers on the photo-sharing app.

It might be his graying fur, missing teeth, elongated eyes or natural stink face—but the internet can’t get enough of this senior canine.

Chester’s owner, Kirby Kaufman, a 2012 graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), who has had the Shiba for about two years, is the man behind the pup’s success.

“People were begging me to start an account for him,” Kaufman said. “So really, I just said ‘fine.’ I have a pretty strong background in social media marketing, journalism, advertising. It all works together.”

By day, Kaufman is a copywriter at Infogroup and an editor of BFFzz, a local zine produced in the Benson neighborhood. By night, well, obviously, he’s a manager for his fluffy friend.

The upward tilt of Chester’s social media momentum came when Grumpy Cat, another famous Instagram pet, passed away in May of 2019. Followers started drawing a parallel between the two animals’ naturally grumpy faces, and thus a new phenomenon was born.

“People would say he’s ‘Grumpy Cat reincarnated,’” Kaufman said. “I just think it’s extremely lucky that they kind of look alike. He looks naturally pissed off, but he does smile, too.”

Chester is authentically a grumpy sheeb. Kaufman said he’ll pee on things just to communicate his anger, and his separation anxiety gets the best of him most days.

“It’s not the normal Shiba-tude a lot of Shiba Inus have,” Kaufman said. “He’s got a ton of behavioral problems.”

Though Kaufman adores Chester despite his flaws and spoils him with every luxury the dog could ever want, his devotion to the @grumpysheeb image is very relaxed.

“It’s effortless,” Kaufman said. “I don’t schedule anything. I just share. One week I was bored and shared, like, 55 times, and other weeks I’m just posting pictures of him sleeping.”

The account, though requiring minimal energy, is revenue generating and is officially categorized as a small business. Kaufman made stickers of the disgruntled doggo and sold out in a day, shipping globally. T-shirts have recently debuted on his website, as well.

Chester, the grumpy Shiba Inu. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

Chester has no idea how much of an international star he is—he ambles around the cozy Benson house at a snail’s pace. He sheds like he has a part time job of sewing fur coats and walks like he’s trying to show off his arthritis. At one point, Kaufman bribed him to sit still with a spoonful of peanut butter, and he licked it off his nose for 20 minutes.

“His favorite snacks are chicken-flavored snacks, chicken nuggets and pizza,” Kaufman said. “I did an Instagram Live video of us at a drive-thru the other day and people were commenting, like ‘give him a chicken nugget, you monster!’”

Not only are McDonald’s trips a shared endeavor, but everything about Kaufman’s life has a touch of Chester.

A 500-piece puzzle of Chester’s face resides in the living room—Kaufman said the dog jumped on the table and destroyed it over his last Christmas holiday, but they eventually made it work.

There are chew toys in every corner of the house, but Chester is often disinterested in a game of fetch.

Fan art is in the mailbox as regularly as a magazine subscription or coupons to the fast food chain down the street. The fan base is enormous—and a bit strange.

“He [Chester] is a queen,” Kaufman said. “He’s actually the originator of the ‘angry reacts only’ thing on some Facebook dog groups like Dogspotting. People would say the angry reacts would throw off Facebook’s algorithm because people don’t want to see posts that make them angry, but that’s not true. It’s the same as the love react—they’re just opposites. They show you more things to make you upset. So, the more angry reacts people put on Chester’s pictures, the more they see him.”

Regardless of how much a commentator on the internet may claim to love – or be angered by – Chester, it’s pretty clear where his loyalties lie.

“I genuinely think people with dogs live longer,” Kaufman said. “Like, even when you had a really bad day, you’re coming home to someone who is way needier than you. Some days, he needs to be two rooms away from me because his bubble is bigger than this house, and other days, he just needs cuddles. I live alone with my dog, and it’s just so nice.”

The two shared a cuddle on the couch. Despite everything his face conveyed, Chester seemed to have no complaints.

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