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The Shiba Inu behind the famous 'doge' meme is sick with cancer, its owner says

The logo for the cryptocurrency Dogecoin, pictured here in a 2021 screenshot, is one of countless places where an image of the dog Kabosu appears. Her owner says the Shiba Inu is sick with cancer.
Richard Drew
/
AP
The logo for the cryptocurrency Dogecoin, pictured here in a 2021 screenshot, is one of countless places where an image of the dog Kabosu appears. Her owner says the Shiba Inu is sick with cancer.

A Shiba Inu who earned global fame for starring in a viral meme is sick with leukemia and liver disease, her owner says.

In a series of Instagram posts this week, Atsuko Sato, a teacher who lives in Japan, said the 17-year-old pooch was in "a very dangerous condition" after being diagnosed with acute cholangiohepatitis, a type of inflammation in the digestive system, and chronic lymphoma leukemia, a blood cancer.

"Right now, the liver level is very bad and jaundice appears," Sato wrote in one caption. "But antibiotics will definitely improve."

The dog, known by the name "Kabosu," had stopped eating and drinking over the weekend but was beginning to get her energy back, Sato said.

Kabosu, a rescue dog, became an internet sensation after social media users began resharing a photo posted to Sato's personal blog in 2010.

Kabosu's smirking face, side eyes and crossed paws were a hit online, often overlaid with comic sans text depicting what might be her inner dialogue. Users began referring to the image as "doge" and a global meme was born.

According to internet lore, the term "doge" first appeared in a 2005 episode of "Homestar Runner," an animated web-based comedy series.

But the misspelled moniker took on another meaning in 2013 with the emergence of a titularly-branded cryptocurrency, Dogecoin.

The currency — which was supposed to be a joke — spiked in value years later when Elon Musk, the richest man on earth at the time, tweeted "Dogecoin is the people's currency" and "no highs, no lows, only Doge."

Kabosu's legacy has only continued to grow, transcending internet culture to appear on pastries, ads for the Stockholm subway and the jerseys of professional athletes.

In 2021, the iconic image of Kabosu sold as an NFT for a record $4 million.

On Instagram, Kabosu's owner thanked the dog's fans for the outpouring of support, saying the pair were "getting power from all over the world."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.