Dog Facebook Group Brings People Joy

Rabbi Robyn Frisch, creator of the Mazel Pups Facebook group, with her dogs Bo and Frankie. (Photo by Tali Frisch)

Rabbi Robyn Frisch officiates a lot of weddings and, in recent years, has noticed a trend.

Around three-quarters of the couples she marries either have dogs or get them within a year, said Frisch, who directs a rabbinic fellowship for a nonprofit called 18Doors and serves as a part-time rabbi at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Northeast Philadelphia.

The rabbi saw dogs in engagement photos and wedding photos, walking girls down the aisle and playing roles in proposals.

People would tell Frisch, “The dog is my first kid.”

So the rabbi, herself an owner of two dogs, Bo and Frankie, came up with an idea: a website for dog lovers to post pictures of their furry children. The idea stayed in her mind for months and months.

“I wanted to connect with people over dogs somehow,” Frisch said.

Finally, after talking to friends and family members, she decided on a more seamless and activating approach to connecting online over dogs: a Facebook page, called Mazel Pups, for Jews, mostly in the Philadelphia area, who love their dogs and want to post about them.

The Villanova resident created the page on Dec. 30. One night within its first 10 days, she woke up at 4 a.m. and opened Facebook. Mazel Pups already had 613 members.

By the middle of January, it was up to 980. And by the start of February, it had grown to more than 1,200 dog lovers.

They are not just Philadelphia-area residents who know Frisch, either. Mazel Pups members come from New York, Baltimore and all over the United States; they come from Israel, too; they even come from London.

Mazel Pups is open to anyone who loves their dogs and dogs in general, and a little over a month in, it has a pretty well-established rhythm. A member posts a picture of his or her dog with a story above it, and other members like it and comment on how cute the dog is.

One Jan. 31 post was made by a rabbi who lives in Rhode Island. He was talking about his new labradoodle who came home for the first time the day before.

“So far she has been wonderfully playful and she even let me sleep this morning until 5:10 AM (far longer than I expected!),” he wrote.

“Adorable,” wrote one of the many commenters.

“She is just adorable,” wrote another.

According to Frisch, the group started out, in its first few days, with only people she knew. But it spread because members started inviting their friends from outside the rabbi’s immediate circle. And then they invited their friends, and those friends invited their own friends, and it kept going.

Southampton resident Danielle Hess’ dog Betzee, who has appeared in the Mazel Pups Facebook group. (Courtesy of Danielle Hess)

“It felt like there was this environment of joy,” said Robyn Belson, a Voorhees, New Jersey, resident, dog owner and group member since late January. “People were commenting with smiles, hearts.”

When Belson posted a picture of her dog, Gracie, a yellow lab, members flocked to it and commented things like, “Oh sweet girl.” Then Belson did the same for them.

Frisch believes the connections in the group are strong because members are both Jewish and lovers of dogs. But for 18Doors, the rabbi runs a fellowship for rabbis who work with interfaith couples and parents, and her Facebook group is open to non-Jews, too.

As the administrator explains it, members are both Jewish and Jew-ish, meaning some have married a Jew but maintained their own religious identity. Several people have posted pictures of their dogs playing with Chanukah toys in front of Christmas trees.

“It’s just meant to be fun,” Frisch said. “And it’s meant to share common love.”

That love runs deeper during these isolating pandemic times, Frisch said. She started noticing the dog trend at weddings over the last two years, as COVID forced people to stay home more often.

Some members think that Mazel Pups is a balm for the general feeling of negativity in the wider world. They said they liked that the group was unifying and apolitical.

“It’s an outlet,” said Danielle Hess, a Southampton resident and the owner of a doodle named Betzee. “It’s just stupid things dogs do. Or cute things dogs do. Dogs are such a part of our life.”

Group members have started to post about possible meetups in local dog parks. Frisch, for her part, might want to do a Mazel Pups podcast or Instagram at some point.

“I very much enjoy doing this,” she said.

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