If you’ve been online at all over the past decade or so, you’ll probably have seen this dog.
The Japanese shiba inu Kabosu catapulted from inconspicuous rescue dog to unlikely celebrity after a photo of her perched on a pale sofa with what looks like a bemused expression, front paws elegantly crossed and giving a sideways glance toward the camera, captivated hearts and imaginations around the internet.
The photo became the basis of one of the most popular memes of the past decade as internet users started adorning the picture with their inner monologues, typically expressed through short phrases of broken English written in brightly colored Comic Sans font. Even politicians and companies started using the meme — and it even spawned its own cryptocurrency.
But now, almost 13 years after the debut of the photo that catapulted her to global fame, the 17-year-old dog from Japan known for the “doge” meme is dangerously ill, her owner says.
Kabosu stopped eating and drinking on Christmas Eve, and had to be taken “to the hospital,” owner Atsuko Sato said on Instagram. The dog was diagnosed with leukemia and cholangiohepatitis — an inflammatory disease of the liver and bile ducts — and began showing signs of jaundice, Sato added Tuesday in the latest of Instagram posts.
Doctors said “she is in a very dangerous condition,” Sato told Kabosu’s 407,000 Instagram followers.
“My mind became blank as I wasn’t expecting her condition to be so bad. But Kabo-chan has shown us many miracles so I am sure that this is not the end. I am sure she will show us a miracle once again,” she said, adding that Kabosu’s appetite appeared to be improving.
In February 2010, Sato, a kindergarten teacher who rescued the dog from an animal shelter in 2008, had posted the famous photo to her blog, where she also shares photos of her home life and cats. She told the technology website the Verge in 2013 that she had had no idea of Kabosu’s newfound global fame and was “taken aback” when she found the memes online.
“It felt very strange to see her face there. It was a Kabosu that I didn’t know,” she said.
The meme — which became known as “doge” — has also featured other shiba inu dogs, but Kabosu was always indisputably the most famous one. The meme was featured in several lists of the top memes of the previous decade — and led to online debates about how to pronounce doge, explanations from linguists about the language used in the meme and even a reader’s response to The Washington Post. The “doge” meme was also featured in a safety video released by Delta Air Lines in 2015.
But Kabosu’s most famous legacy has come in the form of dogecoin, a cryptocurrency established in 2013 and supported by Elon Musk. While the currency began as a joke based on the meme, dogecoin has since become a key player in the cryptocurrency market, rising 10,000 percent in value in the first five months of 2021.
Musk’s backing has shaped dogecoin’s often volatile fortune, with the Tesla chief’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in 2021 leading to an abrupt loss of around 30 percent of the cryptocurrency’s value. However, dogecoin jumped considerably after Musk’s takeover of Twitter, and Tesla accepts it as a form of payment.
Meanwhile, Kabosu’s fans on Instagram have been wishing her well. “This is the hardest part of owning a dog. … We love you Doge. You defined an entire era and generation on the internet. Good luck!” one well-wisher wrote.