Kabosu: Shiba inu who inspired ‘doge’ internet meme and cryptocurrency dies aged 18

Kabosu’s owner says the shiba inu, who was suffering from leukaemia and liver disease, ‘quietly passed away’ on 24 May

Shahana Yasmin
Friday 24 May 2024 12:58 BST
Why has Twitter’s logo changed from bird to dogecoin’s shiba inu?

Kabosu, the shiba inu dog who went viral as the “doge” meme, has died, her owner said on Friday.

Owner Atsuko Sato, 62, confirmed the news on her social media on Friday. Kabosu had been suffering from leukaemia and liver disease since 2022 and died on 24 May.

“She quietly passed away as if asleep while I caressed her,” Atsuko Sato wrote.

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

“Thank you all so much for loving Kabosu all these years. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to everyone who has sent us much love.”

Ms Sato, who is a teacher from Sakura, east of Tokyo, adopted Kabosu from a shelter in 2008 after the puppy mill she was born in shut down. Since Kabosu was a rescue, Ms Sato doesn’t know exactly when she was born, but she estimates Kabosu was around 18 years old.

A photo of Kabosu with a side-eyed look and crossed paws from 2010 went viral in 2013, creating one of the most iconic photos on the internet.

Ms Sato originally posted the photo on her blog, where it can still be seen, from which it spread to Reddit, Tumblr, and several other online chatrooms, following which it was christened “doge,” a deliberate misspelling of dog.

The image was usually accompanied with funny, broken English in comic sans font as if to emulate Kabosu’s inner monologue.

The photo then went on to inspire a cryptocurrency called Dogecoin, started as a joke by software engineers, which now has a market capitalisation of $23 billion, and is often mentioned on X by tech mogul Elon Musk.

Musk has referred to Dogecoin as “the people’s crypto” and briefly changed the Twitter logo to Doge as a joke in April 2023.

The image also became an NFT digital artwork that sold for $4m (£3.1m) in 2021.

“Ever since Kabosu came into my home, a series of miraculous things have happened, enriching my life and gifting me with a treasure trove of priceless moments,” Ms Sato told Japanese newspaper Ashahi Shimbun in February.

In 2020, Ms Sato spoke about Kabosu, detailed how she came to be a part of her family, and gave a brief history of the iconic photo in an interview with Know Your Meme, an archive of viral online moments and images.

“The volunteer who took Kabosu out of the animal welfare centre and protected her gave her that name. I think they came up with it because Kabosu has a round face. Kabosu is a kind of citrus fruit [popular in Japan],” Ms Sato said.

Pictures and products of Japanese shiba inu dog Kabosu, best known as the logo of cryptocurrency Dogecoin, on display at the home of her owner Atsuko Sato in the city of Sakura
Pictures and products of Japanese shiba inu dog Kabosu, best known as the logo of cryptocurrency Dogecoin, on display at the home of her owner Atsuko Sato in the city of Sakura (AFP via Getty Images)

“I took the photos to update my blog. 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.

“I didn’t know anything, and I still don’t really understand,” she added on the photo’s popularity.

In November last year, a $100,000 statue of Kabosu and her sofa crowdfunded by Own The Doge, a crypto organisation, was revealed in a park in Sakura.

Sato and Own The Doge have also donated large sums to several international charities, including a sum of $1m to Save the Children.

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