We spoke with Topher Brophy, social media creative and hilarious person in that Sprint commercial about creative confidence, anxiety, world peace, personal identity, and more...
If you scrolled through Topher Brophy's instagram feed, you would think Google put their best minds together to write an algorithm embodying the perfect mix of positivity, optimism and cultural relevance, both in written and visual form. Him and his dog/son even took their talents to the small screen, pulling off a feat rarely accomplished in the world of cell-phone commercials, making a Sprint ad that is both funny and endearing.
So, who is this father and son duo? How does a social media sensation rise from seemingly nowhere, we quietly asked each other... aloud, over a conference call at our individually remote offices (couches)...?
Turns out, Topher Brophy was at an emotional-rock-bottom when he decided to adopt his now son, Rosenberg, an Aussiedoodle puppy. Made whole again by this newfound companionship, Brophy took the ole' "owners look like their dogs" adage, and evolved it into a successful, global artistic mission to spread understanding, self-love, and positivity.
In a time where the wells of good vibes and positivity seem to be drying up, Brophy's photos and accompanying captions, which are as deep as they are genuine, is just what the doctor ordered...
We spoke to Topher to learn more about his story:
NL: So who exactly is Topher Brophy?
My name is Topher Brophy, I'm a Dog Dad Artist & Positivity Advocate from Brooklyn, NY. Prior to becoming a parent, I was going through quite a hard time. I wasn’t able to understand my emotions and as a result, I didn’t have fulfilling relationships. I was going through the motions of life and I was suffering because all I felt was emptiness. To compensate for this, I became obsessed and addicted to playing competitive sports, which probably sounds strange, but as I learned, addictions can take many forms. I spent all my time training and competing for various sports: dressage, curling, badminton, tennis, fencing, weight training, rugby, etc. The compulsion became so bad that I developed a herniated disk and my doctor told me I had to discontinue everything at once to avoid surgery. I complied, but this led to an even darker emotional void, which is when I hit rock bottom. During this time I was isolated and began to read every book I could about emotional health, I underwent therapy, and I started to practice mindful meditation. Through these activities, I realized my unhappiness was due to by my narcissistic behavior. I only thought about myself, which was very bad for my relationships and my self-esteem. I thought that caring for a puppy would help me find meaning… this is when I adopted Rosenberg, and my life has never been the same.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle… As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And when you do, just like @rosenbergthedog and I, you will be the happiest people you know…”
NL: Lots of people lack a love for what they do. What have you found is the best motivator in setting out to find your passion, especially when you may not know how/where to begin?
For the majority of my life, I haven't been able to fully understand my emotions or myself. I’ve always been very sensitive and very empathetic, but my brain wasn’t able to comprehend this into intelligible thoughts. In a way, I felt partially paralyzed. This led to a lot of negative feelings about myself because I couldn’t be the person I wanted to be and I wasn't able to connect to others. This was the case, until fairly recently, and I credit this break through to my son Rosenberg and to the benefits of animal companionship. When he came into my life during the dark time, I dedicated all of my attention to his needs and happiness. Becoming a Dad has been the best thing for me. By caring for this sweet fluffy angel, I have tapped into my emotional compass and finally feel complete. His needs always come before mine, and this mindset has been the catalyst for caring about the collective needs of humanity. This is now my mission and life’s work. Empowered by our bond, Rosenberg and I feel it's our obligation to spread messages of compassion, open-mindedness, tolerance, and the benefits of animal companionship, to as many people as possible. After spending so much time feeling paralyzed and not being the person I wanted to be, now that I can understand my emotions, I don’t have any other choice than to do the exact things I am doing. In a way, I’m trying to make up for lost time, so there is a sense of urgency. So again, for me, this came from spending a lot of time alone and suffering, and it's not a path I would recommend for other people.
I think if one follows their metaphorical stomach, it will pull them in the direction of their true passion. If they are then good to themselves and nurture these feelings, while avoiding unhealthy repetitive patterns, there’s a very good chance their true calling will come to light.
“When @rosenbergthedog and I started out, we got a lot of rejections… people said our project was too “weird” and wouldn’t take us seriously… our success is proof that if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.”
NL: Believing in yourself doesn't always come easy, especially when the noise of rejection can drown out the praise. How do you stay focused?
This is such a great question… To answer it, I’d like to relate it back to my childhood. Since a very early age, I cared a lot about what other people thought and about their opinions. It felt healthy, but it ended up being exhausting, debilitating and leading to my unhappiness as a young adult. It stifled my behavior, contributing to my inaction and emotional isolation. I didn't know who I was and just became a reflection of what others wanted me to be. I was lost and empty. After my breakthrough, catalyzed by dog parenting, I am free of these chains and I am able to embrace a creative spirit I didn’t know I had. This freedom is so liberating, I would not let anyone take it away.. The work my wife (who is also my creative partner: The Dog Styler) and I are doing is coming right from the gut. If other people don't like our message or have negative or conflicting opinions or perspectives than we do, than I completely respect that. It was important for me to learn to be me and not a reflection of others, so I respect others who need to express themselves. I feel it's beautiful that they understand the way they feel and I would like to send them empathy and love, but it's not going to change the mission and larger goal we have to spread positivity to as many people as possible.
“Life can be a funny thing.. Sometimes everything is perfect, then suddenly things feel impossible, leading us to feel irritable, annoyed and anxious. The companionship of my animal son, @Rosenbergthedog has helped me minimize these feelings of frustration. By leading me to live in the present, he has improved my outlook on life more than I could have imagined.. Son, thank you for bringing me closer to our natural state: of happiness.”
NL: So what does Rosenberg tell you during these anxious times? And what does living in the present mean and look like to you?
While it sometimes feels like an abstract or unrealistic concept, our emotional outlook in most situations is circumstantially based on our attitude. We are all a product of our emotions, and this explains why placebo treatments work, not all of the time, but a decent percentage of the time, when they aren’t supposed to.
This isn't to negate larger factors such as a person’s health, well-being, and general safety of course. But emotions are often a rolling downward and upward spiral- which is the way I think we are wired as homosapiens. In contrast, because animals aren’t aware of their own mortality, they don’t have a lot of the anxieties we do, and are always living in the moment, they are metaphorically “still in the garden”. This is one of the many reasons they are so beneficial for us, being close to them brings us closer to being presently zen. Specifically for me, Rosenberg’s enthusiasm for life, his general happiness for the little pleasures and moments, leads me to feel the same way. When my human brain goes to the past or the future, he sets me back in the present and reminds me to appreciate breathing, smelling, laughing, smiling, and to take advantage of all of the amazing people around me.
"Because animals aren’t aware of their own mortality, they don’t have a lot of the anxieties we do, and are always living in the moment, they are metaphorically “still in the garden."
“Fatherhood has taught me many valuable things..among them, the importance of humility and dedication. Before @rosenbergethedog came into my life I was self-centered. Now, I always put his needs before my own, and see the world in a new light. While I once craved attention, I now prefer the light shines on my son.”
NL: How do you now view the world given this new light? And what would you say has become of your diversion of attention away from yourself and onto Rosenberg?
For me, this new world means fulfilling our mission: to spread positivity, compassion, tolerance, and universal respect for all homo-sapiens, animals, and for our environment to as many people as possible.
While it may seem lofty for a guy who takes pictures in different outfits with his son to say this, our goal is to create compelling viral worthy art that will be used as a portal or Trojan horse to enact our mission on a much larger scale. In context, this journey started my coming to terms with being a narcissist. While unpleasant at first, coming to this conclusion was liberating, as it symbolized finally understanding myself, so I could finally heal and improve. When I began to devote all my time and energy away from myself and into the happiness and well being of my puppy, this led me to feel empathic to the other people around me, and then to humanity and every living creature in the world. Now giving back in any way we can to make disenfranchised people feel appreciated or raising awareness or money for charities or even just making people smile or not be mean to each other brings me more happiness than I could have ever imagined.
"@Rosenbergthedog , I've loved you since you were a tiny pup (with no hair on your little belly) and I'll love you when you are old, achey and grey. Sometimes I think about about how you won't be around as long as I will, and it brings me to tears, but then I remember how you taught me to live more in the moment, which brings me back.. You have brought meaning to my life and I am so lucky to have found you. I will alway cherish our bond and this will live forever and ever.. Thanks for being my son, love Dad."
NL: Above all else, what has your time with Rosenberg and other canines taught you that we could all perhaps learn from?
As previously mentioned, they help us to live in the moment...which leads to monumental benefits in our physical health and emotional happiness. Our relationship with them reminds us that we are also animals and are part of nature, not above it, so we should respect the sanctity and integrity of our planet and its resources.
They don’t judge people based on how much money they make, what color their skin is, who they voted for or what religion they believe in. They love people based on how they are treated, in what I call a love meritocracy. This is something we can all learn a lot from.
''A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new''' -Albert Einstein.
NL: You often reference books and quotes in your posts. Do you have any favorites you turn to most?
My favorite books are:
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X
- The Tao Te Ching
- Winnie the Pooh & Siddhartha
Here are some quotes by historical figures that I find inspiring:
- “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.” ― Abraham Lincoln
- "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." - Mother Theresa