On the steps of the Von KleinSmid Center, Tofu the Corgi looks on at USC students passing by, daring them not to stop by to pet her. Tofu visits USC every week with her owner Tiffany Luke, a graduate student studying marketing at the Marshall School of Business.
After being featured on both the official USC and Marshall Instagram accounts, Tofu became an instant celebrity on campus.
Luke said she and her fiancé Jonathan Huynh, a USC alumnus, set a goal for Tofu to meet 100 different people before she was 4 months old. Now that she’s 4 years old, Tofu has met so many people that she is instantly comfortable around a crowd of admirers.
Tofu also attended puppy kindergarten for seven weeks to learn how to socialize with other dogs and was trained by Huynh at home.
Luke said Tofu loves her weekly trips to USC and knows she’s on campus whenever they pull into the parking lot.
“It’s funny [that] every time I turn into the parking lot, she knows, and she starts jumping up trying to look and then even if she sees a person walking by us in the car, she’ll start whining because she’s like ‘That person needs to pet me,’” Luke said. “She loves coming on campus, and every time we’re walking from the parking lot, she tries to pull me as fast as I can [walk].”
Tofu has 179,000 followers on Instagram and more than 400,000 followers on TikTok. As she sits on her favorite spot by Trousdale Parkway to watch students pass by, many recognize her from her social media presence and stop by to pet her.
Luke said she started Tofu’s Instagram account to post pictures of her without annoying her friends on her personal Instagram account. She was surprised at the response she got and did not expect Tofu to get so famous.
“I started her page, not because I [intended] for her to get a lot of Instagram followers,” Luke said. “It was super strange, but the first month that I made her account, people found us through our hashtags … and then there was one week where we just soared 10,000 followers in a whole week, and then it just kind of grew from there. ”
Luke also started a group called Corgis of USC to form a community of USC corgi owners so that their dogs could play together. The group currently has around 30 corgis and had its first unofficial meeting in September. It is holding a corgi meetup this Sunday to let USC students play with the corgis at the USC Village Great Lawn.
“I love just the fact that we’re all USC students, and we all have corgis,” Luke said. “It’s just really fun to be able to chat, all about that and also it’s just really cool. It’s like another new friend group for [Tofu], so she has a lot of fun meeting all the other different corgis too.”
During her walks with Tofu, Luke said students love playing with her. As Tofu’s following grew, Luke started selling merchandise like T-shirts, pillows and stickers online. She also hands out stickers of Tofu to the students who come to meet and play with her.
After seeing how much students loved Tofu, Luke decided to reach out to the social media team at USC to do an Instagram story takeover for the official USC Instagram, which followed Tofu around campus as she bought clothes at the USC Bookstore, attended office hours with campus wellness dog Professor Beau and watched the Spirit of Troy practice.
In the comments section of a post of Tofu on Instagram, people talked about how much they loved Tofu and how the story had made their weeks. For a lot of USC students who cannot keep pets of their own, following Tofu’s Instagram brings them joy.
Serena Wang, a sophomore majoring in communication, said she loves seeing Tofu on campus because she can’t have a pet while she’s at USC.
“I can’t keep a dog myself because I live in a residential hall, so I think it’s good to virtually keep a dog on Instagram,” Wang said. “I love dogs, but I can’t pet them frequently. Just by looking at the post and the Instagram stories, I can feel the comfort.”
Wang also has a sticker of Tofu on her laptop from the time she met her on campus and is looking forward to the corgi meetup taking place on campus Sunday.
Luke spends about two hours every day on Tofu’s Instagram and TikTok posting content. She said she enjoys replying to people who comment on Tofu’s posts and tries to speak in her voice.
“I just try whenever I’m running her Instagram page to make sure the focus is on her, and I try to speak in what I think she’s trying to say in her voice,” Luke said. “I’m so incredibly grateful like I never ever imagined getting Tofu, I would have so many people around the world who love her so much.”
Beatrice Gao, a sophomore majoring in journalism, said she started following Tofu’s Instagram after a friend recommended the account to her, and she was first interested in an Instagram highlight called “Fear of Missing Out.”
The highlight included videos of Tofu running between the bedroom where Luke was and the living room where Huynh was because she didn’t want to miss anything going on in her house.
“I think her mother [does] a good job in handling all of the social media stuff,” Gao said. “She just posts Tofu’s daily life and in a very conversational and in a dog-like language. It’s very cute. Like, every time I saw Tofu’s [Instagram account], I feel like I’m encouraged, and it just offered me some warmth.”