He’s only four years old, but a biography has already been written about Tuna the Chiweenie. He’s been Internet-famous for more than half of his life, after all.
Dogster first reported on the adorable rescue dog in 2013, when Tuna had 400,000 Instragram fans. Now, the pup with the unforgettable underbite has more than 1.2 million Instagram followers and 120,000-plus Facebook likes. With numbers like that, it was natural that Tuna’s empire would expand beyond social media, and that’s why his person, Courtney Dasher, helped Tuna take on the publishing world with Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog with the Overbite.
“It’s a 15-chapter story about a day in the life of Tuna, from waking up in the morning to sleeping at night and everything in between,” explains Dasher, who wrote the story that accompanies more than a hundred new photos of little Tuna.
“It’s just a fun story for all ages,” says the interior designer-turned-author, who never imagined the Instagram account she started for her dog in November 2011 would become her full-time job just a few short years later.
“Everything has changed. We’ve gotten a lot more involved with the animal rescue community. Tuna has become — unofficially and accidentally — an ambassador for animal rescue.”
A rescue dog himself, Tuna found his No. 1 fan in Dasher long before he found fame online.
“It was love at first sight,” says Dasher, who believes Tuna’s unique look is likely the result of inbreeding in the pursuit of a Chihuahua–Dachshund hybrid.
Having never had a pet of her own as an adult, Dasher was hoping to foster a dog when she met tiny Tuna through a rescue booth at a farmer’s market in Los Angeles. He’d been brought to L.A. after being found on the side of the road in San Diego, and it was clear to Dasher that he was not yet over the trauma.
“I see this four month old, insecure puppy, and the word I use is ‘pathetic.’ He just looked pathetic. He was shaking, he had an oversized sweater on. I just fell in love with him.”
Fostering quickly turned into forever, and for the last four years Dasher has been making up for whatever he endured in his first four months.
According to her, the Instagram account that catapulted the Chiweenie to stardom was started with the hope that she could spread just a fraction of the joy the little dog has brought into her life.
“I had zero agenda or intention for this. I didn’t want to make Tuna famous,” she explains. “It just kind of happened, and it happened organically.”
That organic growth didn’t happen overnight. Although Dasher started Tuna’s Instagram account in November 2011, it wasn’t until 13 months later that her pet shot to sudden Internet stardom. It was a busy period for the interior designer, who was already running her own small business when she took on a full-time job to bring in extra income.
“Right around that time was when Tuna went viral, so for a full year I was kind of juggling my design business, my full-time job, and then Instagram.”
As Tuna’s fame grew, so did the demands on Dasher’s time. When the pair were invited to tour the East Coast in an effort to raise awareness for animals in need, she knew something had to be cut from her busy schedule, so she said goodbye to her day job.
“Now, this is a full-time thing for me,” she explains. “I’m involved in a lot of things now that this has escalated into something bigger than just posting a photo a day.”
One of those things is, of course, Tuna’s new book, which Dasher began working on after she was approached by a publisher who loved Tuna’s Instagram. The book meant another tour for Tuna, and Dasher is making sure her dog won’t be the only animal to benefit from the publicity.
“We’ve invited a shelter group in each city to benefit, so some of the bookstores are going to donate a portion of the proceeds to the shelters. And, we have bookmarks that people can purchase for a donation, and then all of that money will go to a city shelter.”
Tuna’s book and tour, which has dates set through Monday, March 9, come at a time when many pets with unconventional looks are finding fame online, something Dasher believes will continue to happen for as long as social media exists. She says she is pleased to see different-looking dogs like Tuna making an impact on Internet culture and influencing potential adopters to consider unconventionally cute companions — she just hopes pet parents don’t stress about gaining followers or going viral.
“It’s something that you can’t force. I think it just happens.”
Kind of like falling in love with a rescue dog.
You can order Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog with the Overbite online. Follow Tuna on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Read related stories by Heather Marcoux:
- Oogy, the Disfigured Former Bait Dog, Dies Surrounded by His Loving Family
- Bulletproof Oakley, Shot as a Puppy, Helps Stop Animal Abuse
- A One-Eyed Cocker Spaniel Travels From Mexico to Montreal
About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.