Goodbye, Boo! The permanently smiling Pomeranian, known Internet-wide as the “world’s cutest dog,” passed away yesterday, at the age of 12. According to a statement on Facebook from his owners, Boo died “from a broken heart,” alluding to the canine’s heart problems and his sadness. They wrote, “Boo passed away in his sleep early this morning and has left us to join his best friend, Buddy. Our family is heartbroken, but we find comfort knowing that he is no longer in any pain or discomfort. We know that Buddy was the first to greet him on the other side of that rainbow bridge, and this is likely the most excited either of them have been in a long time....Boo brought joy to people all over the world. Boo is the happiest dog I’ve ever met. He was so easy going that we never had to bother with training. He made the manliest of men squeal with delight over his cuteness and made everyone laugh with his quirky, tail wagging personality...Shortly after Buddy died, Boo showed signs of heart issues. We think his heart literally broke when Buddy left us... They sure had a LOT of fun.” The post has racked up more than 37,000 comments from fans touched by the animal’s adorableness. We are unlikely to see a creature like Boo again. And not just because most dogs aren’t quite so cartoon-cute; Boo was the product of a different era of the Internet, one that is quickly coming to a close.
Boo, along with Grumpy Cat, Tuna the dog, and a handful of other quirky critters, rose to popularity when Facebook was the top place to share memes, most of which were written with that white block-letter font with a black border. And while these animals may have struck up the occasional sponsorship deal with, say, a brand of kibble, the main way their owners monetized them was through image licensing and products. There were books, plush stuffed toys, novelty games, and cards. That Grumpy Cat movie. Figurines. Calendars. Boo and his compatriots didn’t sell you products, they were products.
The rise of Instagram changed that. Sure, there are still plenty of Web-famous animals: domesticated foxes, quirky birds, cute bunnies. But the influencer economy that has taken over so much of social media is all about selling you a lifestyle and an experience…and a product to go with it. If you like Boo, you like Boo. But if you like, say, Kylie Jenner, you want to be like Kylie Jenner, so you buy her lipstick, her shoes, her highlighters and bronzers. And you get your cute animal fix from The Dodo or something. Why bother buying something with an animal’s face on it? The animal is on your phone, and you spend all day looking at your phone anyway.
Someday someone (or something) will replace the Kylies of the Web, and the world will spin onward, and so it goes, nothing gold can stay. We’re not knocking the hustle or mourning the loss of memes, though, of course, it’s always sad when a doggy dies! But let’s just take a minute to remember that, for one brief, shining moment, the most famous face online wasn’t one you lusted after or one that made you feel gross by comparison; it was just a happy little puppy there to brighten your day.
Boo, you’ll be missed.