No one thinks about New Orleans and says, “you know, they lack creativity.” And this past year, in between a global pandemic and natural disasters, New Orleanians did their best to keep themselves entertained and keep the creative juices flowing throughout the city. During one of the city’s creative efforts in response to the cancellation of Carnival 2021, and the emergence of the Krewe of House Floats, a house in the Bywater neighborhood erected in honor of a local celebrity – UPS driver Jason “Jay” Hardesty. Hardesty has become New Orleans and Instagram famous because of his popularity along his route both with the two and four-legged residents. Each Friday, Hardesty features a photo of himself and a dog in the neighborhood he sees while making his deliveries. His warm smile and the adorable pups have made Hardesty famous. This month we learn more about the man behind the #pupsofjay.
Q: Tell us more about yourself. I’m a born and raised New Orleanian, 32 years old and a Leo. And I attended De La Salle High School. I’ve been with UPS for 12 years and I’ve been driving for nine years. Three years ago, they moved me to a new route in the Marigny/Bywater.
Q: What is it about your delivery route and the four-legged inhabitants that inspired you? The route I was on before had more families and the dogs weren’t friendly. You’d knock on the door and the dogs act like they want to kill you. In my new route, there are no kids, so the dogs are less protective. You knock on the door now and they want to play, let you interact with them and you get to know them more.
Q: How did #pupsofjay come about? One day I was walking along my route and a dog just came up to me and sat by my feet. I thought, let me take a picture real quick and I put it up on my Instagram. At the time, that photo got around 100 likes, which was a lot for me then. It happened to fall on a Friday, so I did it again the following Friday and it became a thing for the past three years.
Q: Did you expect the response and popularity that came along with your posts on Instagram? It really started off just me taking pictures for those who followed me, but I told a writer on my route, Jamie Edinburgh, about my posts and she tweeted about me and what I was doing. And in that week, in just three days, I went from 1,000 followers to 70,000 followers on Instagram.
Q: Do you have residents along your route asking you to take pictures with their dogs? Is there a waiting list? Everyone on my route knows who I am now, and they all want me to take a picture with their dogs. I just can’t do every single dog. I have the next seven weeks planned out, so if I take a picture with your dog, just know it’ll be a while before I get to post it.
Q: Has anything crazy, funny and/or memorable happened will taking a #pupsofjay photo? I should probably stop telling this story, but a three-week-old puppy peed on me once while I was taking a photo. He was very nervous and just kind of let it go and I had to walk around smelling like that for the rest of the day.
Q: The Krewe of House Floats became very popular this year, as Carnival was cancelled, and you were the subject of one of the House Floats on your neighborhood route this year. What was that like? I think it was supposed to be a surprise, but I found out about it on a Sunday and then saw it on my route Monday morning. It was a little different, and unexpected, but it was really nice. Someone a few months ago made a candle of me and I thought that was the top, but I guess somebody’s house is a little bigger.
Q: Do you plan on continuing #pupsofjay for as long as you can? I don’t plan on leaving the neighborhood and it’s nothing for me to find a dog, take a picture and post it on Fridays. It brings so much joy to people, so it would be kind of messed up of me to just stop, right? I haven’t thought about the future too much, but it’s a simple, fun thing that everyone likes.
Favorite pup of Jay? There were two corgis on my route – Oy and Anabelle. Oy always loved to play, and Anabelle was very shy, but before they moved, she started to warm up to me and let me pet her for the first time.
Favorite NOLA restaurant?
Port of Call
Favorite NOLA food? Po’ sBoys
True confession? I’ve only had two jobs my whole life – UPS and doorman/cook at Fat Harry’s when I was 20 yrs. old