Atsuko Sato and her Shiba Inu Kabosu, also known as the meme Doge.

Chatting With Atsuko Sato, The Owner Of The Internet's Favorite Shiba Inu And Meme, Doge


ay back in 2010, Japanese nursery teacher Atsuko Sato casually snapped some photos of her rescue-dog, Kabosu, sitting on a couch in her apartment and uploaded them to her personal blog. Little did she know, these trivial pictures of her beloved Shiba Inu, glaring sideways with eyebrows raised, would become the face of one of the most iconic memes of all-time. Now a decade since that famous photoshoot, Kabosu, known to the internet as the face of Doge, is 14 years old but still just as prevalent around the web. We recently got the chance to interview Atsuko, who currently lives in Sakura, Japan with Kabosu and her three cats, to find out what it’s like living under the same roof as an internet legend.

Q: It’s been nearly a decade now since your famous photograph of Kabosu became a meme, how have things been since 2010? How is Kabosu doing and how old is she now?

A: Kabosu lives in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. Before and after becoming famous for memes, Kabosu has lived a consistently relaxed day-to-day life. She looks forward to going for a walk and eating twice a day. Kabosu has the important task of house-sitting on weekdays. She takes care of our home while taking a nap on her favorite bed or sofa. As she was a rescue dog, I don't know her exact age, but she's estimated to be 14 at the moment.

(Atsuko and Kabosu)

Q: You mentioned that Kabosu was rescued from a kill shelter. Can you give us the full story about how she came into your life?

A: Kabosu's breeder went out of business, and she was rescued by an animal welfare organization after being brought to an animal welfare center to be put down, along with 19 other Shiba Inu. Most of the Shiba Inu that were brought there with her were killed. Two years had passed since I lost my previous dog, and I wanted to live with a dog again. I looked at the information about the new arrivals that had just been advertised as looking for foster parents on the website and found out about Kabosu. Sixteen days after being brought to the animal welfare center, she became a member of my family.

Q. For many years, you have participated in charity activities, such as the recent "Kabosu-chan's one-day flower shop," and contributed donations to animal rights groups. Tell us how much Kabosu-chan's popularity has an influence on those activities. Also, does the Doge meme contribute to this?

A: The donations began because I donated the sales from the Doge goods that a company called UltraPro in America sent me to animal welfare organizations. I started to make donations with the hope that other dogs who have been saved by animal welfare organizations would be as happy as Kabosu. To date, the UltraPro sales have been donated to eight [different] organizations. It looks like I will be able to keep donating this year as well.

The rest of my donations have nothing to do with Doge, and I donate the support I get from people who have learned about rescue dogs and animal welfare on my blog. That began with a trip I go on with Kabosu every year. On that trip, a lot of people gather to meet Kabosu. At those times, everybody brings her souvenirs, so three years ago, when I addressed them and said, "Please don't donate souvenirs to Kabosu, but donate them to rescue dogs instead," it got a big response. From that point on, we started holding charity events.


Q: Tell us a little about Kabosu’s name. How did you come up with that and why?

A: She was named "Kabosu" before she came to our home. The volunteer who took Kabosu out of the animal welfare center and protected her gave her that name. In their family, they had named generation after generation of rescue dogs after food. I think they came up with it because Kabosu has a round face. Kabosu is a kind of citrus fruit [popular in Japan].


Q: What is living with Kabosu like? Is she a crazy Shiba Inu or is she more on the calm side?

A: Kabosu is a very gentle, quiet dog. When she first came to my house, she didn't know anything about being spoiled, and she was afraid of humans moving. She was like a stuffed dog that was so quiet you forgot it was there, even when she was in the same room. As we lived together, she gradually began to open her heart to us, and little by little, she even learned how to get spoiled.

Kabosu doesn't like other dogs very much, and pretends not to see most of the dogs she meets on her walks so that she doesn't get involved with them. She likes cats and children, babies to toddlers, and they come into contact with each other [through] a gentle gaze, like that of a mother.

Q: Do you have any other pets? How does Kabosu get along with them?

A: We have three cats. Tsutsuji, 9 years old, Ginnan, 8 years old, and Onigiri, 2 years old. The four of them get along very well.


Q: What are some of Kabosu’s favorite ways to spend her time? What does she enjoy doing in her old age?

A: When I take her for a walk in her favorite park, she is very energetic. She also enjoys going on drives, traveling and camping on [my] days off. I think she knows that those are the days when she can spend the whole day with us, as a couple. She is very calm and rarely barks, but she is a very greedy eater and is happy when it’s time for dinner. She keeps barking so loudly that it makes you want to put your hands over your ears.

Q: Take us back to the day of the famous photoshoot with Kabosu in 2010 that spawned the Doge memes. Why were you guys taking photos and what were they for? What was Kabosu’s reaction to being in a photoshoot?

A: 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.

Q: When the images of Kabosu started circulating around the internet in 2010-2012, what was your initial reaction? Were you more confused or elated? Do you remember who first showed you a Doge meme or when you saw one?

A: A friend found it on an online news site and told me about it. When I first found out about the Kabosu memes, I was very surprised. I was terrified at the thought that just one photo I had casually posted on my blog could spread all over the world to places I didn’t know.

Q: Were you already familiar with memes or was Doge your first introduction to viral internet culture?

A: I didn't know anything, and I still don't really understand.

Q: How did your friends and family respond to Kabosu becoming a meme when it initially happened?

A: Everyone was very surprised. But in Japan, very few people, even today, know about memes. And because it's the internet world, it doesn't feel real.

Q: When you’re out in public, does anyone recognize Kabosu as the Shiba Inu from Doge? What are those interactions like and does she have a fan base or following?

A: People often come and talk to us when we go out, but readers of my blog say, "Is that Kabo-chan!?" -- rather than referring to her as “Doge.”

Q: Do you think the Doge meme is popular in Japan or does it seem to come more from America and other countries?

A: I don't think much interest has been shown [with] memes in Japan. Few people know Doge.


Q: Tell us a little about how you capitalized on Kabosu/Doge’s internet fame. Did you start the blog and social media pages as a result of the popularity, or were they around before the meme?

A: I started the blog in June 2009, [but] I started the Facebook page after finding out about Doge. For me, Kabo as Doge doesn't feel real at all. However, if we’ve gotten people to know about Kabosu's existence as Doge, I'd be pleased if a lot of people found out the reality that Kabosu was a breeding dog used by corrupt breeders and was thrown out like trash. When they think of getting a dog, I'd be happy if they chose the option of welcoming a rescue dog into their family.

Q: Have you heard of the cryptocurrency Dogecoin that features Kabosu’s face on it? What are your thoughts on her becoming the face of a currency?

A: I was very happy. I don't know much about cryptocurrency, but I've heard Dogecoin is mostly used for donations, so I'm proud that Doge could be the face of that.

Q: Do you remember back in 2017 when there was a hoax going around that Kabosu/Doge had died? It started from a tweet by the CCTV account but turned out to be an April Fools’ Day prank. How did you react to this?

A: I laughed. That sort of news has come out many times, so I laugh when it happens. If I'm too busy to update Instagram I get asked "Did Doge die?" in the comments, and when I only post pictures of the cats, people ask me what happened to Doge. It always shocks me, and I just laugh.

Q: Circling back to memes as a whole, do you like or dislike memes in general? What’s your opinion on them?

A: I neither like or dislike them, and I'm not really interested. I like the cute memes where they've turned Kabosu into bread or turned her into a donut.

Q: Any favorite Doge memes you have saved that you’d like to share? Have you ever made any yourself?

A: I have never made any, [but] I saved some that were made in the early days and posted them on my blog. My favorite meme is the donut meme. But the best is Dogecoin!

Q: We recently conducted a poll on Know Your Meme’s website to determine the Meme of the Decade for the 2010s and Doge was the winner. Can you ask Kabosu what her thoughts are on this and what she’d like to say to all her fans?

A: I am very happy to have been chosen. For Kabosu, it must be like, "What do I care?" I would like to thank all of the people overseas who love Kabosu as Doge for loving her as a special dog.

Q: Lastly, what do you want people to remember about Kabosu and Doge’s legacy? How do you hope she’s remembered?

A: Kabosu being Doge doesn't really feel real to me, but we were invited as special guests to Devcon5 (an annual gathering held by the Ethereum Foundation) in Osaka last October. There, we were able to meet participants from abroad, and many people called out Kabosu's name with their voices shaking. Seeing them so moved to pet her, I started to feel grateful towards all of the fans of Kabosu as Doge in the world. I'm pleased that the life of a dog who was on the verge of being put down could be saved and she could be remembered forever, in an unexpected turn of events, as a dog who is loved by people all around the world.

In Japan, there are many people who found out about Kabosu through my blog, became interested in rescue dogs, and [then] welcomed them to their own families. I think Kabosu must have been born with that mission.

Atsuko Sato is currently a nursery teacher living and working in the city of Sakura, Japan, where she resides with Kabosu and her three cats. You can keep up with Kabosu and Atsuko's latest adventures by checking out their blog here or by following them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more info.

View the Japanese translation of this interview here.


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