Smart dog tricks: Photogenic border collie Momo not only got his couch potato owner into the great outdoors, he launched an Instagram phenomenon and a photography book. Photo by Andrew Knapp

See Momo — a cute, 5-year-old border collie with a red bandanna.

Now see Momo disappear into picturesque scenes captured by his owner, Andrew Knapp. Knapp and Momo were stationed in Asheville during January — a brief respite before a tour for Find Momo, Knapp’s photography book starring his canine companion. It came out March 4; the tour brings Knapp back to town on Wednesday, March 19, for a book signing at Malaprop’s.

On Jan. 1, Knapp notified his more than 134,000 (and exponentially growing) Instagram followers of his arrival in Western North Carolina, with a post. The photo of Momo — in full head-tilt — next to the VW bus parked beside a gas pump, was captioned, “Happily landed in Asheville where we’ll be hanging out for a month drinking beer and coffee! #newyearsheadtilt.” During the month, the pair were spotted at numerous Asheville locations, and Momo was “found” in photos at The Wedge Brewing Co., Ben’s Tune-Up, among other locales.

“I dig it,” Knapp said about Asheville, during a January interview with Xpress. “I’ve been shooting a little bit here and there, but the sites that I find are usually not the ones that everyone notices.”

Knapp and Momo’s recent popularity happened mostly by accident. “It started with me taking photos of Momo,” said Knapp, whose self-proclaimed “itchy feet” for traveling have taken the two from their native Sudbury in Ontario, Canada, through the United States by mode of a yellow Volkswagen Westfalia. “He’s just really cute and photogenic. I would go to throw a stick for him, and he would pre-emptively run off and try to figure out where I was going to throw it. He would go ‘hide’ behind a rock or tree, and I would take a picture.”

But now it’s not just Knapp trying to find Momo hidden against weathered brick buildings and in cross-continent woodland scenes. It’s his thousands of Instagram followers and the soon-to-be fans of his book as well. Knapp began to use the hashtag #wheresmomo, which quickly morphed into #findmomo. Though he no longer uses the tag himself, thousands of his followers comment, “#foundmomo” once they have located the covert canine in the backdrop of Knapp’s photos.

“Originally my Momo concept came from my family,” Knapp said. “One of the reasons I did it was to create a book for my nieces and nephews on Christmas. I started to save a lot of those photos, and I gathered the 40 I liked the most, made a little Blurb book online.” Blurb is a self-publishing website, which allowed Knapp to print the first dozen or so Momo books for his friends and family.

“And they really dug it,” he said. “It started taking off. I started getting calls from publishers, but none of the publishers really impressed me, so I went seeking a publisher myself.” Eventually, Knapp found Quirk Books, a small publishing house based in Philadelphia. Though the company is small, it distributes on a large scale, and “their books are all really fun and quirky and different,” he said.

And while Momo may be earning his owner plenty of attention via social media — even landing the duo in a Sony Xperia commercial on MTV Canada — Knapp says having a semifamous dog makes no difference to him. “I mean, it’s nice when someone recognizes him, and he gets a little extra love,” he said. “It’s really nice that I get to meet people. It’s just another excuse to connect with people, and I like that about it.”

who: Andrew Knapp signs copies of Find Momo
where: Malaprop’s, malaprops.com
when: Wednesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. Free.

About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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