Creators On The Rise: Sapphie the Pomsky is starring in her own children’s book

By 08/09/2023
Creators On The Rise: Sapphie the Pomsky is starring in her own children’s book

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.

Sheena Shah had always wanted a dog. But not just any dog.

“When I was a kid, my dream dog was a Siberian Husky with blue eyes. I always told my parents, I want a Siberian Husky with blue eyes,” she says. Her parents, though, weren’t exactly jazzed for the prospect of adding a four-legged family member. So, when she met her husband Sunit and they decided to get a dog together, she knew: This was her time. She was going to have that Husky.


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Except…Sunit had a dream dog, too. A Pomeranian. He’d had one for 16 years, and knew he wanted another.

Luckily for Sheena and Sunit, the wonders of science had already solved their conundrum with the Pomsky, a high-energy cross between each of their favorite dogs: the intelligence of a Husky blended with the Pomeranian’s trainable attitude and willingness to be indoors. That’s how they found Sapphie–who, yes, has blue eyes.

Sheena originally started uploading funny videos of Sapphie to TikTok as a kind of memory book. She didn’t expect other people to watch them–let alone to message her and tell her the videos made them smile, or helped when they were having a rough day. That kind of feedback was everything to Sheena, who’s a physician assistant specializing in psychiatry. She committed to continuing with videos, and made everything from clips where Sapphie uses the famous pet talk buttons to communicate her wants, needs, encouragement, and the occasional tough-love comment, to skits with Sunit, to videos addressing mental health.

Now, three years later, Sapphie’s account has more than 6 million followers on TikTok, and nearly 2 million subscribers on YouTube. She’s also about to star in her own illustrated children’s book, written and self-published by Sheena.

The book, called Sapphie the Dog with Feelings, is aimed at helping kids “share feelings and not keep them bottled inside,” Sheena explains. “It’s just so important because I think it’s really important for kids to have this foundation when they’re younger so that they can develop good mental health and when they’re older, they can be able to express their feelings and not suppress them.”

Sapphie the Dog with Feelings comes out today. You can find it here, and check out a “making of” video–along with the rest of our chat with Sheena and Sunit–below.

@sapphie_the_pomsky The journey of human emotions…wait till the end ❤️ #emotions #covid #dogs #humans #mentalhealth #booktok #newbooks ♬ Epic Music(863502) – Draganov89

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: I’ve been seeing your channel grow for months now.

Sheena Shah: It has grown over the past few months, because we just got YouTube actually last October. October of last year. It hasn’t even been a year.

Tubefilter: That’s really wild. You did grow really quickly. Were you on TikTok first?

Sheena Shah: Yes. I was on TikTok. I honestly just did this for fun during COVID and I just kept posting content every day. Then I think when I introduced the buttons, that’s when things blew up.

Tubefilter: I would imagine. I think that’s when your videos organically started coming across my feed.

Sheena Shah: Yes.

Tubefilter: Like I said, I’m familiar with you and your channel, but I’d love to get just a little bit of background about you and where you’re from.

Sheena Shah: Yes, of course. Also my husband is on the line too. My husband’s name is Sunit and I’m Sheena. My husband and I make content together. We’re from San Diego, California. This was something we actually just decided to do for fun during COVID when we first got Sapphie. Essentially, we just wanted to be able to share her personality on social media. Both of us actually have full-time jobs. I’m a PA specializing in psychiatry, and my husband’s a doctor.

Tubefilter: Not high achievers at all.

Sheena Shah: [laughs] We just do this for fun as it is just a side thing. Actually, it’s crazy. We don’t even spend that long making the videos. We don’t want to spend all of our time making content. We spend five, 10 minutes, and if we can get something, we can get something. If we can’t, we can’t.

Tubefilter: The both of you still work your full-time careers.

Sheena Shah: Yes.

Sunit: Yes.

Tubefilter: That’s a lot to manage. I guess back up a little bit. How you get Sapphie? How did Sapphie come into things?

Sheena Shah: It’s actually interesting. When I was a kid, my dream dog was a Siberian Husky with blue eyes. I always told my parents, I want a Siberian Husky with blue eyes, but growing up my parents would never let me get a dog. I never had a dog growing up and I told myself in the future I wanted to get a Husky as a birthday present and I would name her Sapphire because of the blue eyes, but then my husband’s prior dog was a Pomeranian who actually passed away at 16.

When we found out there was a crossbreed between a Husky and a Pomeranian, we were like, oh, this is the perfect compromise. That’s how we decided to get Sapphie. We looked online on the internet and I just saw a picture of Sapphie. Her name wasn’t Sapphie back then. It was something else. Honestly, I just was like, Sunit, I want this dog. This is the dog we’re going to get. Because there were videos of her attached as well. You could tell, she had this derpy personality when she was running or smelling the grass. I was like, I want her. She’s weird, she looks cute, and I want her. Then we decided to get her.

Tubefilter: Very cute. How long ago was that?

Sheena Shah: That was during COVID. That was–

Sunit: 2020.

Sheena Shah: September 2020 is when we got her.

Tubefilter: Then when did you end up on TikTok?

Sheena Shah: I actually made a TikTok I think probably a month or two after. Maybe October, November.

Tubefilter: I know it’s a full-time job’s worth of work even though you guys are doing it in little bits, but when did you decide to make this a real thing? I know you said the buttons really upticked your traffic.

Sheena Shah: I think it just happened really organically. For me, I really like to document memories just because, if in case anything were ever to happen, I just like to have pictures and videos to look back at. Then when she started blowing up, and we kept getting messages from people saying, “Aww, Sapphie makes us laugh, Sapphie makes us smile. I’m at the hospital and I just love watching her videos.” It just made us feel good. I don’t know I feel good when I read those messages. We just felt like if this is helping people and this is making people smile and laugh, and sharing her to the world is helping people, then we love doing it. That’s what made us want to start pushing out more videos and more content.

Tubefilter: How did the idea for buttons come along?

Sheena Shah: Sunit, do you want to?

Sunit: Yes. Basically, so I was at work actually one day and Sheena was looking online. I don’t know where online but she found some dog training buttons, because she always loved to train Sapphie, and she was pretty persistent at it but she just wanted to find new ways because Sapphie was so smart. She tried to look for interactive toys and found those dog training buttons. Then she just tried it and Sapphie just loved pressing them. She was so animated when she pressed them and made it seem like she would really knew what she was saying when she was clicking those buttons.

Sheena Shah: In the beginning, I started off with one button. I actually started off with the word “treat.” Every time she clicked it, she would get a treat. Then I started with walk. I’m pretty sure she knows the main commands. It’s just we decided to incorporate more videos just because of her facial expressions, and she’s so convinced. I’m almost convinced she knows what the buttons mean just because of her facial expressions. She’s just very animated and it’s just fun watching her press the buttons.

Tubefilter: I know you said that your filming process is like if you can take five or 10 minutes and get something together. Do you aim to post a certain number of videos per week? How does your production side of things work?

Sheena Shah: In the beginning, honestly, we just stuck to let’s post one video a day. To be honest, when we didn’t blow up, I was actually posting two, three times a day. For me it was just quantity. For me it was just about, let me just have all these memories on one platform. Then after we blew up, I was like, let’s try to aim at least for one video a day. At the same time I don’t want to take away from if we go on vacation or if we have family plans, I don’t want to prioritize this.

I do want to keep it as something that if we have time to do those, like five, 10 minutes we can try to make a video, and if it works out, great. If not, then that’s fine. Because a lot of the times, I know social media platforms can affect one’s mental health, and so we just wanted to make sure that we have a balance of maintaining good mental health when creating these videos.

Tubefilter: Which is something that I frequently discuss with creators, the importance of mental health maintenance. It’s funny because when I first got this job in 2018, I feel like back then it was a little bit taboo to talk about how your mental health could be affected by being a creator.

Sheena Shah: Yes, of course.

Tubefilter: Now people are–thankfully–a lot more open about it.

Sheena Shah: That’s what I want. I want people to be able to talk about it just because it’s so important. A lot of content creators do this full-time and it can be so exhausting, and they rely on a video to go viral. It was so important for my husband and I to create those boundaries early on, and just say, look, we cannot– If we get tired, if we get exhausted, we need to make sure that we create that boundary so that our mental health is not affected by it. I work in psychiatry and he’s a doctor, and we’ve seen a lot, and so we just wanted to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

Tubefilter: Absolutely. I feel like especially there’s so many people on TikTok, so many kids in their teens and early 20s who unexpectedly went viral during the pandemic and now are struggling a bit.

Sheena Shah: Oh, yes. You’d be surprised, during COVID, almost all my patients were actually adolescents and teenagers. It was really sad to see that. A lot of it has to actually do with social media and bullying, and all of those things. It’s just really sad to see that the prevalence has gone up. That’s why I actually made mental health videos. I tried to do mental health videos on depression, anxiety, PTSD, body dysmorphia, all of those things, and wanted to incorporate Sapphie and the buttons with that just to help or inspire people to let them know it’s okay to feel these things to validate them. That’s where that stems from.

Tubefilter: I think the first video I ever saw was one of Sapphie where your voiceover was like, what would Sapphie say if somebody was feeling not very great about themselves? That kind of stuff can be helpful when you’re really down in a bad place.

Sheena Shah: Oh, yes. For me it’s like, what would I want if I was in that situation? I would want my feelings validated. I would want to hear you’re not alone, things like that. I would want my feelings validated. I think essentially all people want is to be heard and understood. That’s where that concept of mental health came from. I think I made like seven or eight videos on mental health, just stressing how important it is.

Tubefilter: It’s cool that this is part of your platform.

Sheena Shah: Yes. So, slowly, I actually am transitioning out of the buttons, and I’m going into more. Right now, I’ve been doing more trivia, so true and false trivia, or I’m trying to create a new niche now. The buttons here and there, fine, but I’m trying to just get rid of it.

Tubefilter: Got it. Do you guys have anybody helping you or do you edit all your own videos?

Sheena Shah: No, we do it all on our own.

Sunit: We did everything on our own.

Tubefilter: Are you working with a manager or anything at all?

Sheena Shah: Actually my husband’s brother is helping us manage.

Tubefilter: Oh, great.

Sunit: He helps with all the partnerships.

Sheena Shah: He helps with the partnerships and the emails and stuff like that, and then we just do the videos and the editing ourselves on the InShot app or TikTok app. He’s also had experience with managing and business, and stuff, so it’s become like a family thing now.

Tubefilter: You talked a little bit about your future plans. Do you have any other plans or goals for growing in the next year or so?

Sheena Shah: Yes. I am having a baby and I’m due September 6th. I actually wrote a children’s book and it’s titled Sapphie the Dog with Feelings. It’s dedicated to our son who’s going to be arriving in September. Essentially, the main character is Sapphie. Through her character, the book introduces and provides children with a multitude of feelings that she experiences. It concludes with a reminder to share feelings and not keep them bottled inside, which is honestly really important to remember whether one is a child or an adult. That’s something exciting. I’m going to launch it for preorder.

It’s a very simple picture book, but it’s just like, “Today I’m feeling sad,” what does she do when she feels sad? It’s just so important because I think it’s really important for kids to have this foundation when they’re younger so that they can develop good mental health and when they’re older, they can be able to express their feelings and not suppress them. Because, I don’t know about you, but in our parents’ generation or in my parents’ generation, they were so used to suppressing their emotions. I think it’s so important to be able to let it out. Otherwise I think it can just affect you not in a good way when you get older.

Sunit: We also feel that for some reason, over time, kids are always told that happiness is the best emotion or the emotion that they should be experiencing the most. That’s also portrayed on social media that a lot of times what people post are just the happy stuff and not the real stuff. That’s also what this book is trying to say, that it’s okay to feel those other emotions. It’s normal too.

Sheena Shah: Yes. It’s okay to feel worried, sad, anxious. Those are all normal feelings to have, and they’re all valid, and you are allowed to have those feelings essentially.

Tubefilter: That’s a huge thing, especially for kids.

Sheena Shah: Yes, definitely.

Tubefilter: Do you plan to write another book? Do you want to see how this one does first?

Sheena Shah: I love writing in general. I wrote for The Huffington Post in the past. I’ve written for Elite Daily. I just like writing. It’s just so therapeutic for me. Yes, I definitely can see that happening in the future. Right now, this is a self published book too, so I had to figure out things on my own, but definitely want to write more in the future. Maybe not even just children’s books. I was also thinking books for adults as well.

Tubefilter: You’re self-publishing. Can you talk a little about that decision?

Sheena Shah: Man, the traditional publishing route is…First of all, it’s expensive. It’s really expensive. I was like, let me just try self-publishing it. We have a platform, sort of. If people are interested and they want to read a book on Sapphie, then they can. The whole point is just to help people. There’s nothing else to it.

Tubefilter: Did you work with an illustrator?

Sheena Shah: I did. I actually went on Thumbtack. I reached out to five to 10 illustrators and I found one that I really, really, really like. She did such an amazing job. She had solid communication with me every day. If I felt like, this doesn’t look like Sapphie, she would draw it again until I actually felt like it looked like Sapphie. She did an incredible job. I always tell her, we did this together. The art is everything. I also didn’t realize illustrators just put in so much work to making a book just come to life. I was just so happy with what she did.

Tubefilter: Any other plans or goals you want readers to know about? Have your kiddo, obviously.

Sheena Shah: Sunit, do you have any?

Sunit: I think with our kid, we’re just going to take it day by day and go from there, and just have Sapphie learn how to deal with–

Sheena Shah: With having another person.

Sunit: –having another person in the house. I think that what we want to do is just continue to scale and just have Sapphie touch as many people as possible. No, other than this book, which we’re really focused on right now, we’re just taking it day by day.

Sheena Shah: I think the most important thing is I feel like she’s touched a lot of people’s lives. We receive so many messages every day from people around the world. It feels good knowing that she’s made someone’s day or helped them cope through a mental or physical illness. I think the joy of making these videos is just rewarding because we know she’s making a difference by just being herself. Her derpy animated self.

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