WEST LOOP — Manny the Frenchie is living the dream.
The 2-year-old French bulldog, whose owners live in the West Loop, rose to fame on Instagram — racking up more than 370,000 followers in less than a year and a half online — and now he's building a kind of celebrity empire.
"Whatever comes our way, we're excited to take advantage of and try," said Amber Chavez, who owns Manny with her boyfriend Jon Huang. "The sky is the limit."
Manny the Frenchie has already done more in two years than most pups will do in a lifetime. He helped create a T-shirt line for American Apparel (with T-shirts for dogs and humans), modeled for the local T-shirt company Threadless, appeared on the Steve Harvey Show and hosted parties — ahem, pawties — and given the proceeds to charity.
"Manny likes to give back to his friends," Chavez said, adding that in the past Manny has donated to the French Bulldog Rescue Network, the Chicago French Bulldog Rescue, ASPCA, Petsmart Charities and Best Friends Animal Society.
This month, Manny will donate 10 percent of his profits (from T-shirts and his newly released 2014 calendar) to the Philippines relief effort.
Huang said they are negotiating endorsement-style deals with companies to create Manny the Frenchie-branded products. Huang said he's in talks with a health food company to create a pet puree, a bacon company (Manny's favorite food), a bed company (he loves naps) and a dog food company.
He also has locked in appearances at four Bulls games this season, starting on Dec. 5 when they take on the Miami Heat.
Chavez didn't disclose how much cash Manny has brought in, but his success has allowed her to quit her full-time job, freeing up time to work on Manny's career.
Although both Chavez and Huang say Manny's rise to fame was unintentional and happened "organically," they are prepared to take full advantage of their dog's star quality.
"I've owned dogs all my life, and he's by far the most personable," said Huang, 36. "He's hilarious. He loves everyone. He loves to meet everyone."
"We know that we love our dogs, but to have other people actually want to buy a Manny T-shirt and tell their friends about it, it's just kind of crazy," said Chavez, 31.
In September, Manny's schedule had become so "overwhelmingly busy" that Chavez quit her job at a hotel spa to work full time with another employee on building Manny's brand.
"The thing about it all being so organic is that we really just don't know where to go from here," Chavez said. "It's fun."
As for Manny, Chavez and Huang said he's "definitely living the dream" but basically has remained unaffected by his fame.
"He wakes up and gets a massive breakfast. He goes out, plays all day long, snorts and lays on his back. He goes for walks, eats bacon, sleeps in the sink for a while," Chavez said.
"He does whatever he wants, whenever he wants."