"Doge" dog who inspired memes and Musk's favorite cryptocurrency passes away

Sakura, Japan - The Japanese dog whose photo inspired a generation of memes and the Dogecoin cryptocurrency now valued at $23 billion died on Friday, her owner said.

Atsuko Sato announced that Kabosu, her beloved shiba inu who inspired a generation of memes, has passed away.
Atsuko Sato announced that Kabosu, her beloved shiba inu who inspired a generation of memes, has passed away.  © PHILIP FONG / AFP

"She quietly passed away as if asleep while I caressed her," Atsuko Sato wrote on her blog, thanking the fans of her shiba inu called Kabosu – the face of the Doge meme.

"I think Kabo-chan was the happiest dog in the world. And I was the happiest owner," Sato wrote.

As a rescue dog, Kabosu's real birthday was unknown but Sato estimated her age at 18, past the average lifespan for a shiba inu, with her birthday celebrated in November.

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In 2010, two years after adopting Kabosu from a puppy mill where she would otherwise have been put down, Sato took a picture of her pet crossing her paws on the sofa.

She posted that image – with the fluffy shiba inu giving the camera a beguiling look – on her blog, from where it spread to online forum Reddit and became a meme that bounced from college bedrooms to office e-mail chains.

The memes typically used goofy broken English to reveal the inner thoughts of Kabosu.

The picture also later became an NFT digital artwork that sold for $4 million and inspired Dogecoin, which was started as a joke by two software engineers and is now the eighth-most valuable cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of $23 billion.

"Doge" Kabosu leaves mark on history

Kabosu was the inspiration for Dogecoin, which started off as a joke and now boasts a market capitalization of $23 billion.
Kabosu was the inspiration for Dogecoin, which started off as a joke and now boasts a market capitalization of $23 billion.  © Unsplash/Kanchanara

Dogecoin has been backed by hip-hop star Snoop Dogg, Shark Tank entrepreneur Mark Cuban, and Kiss bassist Gene Simmons.

But its most keen supporter is probably Elon Musk, who jokes about the currency on X and hails it as "the people's crypto."

Dogecoin has also inspired a plethora of other cheap and highly volatile "memecoins", including the spin-off Shiba Inu and others based on dogs, cats, or Donald Trump.

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Kabosu fell ill with leukemia and liver disease in late 2022, and Sato said in a recent interview with AFP in her home of Sakura, east of Tokyo, that the "invisible power" of prayers from fans worldwide helped her pull through.

The 62-year-old Sato said she had become so used to "unbelievable" events that, when Tesla boss Musk changed the icon for Twitter (now X) to Kabosu's face last year, she "wasn't even that surprised."

"In the last few years I've been able to connect the online version of Kabosu, all these unexpected things seen from a distance, with our real lives," she told AFP.

A $100,000 statue of Kabosu and her sofa crowdfunded by Own The Doge, a crypto organization dedicated to the meme, was unveiled in a park in Sakura in November last year.

Sato and Own The Doge have also donated large sums to international charities, including more than $1 million to Save the Children. The NGO says it is "the single largest crypto contribution" it has ever received.

Cover photo: Collage: Philip FONG / AFP & Unsplash/Kanchanara

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