Freeport dog loves leaping into leaves and the internet loves her

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FREEPORT — Jumping into piles of leaves is a fun way to celebrate autumn.

But for Stella, a yellow Labrador retriever with 153,000 followers on Instagram, it’s a claim to fame.

Last week, several news outlets – including The Boston Globe and the Today show – shared video of Stella jumping out of a black car and launching herself into a pile of orange leaves.

Jody Hartman, Stella’s owner, said the video earned Stella an additional 20,000 followers.

It isn’t the first time the nation has taken his family pet to heart.

Three years ago Hartman uploaded a video of Stella to Reddit, where it knocked off a Katy Perry music video and remained in the No. 1 spot worldwide for three days.

“That got 7.5 million views in two days, so then I was like, alright,” Hartman said. “(That got me) sort of hooked on the whole thing.”

After that, Hartman said he realized the only way to get a video to go viral is to have an online following, which inspired him to create Stella’s Instagram page: @dognamedstella.

In addition to leaf-jumping, the page also has videos of Stella with Hartman’s children and other meme-type posts.

Hartman said editing has a big influence on his content.

“If she’s staring at a piece of food I’ll put sad music to it,” he said. “It is a lot of … using video editing and sound to exaggerate the characteristics of a dog.”

And, while most of his posts are comedic, Hartman also made a more emotional video called “A Dog and Her Boy” about Stella’s relationship with Hartman’s son, Luke.

Luke was born with club feet and had to undergo major surgeries for the condition. Stella has also had surgery on her limbs and has artificial knees. Hartman said the piece shows how Stella and Luke “help each other through all their problems.”

The video is on Stella’s YouTube page, which has more than 9,000 subscribers, and has been viewed more than 22,000 times.

“It added to the story,” Hartman said. “I don’t shy away from the things that are happening in Stella’s life.”

Stella content is also posted to her Facebook page, where Hartman said her following is growing.

But jumping into leaves, he said, is “her little happy place.” 

Her fixation on leaf piles began when she was a puppy. Hartman said he would throw a ball into a pile, and noticed Stella would “go all in” trying to retreive it.

After a while, he said she began to develop a positive association with leaf piles in general.

“This year more than ever she launches herself in just for fun,” he said.

Hartman also said he has learned a lot about leaf piles through Stella’s love for them. The recent rainy weather, for instance, has not been as good for building “light and fluffy” leaves.

The fact that Stella lives in Maine, with what Hartman called its “dramatic seasons,” is part of what he thinks keeps people interested in her antics.

Hartman builds the leaf piles himself and comes up with whimsical names for them. He said he named the most recent one “Mount St. Stellens,” and plans to name one “Mount Stellamanjaro” next year.

The Brunswick native worked for a marketing agency in his hometown for five years. Now he creates what he calls “influencer marketing,” posting Stella’s content as a full-time job. He earns money from partnerships with sponsors by plugging their products in the videos.

Hartman said he was hoping to work with more Maine companies, but has found that not many are “in a position” to do influencer marketing.

With more posts, however, has come more fame for Stella. 

One website that reached out to him called her the “most famous Lab in the world,” he said. A few people in Freeport have also “pulled over and freaked out” after spotting Stella on a walk with Hartman.

Looking ahead, he is optimistic that Stella’s fame won’t be short-lived.

“With two kids and a busy life it’s hard – I have tons of plans,” he said. “The stuff I’m going to be working on and putting out will be the best Stella content we’ve ever had.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-9123 or [email protected]. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Stella, a yellow Labrador retreiver from Freeport with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, is famous for videos of her jumping into leaf piles. (Courtesy Jody Hartman)Jody Hartman’s full-time job is creating content for his dog Stella’s social media channels. (Courtesy Jody Hartman)

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