Four years ago, a member of the United States Air Force put his puppy in the front trunk of his Tesla Model 3 and took a photo. It was a decision that ended up starting a movement that even Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his mother, Maye Musk, participated in: Frunk Puppy Friday.
The frunk trunk (frunk) of a Tesla and other EVs is where the engine would be in a typical internal combustion engine vehicle. Since Tesla doesn’t have an engine, the design team of the vehicles created a nifty storage space that is great for taking photos of pets. Other EV makers have followed suit.
The Frunk Puppy Friday movement is coming up on its four-year anniversary on August 18. Frunk Puppy Friday is a contest where EV owners put their pets in the frunks of their vehicles and take photos. Using the hashtag, #frunkpuppyfriday, they submit the photos to a Twitter contest. Every week, four photos are picked by the Frunk Puppy Board, and Twitter votes for the best one.
Interview with Dr. Earl Banning, the creator of Frunk Puppy Friday
It’s been four years of Frunk Puppy Friday and I asked Earl how felt about this upcoming anniversary.
“It’s pretty mind-blowing. As you know, I started to think about this idea after my wife’s brain hemorrhage and was in the hospital and it was just a real emotional time. People throughout the Tesla community were really helpful and being there over text messages, Twitter messages.”
Earl wanted to do something for the Tesla community back in 2018. Back then, Tesla was struggling, the short selling and the ensuing misinformation about Tesla were intense and Earl just wanted to do something positive to bring balance.
Fighting FUD and facing the possibility of losing his wife to a brain aneurysm
Earl was inspired to fight for Tesla and to take part in combatting all of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) that was just continuous. And then the unthinkable happened. Earl’s wife had a brain aneurysm and almost died.
“There were a lot of short-sellers and there were a lot of people attacking everybody and Tesla wasn’t in great shape at times. It was a little rough.”
“I just didn’t feel like happy to argue. I needed something else. So what’s better than dogs and Teslas? I thought about how the frunk is special. So I was brainstorming and trying to figure out what I could do.”
“I like dogs so I put a dog in a frunk and came up with the word Frunk Puppy and it seemed to stick. And it wasn’t really until we were leaving the hospital after the second surgery that I put Norman in the frunk and took a picture.”
The moment when Frunk Puppy began to take off
Earl shared his photo with his friends on Twitter and encouraged them to join him in taking photos of their puppies in frunks.
“It was really Trevor Page from Model 3 Owners who put his cat in the frunk and tweeted it,” Earl told me. Back then Earl’s account wasn’t as large as it is now but Trevor’s was. Once Trevor took a frunk kitty photo, the movement took off and people began taking photos of their pets in their frunks.
“It blew up around the world. There were entries from China and all over Europe, the U.S., Canada, and then of course, Maye Musk by October. I developed it in August and by October–Halloween–she put her dog in the frunk and that’s when things went totally bananas.”
The Frunk Puppy movement began to take off so Earl began a contest. Many members of the Tesla community are also small business owners and were sponsoring prizes for the winners of the weekly poll.
“We had all these entries so I formed this little board of people to start voting on them. I wanted it to be a true democracy. I didn’t want to just pick it which I used to do. I wanted people to narrow it down to the top four and vote on Twitter.”
Frunk Puppy Is now 4 years old.
Earl expected the movement to eventually fade away as things do, but that isn’t happening anytime soon. The Frunk Puppy movement has become sort of a rite of passage for most EV owners who take photos of their pets in their frunks.
Earl told me that the board gets 40-50 entries per month and that people really appreciate it.
“If I’m late at putting the vote up on Friday, I start getting all these messages from people. ‘Where’s the poll? It’s all I look forward to,’ type of messages. So there are definitely people who appreciate it. Hundreds of people vote every week. And it’s very light-hearted.”
“I always imagined it to be very agnostic. I didn’t want it to be a Tesla-only thing. I wanted it to raise awareness for EVs. My hope at the time was that all EVs would have frunk. It’s a great way to start a conversation about EVs and it’s an infectious hashtag to really point out EVs, clean energy, and no emissions. And look, you can put your dog in where the engine should be and take a picture. I think that’s so cool.”
“Early on, we had winners who had Nissan LEAFs and that grew over time where Lucid wrote ‘#FrunkPuppy’ and posted a photo with a dog in their frunk on Instagram. This was pretty cool because the cars hadn’t even come out yet.”
— Lucid Motors (@LucidMotors) March 23, 2021
“Bollinger was a repeat winner many times in a row with their awesome frunk and Rivian has slipped right in. We had someone in the top 4 last week. We’ve had several Rivians now. But the Ford Lightning has really taken over. Two weeks ago, we had two of the top four with Ford Lightning. It’s just an enormous frunk. It’s perfect. People have dogs and trucks.”
How Earl felt when Elon Musk posted his Frunk Puppy Friday submission.
— 🐶 Earl of FrunkPuppy 🐶 (@28delayslater) October 7, 2021
Although Elon Musk didn’t use the hashtag #frunkpuppyfriday, with one tweet, Elon united the EV community, the Dogecoin community, and puppy lovers with one of the most adorable photos of a puppy in a frunk. I asked how Earl felt when Elon used something he created.
“I have a mug and it has three parts on it. The first part is Elon saying his dog’s name is Floki. The second one is of me saying ‘for the love of God put that dog in the frunk.’ The third part was him agreeing.”`
Floki Frunkpuppy pic.twitter.com/xAr8T0Jfdf
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2021
‘And then he did it. He wrote the word Frunk Puppy which is really funny because he’s like the richest guy in the world taking time to put his dog in a frunk and post it. And of course, Floki won that year. He won that week and the year.”
“It was so incredible that Elon had taken the time to do that. It was such a silly ask and then he sees my tweet and agrees. And then he actually does it on time. He did it when he said he would do it. I was really overwhelmed.”
Earl told me that EV owners across brands are submitting photos of their pets in frunks which is what he always wanted it to be.
The Future of Frunk Puppy
The way time has been flying, Frunk Puppy will be at its fifth anniversary. With that in mind, I asked Earl what he had in store for the future.
“I would like to have more participation across brands which I think will happen as more people buy EVs. I’m not a tech person and haven’t put the time into it, but one of my dreams is to take the voting off of Twitter and put it on my Frunk Puppy website because I feel like it’s a real disservice.
“You click the tweet and it’s such a tiny picture with poor resolution. What I would hope is that maybe even all of the pictures from the week are there and you just vote on the one you want. Or still do a top four but when you go onto the website you can see giant pictures. Some pictures are beautiful pictures but when you look at it on Twitter it’s lackluster.”
Earl also said he wouldn’t mind getting back to having prizes. When Covid-19 hit, a lot of small businesses suffered and closed down. He also said he would like to do more charity fundraisers. One issue he had with the prizes is that people wouldn’t want them. People were more interested in winning the Frunk Puppy Friday vote simply just to win.
The community of Frunk Puppy
Earl loves seeing all the pictures every week and he’s proud of the movement.
“It’s just so cool to me that people do that and they’re so creative. I see people continue to really have fun with it. Sometimes, as I said, Twitter can be a bit of a downer but you see such a playful creative side to people where they’re decorating the inside frunk or dressing up their dog. They’re really having fun with it and to me, that means a lot.”
Earl told me that some pet owners would tell him when their dog or pet died and he’d do a one last Frunk Puppy picture in their honor.
“I tear up a little bit. It’s pretty cool that they send these to me. Over four years, there’s a lot of dogs that have won who aren’t with us anymore and I’ll do a memorial tweet or video.”
Helping Pets In Need.
One thing that Earl has done with the Frunk Puppy movement was help pets in need. In fact, this community helped save both of my cats when I found myself suddenly a new kitty mom. Tesla, (yes his name is Tesla as I am a fan) was found when he was eight days old and I had to bottle feed him.
Peanut was brought to me by a neighbor who found her with glue poured all over her. Someone had not only put Peanut in a glue trap, but they tried to drown her in glue. We used an entire jar of peanut butter to get the glue out of her fur and it saved her life.
Earl told me that recently there was a cat found in a trash can with one eye. He needed surgery and that cat is fine now. It had the surgery, got adopted, and has a sibling with no eyes.
“Over the years I’ve used Frunk Puppy for charity. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I wish I could find ways to do that a little more formally because people are very generous and it’s a good awareness tool. Sometimes people will put a foster dog in their frunk and it gets a lot of tweets.”
“Another thing that I’m working on with Mother Frunker is that we’re going to take all the winners from the year and make a coffee table book. And then donate all the proceeds to charity. That’ll be the end of this year.”
The Frunk Puppy Friday movement has evolved over the past four years and is going strong. It’s inclusive for all EVs and all types of pets. Little Tesla was a winner when I submitted him in 2019.
Although I don’t own a car, Tesla friends often drive through Baton Rouge and this was the perfect opportunity for a Frunk Puppy Friday submission and a way to let the Tesla community know that the kitty they helped to save was doing fine.
Meet Little Tesla, a kitty who was abandoned by his mom at 8 days old. We didn't think her wpild make it. Frunk provided by @ChrisjonesLee #FrunkPuppyFriday #FrunkKittyFriday pic.twitter.com/n1OZYWKVI4
— Johnna Crider (@JohnnaCrider1) November 15, 2019
Disclaimer: Johnna is long Tesla.