Her name is Tinkerbelle The Dog, and the 6-year-old papitese (a mix of papillon and maltese) has been photographed with top fashion models, designers, athletes and countless entertainers. She’s traveled the world, recently being treated like a queen at the luxurious Eden Roc at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Her fur, which shines thanks to Burt’s Bees shampoo, is meticulously groomed on a regular basis. When in public, Tinkerbelle can often be seen wearing top-of-the-line accessories, such as a Henri Bendel collar and a Mendota Products leash. And last month, Entrepreneur magazine named Tinkerbelle one of the most entrepreneurial dogs in America.
Such is the life of a social media superstar.
The endearing dog’s story began in 2012, when Sam Carrell, a professional dancer and actress, adopted the cute canine from a Long Island, New York, animal shelter when the pup was just 2 months old. Or, as Carrell would describe it, “she picked me.”
“She was my first animal, because of allergy reasons,” recalled Carrell, who acknowledged she was immediately smitten by the pup that weighed less than a pound. “But I knew we belonged together. After she came home with me, I’d walk her through the city to socialize her. One day, an animal agent stopped me and asked if she could work with Tink.”
That led to Tinkerbelle being part of Ralph Lauren’s “The Dog Walk” fashion campaign with shelter dogs in 2013.
“Dogs have always been a part of the Ralph Lauren culture,” the legendary designer said in a Harper Bazaar magazine article spotlighting the campaign. “We would do anything to save a dog.”
The experience, Carrell says, “made me realize that this is what Tinkerbelle is supposed to do.”
According to Carrell, Lauren’s son David saw something in Tinkerbelle during the shoot, and he included the dog in nearly every scene. She later heard that David compared Tinkerbelle to being as talented as a professional human model, only better to deal with than a human.
The result of the photo shoot was the papitese becoming the face of the print and video campaign that highlighted the brand’s accessories from a dog’s-eye view. “The Dog Walk” had Tinkerbelle’s image on buses, posters and billboards throughout the city, and people couldn’t get enough of the budding star.
Although Lauren never appeared at the photo shoot, Carrel still considers it the event that has had the biggest impact on Tinkerbelle’s career.
“It was her first job,” she explained. “David Lauren instantly fell in love with her, and everything fit her perfectly. She was a natural, and she did anything he told her to do. But I left the set that day not realizing what actually happened other than just telling her ‘Tinkerbelle, you did a great job.’
“Months later, there’s Tinkerbelle on the subway station, on the buses, and I’m like ‘What is this?’ ” she recalled. “People stopped us on the street saying ‘Isn’t this that dog? That’s her!’ It was the first moment of her being a celebrity. I am so thankful always for that first job.”
As for meeting Ralph Lauren?
“It’s something I aspire to do,” Carrell laughed. “Hopefully one day I can meet him in person. But [Lauren’s daughter] Dylan told me that her dad knows all about Tinkerbelle. She told me ‘My father loves Tinkerbelle. David loves Tinkerbelle, and now my father loves Tinkerbelle.’ ”
Carrell created Tinkerbelle’s Instagram account in 2013, where the peppy pup can be seen dressed in an endless array of pet clothing — from tutus to bow ties — and posing with stars of the big screen, small screen and music scene. The immaculately-groomed girl has caught the public’s attention, accumulating more than 196,000 followers.
With her newfound popularity, she’s taken part in numerous modeling shoots, including those for iconic fashion designers such as Vivienne Hu and Christie Raules. Being a native New Yorker, Tinkerbelle tends to shine during New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
This past September, she joined Whoopi Goldberg for a photo shoot during NYFW 2017, then walked the main stage runway before taking in the rest of the show from the front row.
“Whoopi doesn’t normally go to fashion week,” Carrell explained. “She knew Tinkerbelle was going to be there and she sought Tink out, then held her in her arms the entire time for the press to go wild. It was amazing, and Whoopi was super nice.”
Carrell says Tinkerbelle’s most memorable modeling moment came in 2015, when the pup walked the runway at Betsey Johnson’s final fashion show after celebrating her label’s 50th anniversary.
“I remember that the audience for that fashion week was made up of only celebrities and media,” Carrell recalled. “It was a ‘who’s who’ of celebrities in the crowd. Once they saw Tinkerbelle, everyone wanted to hold her during their interviews.”
Tinkerbelle has appeared in several TV commercials and attended numerous store and salon openings. She attends many charitable events, including a December 2016 Toys for Tots fundraiser hosted by NY Giants football star Damon “Snack” Harrison’s I Told the Stars Foundation.
According to Carrell, the sight of the miniscule mutt in the arms of a 6-foot, 3-inch tall athlete who weights over 340 pounds was unique.
“It was quite amazing because to be in an environment where there are all these big guys — and they’re so big compared to Tinkerbelle,” she said. “[Harrison] had such a great time with her. She’s been with tennis players and other athletes, but never big football players. They’re so big but they’re so kind.
“And he was so gentle, you could see how happy Tink was in his arms,” Carrell continued. “The two of them had the best time together. And he wouldn’t put her down all night. No one else could hold her. It was a good cause by a great charity. I was so happy Tink could partner with the Giants.”
And don’t be surprised to spot Tinkerbelle at an exclusive, celeb-only party, thanks in part to her winning a 2016 Webby award. What’s more, she has even popped up on stage in New York, appearing alongside Tony Award nominee Sally Mayes in a production of Gypsy as Rose’s dog Chowsie.
One of Tinkerbelle’s most entertaining endeavors for her followers is a travel blog, #TravelingTink, which details her globetrotting adventures. In addition to Eden Roc at Cap Cana, some of the other destinations that have been covered in the blog include the Berkshires, South Beach and Rome, Italy.
“We loved Rome, Italy, and the culture and the history there was fantastic,” Carrell explained. “But as far as enjoyable, it had to be the Dominican Republic. I think that Eden Roc had to be the standout because it was so luxurious. It was a beach location, and nothing compares to tropical waters and a beach. It’s also a pet-friendly resort. It is a true luxury resort. She loved the beach. She loves to swim. That water was beautiful, and she was in the water every day.”
When it comes to brand partnerships, Tinkerbelle has been associated with a long list of products, including Purina, Greenies, Swiffer, Febreze, Halo Top Creamery and Rachael Ray’s Nutrish.
When Carrell is not driving Tinkerbelle around the New York Tri-State area or flying across the globe for photo shoots and commercial appearances, she allows a friend, singer-actress Gina Naomi Baez, who has appeared in “Orange Is the New Black,” to include the petite pup in the vocalist’s YouTube music videos.
“I think people are really impressed by Tink, and their hearts melt when they see her in my videos,” said Baez, who admitted that the dog’s presence in her videos has helped her get noticed. “The video that went viral, that was picked up by Huffington Post, that one was live with Tink. The live ones with her are when the magic happens.”
Baez acknowledged that Tinkerbelle has a positive effect not only on viewers, but on her, as well.
“I think she definitely makes me feel at home and relaxed,” she said. “I just love singing to her. I can tell that she’s engaged, and she just loves to listen. She’s really special. We have a really special dynamic.”
“I might be a little jealous, but I’m accepting of it,” she said. “I’d love to be in a film with her. We almost had a chance to do a film together. We even went to a wardrobe fitting, but then they rewrote the script and we got cut out of it.”
But she is not giving up hope on it, adding that “it would be an awesome dream come true.”
Until then, Carrell said she’s going to appreciate every day with her canine celebrity.
“I’ve been to places that I never would have had the opportunity to visit,” she concluded. “And it’s all because of Tinkerbelle.”