The unexpectedly wholesome backstory of the Doge meme
Is she still alive?
One of the few early memes to survive the scrutiny of the internet, the Doge meme, still crops up from time to time in formats to this day, despite the fact that it turns 10 years old this year. Seemingly immune from the kind of cringe that memes like the troll face induce nowadays, it truly has outlived many of its adversaries, even being voted as the top meme of the last decade in Know Your Meme’s latest poll.
But, as is the case with all reaction memes such as the Success Kid, there’s often question over how a relatively normal photo could become so popular. Here is the backstory behind the Doge meme:
Who is the Doge? What is a Shiba Inu?
The Shiba Inu was a fairly culturally significant dog in Japan before the meme, bred originally for its hunting ability and native to the country, but 2010 brought its appreciation to a whole new international stage. The particular Shiba from the photo is called Kabosu (a kind of citrus fruit in Japan), a 14-year-old dog who was rescued from a kill shelter. The owner, a teacher called Atsuko, told Know Your Meme that “Kabosu’s breeder went out of business, and she was rescued by an animal welfare organisation after being brought to an animal welfare centre to be put down, along with 19 other Shiba Inu”.
Lucky this was the case, because the meme went on to become one of the most recognisable images of the 2010s.
What’s the story behind the photo?
One day Atsuko was taking photos of Kabosu for her blog in her apartment in Sakura, Japan. She uploaded the photos and, as was the case with the mother of Success Kid, left them, thinking nothing of it. In October of that year, the photo was submitted to /r/Ads on Reddit, where people shared the image widely due to the unique and playful expression of the dog.
Before she knew it, the meme blew up overseas, although interestingly not in Japan. Atsuko says to this day that she still doesn’t understand meme culture, telling Know Your Meme: “Everyone was very surprised. But in Japan, very few people, even today, know about memes. And because it’s the internet world, it doesn’t feel real. Supposedly, very few people know about the doge meme.” Bizarre.
Where is the meme now?
Although the original iteration is thoroughly buried, a new subcategory has emerged, with one particularly bizarre ironic strand being the Shiba usually distorted in some way, with someone skat singing into a voice changer app. Yes, this is an actual category and yes, it is bizarre:
What is Kabosu up to now?
You’ll be glad to hear that Kabosu has reached the grand old age of 14, and is living her best life. According to the owner, Kabosu is rather timid and enjoys the company of her three cats and children. She lives a similar life to most dogs, staying in the house during day time whilst Atsoku is at work and getting super excited when going on walks. You can follow her on Instagram.
Unlike other memed animals, she hasn’t been exposed to a busy life of exploitation and photos, and largely lives the life of a normal animal besides the occasional convention that she’s been invited to. What is Atsuko’s favourite meme of her beloved pet out of the millions online? The doge doughnut.