Many East End residents were forced to reconsider their stance against smoking this week after local pit bull mix Riley Blancher appeared online wearing human clothes and sunglasses while puffing on a cigarette.
The photo, posted on Tumblr by Riley’s owner, Stoker Blancher of East Hampton, was supposed to be a joke. “I thought Riley looked hilarious in that hoodie and the tortoise shades,” Blancher said. “The cigarette was a last minute choice, but it looked so perfect dangling out of his jowl, I had to post the picture.”
Adding even more coolness, the photo was taken during a visit to Brooklyn just before Christmas. “It’s very urban, very street,” Blancher explained, trying to convey the photo’s allure. “Only Montauk would have been as hip.”
Unfortunately, Riley’s picture is so hip and alluring that many local residents, especially teens, have decided to give smoking a try or pick up the habit again after years of not smoking. “There is just something about that picture—the dog looks totally chill, like he’s got it all figured out and he doesn’t give a damn,” local retailer and relapsed smoker Darius Fishburne said. “I hadn’t smoked in years, but I went right back to it within an hour of seeing that photo.”
A coalition of parents from East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor have petitioned Blancher to remove the offending, yet surprisingly awesome, photograph from his Tumblr page before more kids are inspired to smoke, but Blancher says it’s way too late for that. “My picture, Riley’s picture, has gone viral,” he said, noting, “I could take it down, but there are already hundreds of Riley memes and the original picture is all over social media.”
Because of Riley’s popularity, Blancher was asked to bring Riley on several television shows, dressed in his now famous outfit and smoking, but he declined. “Our country has come so far with changing the perception of smoking, and I won’t have my dog be responsible for changing that,” he said. “Appearing on those shows could set America back years in our battle against smoking and Big Tobacco,” Blancher added. “I’ve struggled with my addiction for two decades, and I won’t have my dog inspire anymore kids to pick up this terrible habit.”
Sources say Blancher, who works as a day trader, was also offered an endorsement deal from one of the bigger tobacco companies. He has resisted so far, but Blancher is considering working with an electronic cigarette manufacturer. “I might do it if Riley will cooperate, but I assure you, he won’t look half as cool, and they need to be ready for that,” he said.