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Kabosu, Shiba Inu who helped define Doge meme, dies at 18

REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO
                                A representation of cryptocurrency Dogecoin is placed on a PC motherboard, in this illustration taken in June 2023. Kabosu, a Shiba Inu whose “much wow” face helped launch one of the defining memes of the last decade and inspired the cryptocurrency dogecoin, died today. She was 18 years old.
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REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO

A representation of cryptocurrency Dogecoin is placed on a PC motherboard, in this illustration taken in June 2023. Kabosu, a Shiba Inu whose “much wow” face helped launch one of the defining memes of the last decade and inspired the cryptocurrency dogecoin, died today. She was 18 years old.

Kabosu, a Shiba Inu whose “much wow” face helped launch one of the defining memes of the last decade and inspired the cryptocurrency dogecoin, died today. She was 18 years old.

She “crossed the rainbow bridge” today, her owner Atsuko Sato said on social media, adding that she died without suffering, and as Sato was petting her. She died at home in Sakura, Japan, a city east of Tokyo, Sato said in an email today.

In the animal hall of fame, Kabosu’s sudden rise from ordinary dog to global meme could only be described as “amaze.” Sent to an animal shelter with a group of other Shiba Inu dogs after her breeder went out of business, she was adopted in 2008 by Sato, a kindergarten teacher. Sato began posting photos of Kabosu enjoying her life and playing at home on her blog.

But one particular photo of Kabosu in 2010 broke through: eyebrows raised and with a look, much like a Rorschach test, that could be read as knowing, mischievous or amused. Her round head soon became one of the most recognizable faces of the Doge meme.

Online followers originally peppered images of her face with text in the often-mocked comic sans font and grammatically incorrect two-word phrases that became their own language: a way to communicate a reaction to just about any situation. (Much awake! So scare! Wow!)

The image of Kabosu, along with other Shiba Inu dogs, was cropped and remixed for jokes ranging from the relatable to the nonsensical, and in time sparked their own spinoff memes. Nicolas Cage’s face was photoshopped on her body. Her body was photoshopped onto a loaf of bread. Even lawmakers caught up and used Doge to communicate their discontent. (Another Shiba Inu, Suki, has also frequently been a source of Doge memes after a photo of her wearing a shrunken scarf and gazing into the distance spread wide, according to a defining history of the meme in The Verge.)

Her likeness then veered into the cryptocurrency sphere after it was adopted as the logo for dogecoin, a cryptocurrency coin introduced as a joke in 2013. The meme coin made some investors millionaires overnight after it experienced a stratospheric rise in 2021, before fading.

Aware or not of her popularity, Kabosu didn’t seem to mind the attention. Her temperament was unusually laid back for a Shiba Inu, according to Sato.

“She’s very gentle and calm; she loves being photographed,” Sato said in an interview with The Verge in 2013. A volunteer, struck by the roundness of the dog’s face, had named her after the Japanese citrus of the same name. “I thought the name was perfect, so I kept it,” Sato said.

The Shiba Inu had in recent years suffered from bouts of ill health, and Sato said in 2022 that she had been diagnosed with chronic lymphoma leukemia, a type of cancer, and acute cholangiohepatitis, a condition that inflames the liver and surrounding area.

Her life was a source of interest for more than 500,000 followers online, and she lived with three cats. Her birthday, Nov. 2, was a cause of celebration for many, known as “Doge day.”

“She was not loved when she was little, so I want to shower her with love as a member of my family,” Sato told The Verge. A farewell party will be held for Kabosu on Sunday in Narita, Japan.

“I am certain that Kabosu was the happiest dog in the world,” she wrote today.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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