Kabosu, dog who gained internet immortality as “Doge” meme, has died — rest in peace

The internet has been the birthplace of many viral memes, but perhaps the most iconic is “doge” — something as simple as a photo of a Shiba Inu dog with some grammatically-incorrect phrases somehow turned into a global phenomenon, even inspiring its own cryptocurrency.

Sadly, Kabosu, the dog behind the beloved meme, died this week — read on to learn more about the life of the real “doge.”

Early life: rescued from kill shelter

While Kabosu would go on to worldwide fame, she almost didn’t survive at all: she began life at a puppy mill, then was brought to a shelter when it shut down. In 2008, she was rescued by kindergarten teacher Atsuko Sato, saving her life.

“Some of them were adopted, but the rest of them were killed,” Atsuko told The Verge about the rescued dogs.

With such a rough start to the Shiba Inu’s life, Atsuko showered her adopted dog with love and attention and frequently posted photos of her on her blog. Little did she know, one of those photos would change her life.

In 2010, she shared a photo of Kabosu sitting calmly with her paws crossed, with the caption “I’m very happy, it was just a misunderstanding.”

“I take a lot of pictures every day, so that day was nothing out of the ordinary. Kabosu loves having her photo taken, so she was delighted to have the camera pointed towards her,” Atsuko told Know Your Meme.

“Doge” meme is born

Gradually, the photo spread on sites like Tumblr and Reddit, morphing into the now-iconic “doge” meme. Like much internet humor, the joke is absurd and hard to really explain but it consists of the photo of Kabosu with grammatically incorrect, Comic Sans captions like “such wow” and “very amaze.”

The meme can be changed and adapted to fit all kinds of situations and circumstances, from wholesome messages to parodies of current events. By 2013, “doge” was the internet’s most popular meme, taking Atsuko by surprise.

“I was terrified at the thought that just one photo I had casually posted on my blog could spread all over the world to places I didn’t know,” she told Know Your Meme, adding she did not know anything about memes. “Because it’s the internet world, it doesn’t feel real.”

But over time, she came to accept Kabosu’s unlikely and unusual popularity. While she received many lucrative offers from companies to use Kabosu, she turned them down, telling The Asahi Shimbun that her rescue dog “had been used enough for profit.”

However, she and Kabosu used the “doge” meme to do good and give back. She donated proceeds earned from Doge merchandise to various animal shelters, and in 2021 auctioned off an NFT of Kabosu for charity that sold for a record $4 million.

Meanwhile, the Doge meme has endured for over a decade. US politicians have used the meme in tweets. The image has appeared in advertisements. Other Shiba Inus became the stars of their own memes, like Cheems.


Perhaps the most telling sign of doge’s popularity is that it inspired its own popular cryptocurrency, called “Dogecoin.” Originally created as a joke, the currency reached a peak market capitalization of $85 billion in 2021.

Despite being perhaps the most famous meme ever, doge never received the same attention in Japan, so it never affected the everyday lives of Kabosu and Atsuko.

“Around me, nobody knows about the Doge meme. Maybe I don’t understand memes very well, because I’m living such an analog life,” she told The Verge.

Even so, Kabosu has been honored in her home country with her own monument and manhole cover.

Illness and death

In December 2022, Atsuko announced Kabosu was ill with leukemia, though later said that the dog’s health had improved.

But as the senior dog faced health issues, it became clear that her time might be running out. “I want to stay close to her so that she can live her remaining days peacefully,” Atsuko told The Asahi Shimbun.

On May 24, she announced that Kabosu had died. As a rescue dog, she does not know her exact age, but she was likely about 18.

In a poem shared on her blog, she wrote that Kabosu “fell into a deep sleep” and “passed away quietly” on a peaceful day.

“I think Kabo-chan was the happiest dog in the world. And I was the happiest owner.”

A memorial for Kabosu was held in Japan, and reportedly attended by hundreds of fans.

Kabosu has been widely mourned across the internet, with many paying respect to the dog who inspired such an iconic meme.

Rest in peace, Kabosu! She had a great long life and entertained so many people around the world through the “Doge” meme.

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