She was one of the most famous animals on the Internet, a Japanese dog with an orange-yellow coat that became an iconic meme and the face of a virtual currency. Nicknamed “Doge”, the canine whose name was actually Kabosu, has died, announced his mistress, Atsuko Sato, Friday May 24 on her blog. “She passed away peacefully while I was caressing her,” she said, adding that a farewell party would be held in her honor on Sunday, May 26, in Narita, east of Tokyo.

This Shiba Inu dog became a Web star in 2013 after Internet users fell in love with one of her photos dating from February 2010. Round head, crossed paws, crooked smile, wide eyes staring at the camera… We can make this adorable shot say whatever you want, and Internet users are not mistaken.

Its online virality is ensured by the development of a meme, an often humorous diversion based on a common cultural reference: it consists of featuring “Doge”, a shiba inu, to whom Internet users make say short and absurd sentences , written in neon Comic Sans MS, punctuated with spelling mistakes and the word “Wow”. To give Doge a “face,” Internet users began by using photos of various shiba inu, but it was that of Kabosu that ended up establishing itself as the figurehead of this trend.

His fame was sudden but not ephemeral: “Doge” topped the rankings of the best memes of 2013, according to Know Your Meme, a reference site that classifies and documents viral phenomena, and according to the American magazine Wired.

Rescued from a kennel

This passion of Internet users happened without the knowledge of Atsuko Sato, who was behind the photo of her four-legged companion. The Japanese woman recounts in interviews her astonishment when she discovered the improbable meme in 2013: “I was very surprised. I was terrified to think that a photo casually posted on my blog could spread across the world to unsuspected places,” this kindergarten employee, who regularly repeats that She doesn’t understand the humor in memes.

On her blog, since 2009, she has shared almost daily photos of her dog and her cats’ walks, games or meals. Even before the breakthrough of the “Doge” meme, the peaceful daily chronicle of the shiba inu had ensured this site a little notoriety in the Archipelago.

Kabosu’s touching story helped make her known: born in a shiba inu breeder that went bankrupt, this dog was taken in by a kennel with 19 other puppies. The canine would have been euthanized if Ms. Sato had not adopted him in 2008. In 2014, the American site The Verge thus put Kabosu’s two lives into perspective: on the one hand that of the photogenic and endearing animal that the Japanese follow daily online, on the other hand, the frenetic diversions of his photo in the West, where “Kabosu the dog takes second place compared to Kabosu the meme”.

Mascotte crypto

Fourteen years after its thunderous debut, the Doge meme is still alive, unlike other viral phenomena of the time, such as the Harlem Shake or the young Brent Rambo.

This persistence is mainly due to the creation of dogecoin in December 2013 by developers Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus. This crypto asset (a virtual currency whose value and traceability are based on a technology called “blockchain”), which is inspired by the spirit of derision of the meme to mock opportunistic clones of bitcoin, has made Kabosu its emblem.

The currency, unlike bitcoin or ethereum which are the joy of speculators, is not intended to serve any purpose. But suddenly, at the start of 2021, its value exploded: 30,000% in six months, before running out of steam almost as quickly. The person responsible, at least in part: Elon Musk, who promoted it almost daily on his Twitter account. Since June 2023, Mr. Musk has been prosecuted for having, according to his accusers, helped to artificially inflate the price of dogecoin. In 2024, if a single dogecoin is worth only 15 euro cents, the abundance of this cryptoasset means that its total capitalization will weigh more than 21 billion euros.

In the meantime, the enthusiasm of the community or the soaring price of dogecoin are resulting in new diversions of Doge, whether in the form of images, derivative products (figurines, posters, coins, clothing) or new chapters enriching its wacky fictional universe, the “dogelore”.

The dog who was worth four million dollars

While she has no connection with the creation of dogecoin, the owner of Kabosu managed in June 2021 to take advantage of the investments generated by her iconic photo. She sold it at auction for four million dollars in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT), that is to say a virtual image accompanied by a digital certificate of authenticity. The buyer is a collective of NFT collectors and digital artists called PleasrDAO.

If Ms. Sato lets it be known that she donated part of the amount to associations, such as the Japanese Red Cross or the World Food Program, from that moment on she associates herself with events linked to NFTs or cryptocurrencies. Kabosu fans could, for example, meet her during a “pilgrimage” of NFT investors in May 2023. The latter also organized a day in her honor, “Doge Day”, the first edition of which was was held on November 2, 2023 for his birthday and led to the unveiling of a bronze statue in a park in the city of Sakura, Japan.

However, the dog was already old: 18 years old, according to the estimates of her mistress, who does not know the true date of birth of the animal she took in. However, the average lifespan of a shiba inu is often estimated at around fifteen years.

In December 2022, the public learned that Kabosu was suffering from leukemia and liver problems. Despite everything, the one who takes her name from a Japanese citrus fruit continued to pose tirelessly for her mistress’s blog and for selfies with fans. Without ever losing the enigmatic smile that earned her the nickname “the Mona Lisa of the Web” by her most fervent admirers.