Celebrity Dogs and Their People

Mofongo, Sweet Pea and Butterball and Danny Gokey

What do you get when you combine a talented musician, a loving wife, an amazing life, four sweet children, and three gigantic dogs? …One big, beautiful family!


Danny Gokey is bringing light to the world in so many ways. His is passionate about loving God, loving people, and of course, loving dogs! After placing third on Season 8 of American Idol, Danny went on to create a country music album with RCA Nashville and tour with artists such as Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Darryl Worley and others.  In 2014 he released ‘Hope In Front Of Me’ as a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music Artist). He also has a book, and is now working on an online series in addition to creating inspiring music!


Tell me about the dogs’ names? 

Mofongo: “Personally, I think I have the best name out of the entire pack. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish made with fried green plantains, and then smushed together with olive oil, garlic and some other simple ingredients.  Leyicet’s dad named me, because he obviously wanted to give me the best name ever.  The only problem I sometimes run into is making people hungry as soon as they meet me. I always think, ‘Welcome to my world… I’m always hungry.’”

Butterball: “I’m actually a bit of turkey, so my name suits me just fine. Sometimes my people say I’m goofy and call me a ham, but really, being more like a turkey makes more sense.”

Sweet Pea: “Has any one of you pointed out we all have a correlation to food in our names? And Mofongo, I completely disagree with your comment; I actually have the sweetest name of us all.”    


Where did the pups come from? 

Danny Gokey: “We actually bought Butterball from a breeder and Mofongo from a breeder, but we bought Sweet Pea from an online Craigslist Ad.  We heard that she was full Mastiff but they had no papers.  We got her DNA tested and at the vet they said, ‘Why did you take this test?’ We said that we want to know if this is a Mastiff and she said, ‘Yeah, this is the first pure bred we’ve ever had 100%.’”


Any fun facts about the pups? 

Mofongo: “We all understand commands in both English and Spanish, as well as a third language we like to call ‘baby talk.’” 


Which dogs are like which kid and visa versa? 

Danny Gokey: “I feel like Gabriel embodies Butterball and Mofongo because Gabriel is kind of husky and big like Butterball, and he’s really energetic like Mofongo.”

As we were doing the interview, I was holding 9 month old, Emanuel while Leyicet got ready for their evening plans and the other kiddos played around Danny Gokey and me. Just as Danny Gokey said, “He’s sweet like Sweet Pea,” talking about baby Emanuel, Emanuel starts cooing and moving around on my lap.

Danny Gokey: “Victoria is sweet like Sweet Pea and Danny is gentle like Mofongo, so I guess they all have little attributes.”  


Do the dogs sleep with the kids? 

Mofongo, Butterball and Sweet Pea respond all together.  “We have the most amazing set up.  The bottom floor of our house is all ours.  We get to have our own space because the kiddos are such restless sleepers.  Have you ever tried to snuggle with a 2 year old sleeping?  It’s like being on a small boat in the ocean, you’re just snoozing along with a little bit of motion and then CRASH! A gigantic wave hits you and knocks you over, or off the bed, in our case.  So, Sara, we are happy to sleep in our own designated beds and let the littles slumber in their own way solo.”  


Danny, is there one song that each of the pups helped you write and why? 

Danny Gokey: “If Sweet Pea were to write one of my songs, she would write Better Than Gold.”

I can see why! These are definitely lyrics that a dog named Sweet Pea would write:

“I know she’s better than gold
She makes my life so sweet
Special delivery from heaven straight to me
I know she’s better than gold”

Danny Gokey: “Butterball I would give Hope In Front Of Me because he had so many issues and he’s overcome more and more and more. He [Butterball] had a condition that was eating his skin, and made him look like a dog living on the streets. He had to take Demodex treatment after treatment, and the vet was like, ‘I’ve never done this many treatments on a dog. This is the last one. Otherwise he just has it [Demodex] for good.’ And that treatment actually worked!”

After we talked about Mofongo’s song, Danny Gokey said, “Actually for Butterball, let’s not do Hope In Front Of Me. Let’s do Fighter because he’s had to go through lots of surgeries on his leg and he’s a fighter.”

I think both songs are amazing anthems of overcoming obstacles, believing that God has your life mapped out and to trust that you can survive anything if you simply have faith!

Danny Gokey: “Mofongo would be A New Day because he just lives life from a new perspective.” 


If one of the dogs would have won American Idol, which would it be and why? 

Butterball: “I definitely would win American Idol if given the chance. I am the most vocal of the group, I have the best story of Hope because of the journey I’ve been on, and TV likes good stories. I’m also definitely the most good looking of the dogs, just ask the mirror on the wall.”

Thank you, Butterball for your humble and honest feedback. 


Tell me about the #LoveGodLovePeopleChallenge.

Danny Gokey:  “We’re just trying to cut through the noise, there’s so much noise and so we’re just trying to get back to the basics; love God, love your neighbor and love yourselves.  And that’s just the crux of it.  You know everyone is looking for the answer, but the answer is just love people.  Love doesn’t hurt people, love doesn’t force its way on people, love doesn’t accuse people.  There are lots of things that love doesn’t do.  Love doesn’t reject people, love is very inclusive. This is what it all comes down to.” 

Mofongo jumped in to respond about the Love God Love People Challenge: “I love people, love God and love fetch.  I have a dinosaur bone that I chew on in the yard. Sara, I think you captured a photo of me with that.  I love that thing, too.  I also think that Danny Gokey wrote the first line of the song Love God Love People about me because I like to run in circles and jump over things a lot.”   


I think this challenge and Danny Gokey’s new song is beautiful. God’s love is the foundation that never fails if that is what you build friendships, family and all relationships on.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

This scripture is quoted at almost every wedding as a reminder to the couple getting married and everyone in the audience about the power of Love and gift of God’s grace.  Make sure to hop on Danny and Leyicet Gokey’s Instargrams to follow along with their inspiring stories about hope and love.  


Share with me about “Hope In Front Of Me,” the book and other things you’re working on.  

Sweet Pea: “Sara, did you know that Danny Gokey has an online series he’s working on? It’s called Better Than I Found It and Danny wants it to be a light in a very dark place.  I hope that Butterball, Mofongo and I get to be a part of it, because that would be sweet and special.  The message is about loving God and loving people and of course loving dogs will just be assumed.  Danny and his team have created six episodes so far and there are four more episodes to be filmed.  I overheard Danny talking to his work people that they are just looking for a home for the series and I had the thought that maybe me and the dogs could start a streaming network called Sweet Pea TV to host the show and other positive messages.  What do you think?” 

Danny Gokey: “The book Hope In Front Of Me shares a lot of my journey, but there are so many more chapters that I’ve lived since that book. Better Than I Found It is one of them. After American Idol, I started a shelter that helped homeless people but we had to shut it down because we couldn’t afford to keep it going. So I had this idea to create a show to highlight other organizations who are doing great things, and help them so they don’t have to shut down.” 

You can find Danny Gokey, his wife and their family’s inspiration in so many places.  On The Bible App, you can hear Danny Gokey’s 5-day devotional that is called “Haven’t Seen It Yet.”  I personally have been very inspired over the past two years by Danny Gokey and his positive music.  Danny Gokey’s catalog of songs were some of the first Contemporary Christian Music I started listening to when I started on my own journey of hope and faith in a major way at the beginning of 2019.  This opportunity to interview Danny and his dogs and capture his sweet family was very special to me. I hope you can also find joy learning a bit about this awesome and inspiring artist, along with Mofongo, Butterball and Sweet Pea, the same way I have. Thank you for your time, Gokey Family and thank you for reading.  

About The Project

Have you ever heard the theory that dogs resemble their owners in personality and some physical attributes too?  I’ve been told many times it is not a coincidence that I have two Golden Retrievers.  I do my best to maintain my blonde hair, and if you’ve ever met me in real life, I am so giddy to see you that my entire body wiggles with excitement and my smile is from nose to ears just because I’m with you.  I am content just being talked to and if you tell me you have a treat for me (i.e. Starbucks) I’ll basically stay and sit for as long as you ask me to.  Like my Golden Retrievers, I am easily distracted by shiny, sparkly things relatable to squirrels and tennis balls.  Some might also say that my happy-go-lucky, sunshine and rainbows spirit superseeds deep-rooted intelligence.  I’m not a Poodle!  The characteristics of me are Golden Retriever through and through.    
With that in mind, how uniquely creative must the dogs that have owners in the field of music or other arts be?  
I’m here to tell the story of dogs and their artist owners. Tell the story of what happens in the day-to-day real life of living with a musician.  What little quirks really are happening from the “dog’s’” perspective? What things does the pup actually feel about his People and similarities and characteristics that are “bred” into the owners and pups alike? 
What about the dogs that “choose us” – the rescue dogs that needed to be just loved on.  Do we seek out a specific dog breed because we know it will fit our personality and lifestyle as a creative? I’m coming to you as a photographer to capture the essence of your pup in your world from the dog’s perspective and yours as a creative.   
My purpose of sharing these stories with you is to create content for the musicians and creatives who are in need of ways to share their world from their homes. 


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