Have you ever seen an adorable puppy up for adoption and wanted it so badly you would do anything to save it, only to be told by a buzzkill partner or family member, “You don’t need any more pets"?
The next time that happens, here's your reply: “This dog could be the next Instagram star, and make us all famous you fool.” Because that’s exactly what happened to Courtney Dasher, the human behind Tuna, a Chiweenie with 1.9 million Instagram followers (that's 200,000 more than Lisa Vanderpump!). Yep, this adorable miniature dog with a pronounced overbite has more Instagram followers than a woman who has a stable full of miniature horses.
Dasher first spotted Tuna at a farmer’s market in Los Angeles in December of 2010. At the time, he was four months old. “He was in a crate with two other dogs, wearing an oversized sweater, and he looked really insecure,” Dasher told Unleashed. “I knew he was the one we wanted to take home.”
His rescuers had named him Wormy because he had a habit of crawling around on his belly. “When he moved in with me, he cut that habit almost immediately,” Dasher said. “The key was to love him really well.”
It took a few months for Wormy’s pronounced overbite to emerge. Dasher re-christened him Mr. Burns, after his resemblance to The Simpsons’ character, which over time, got shorted to Toonie, and eventually, to Tuna.
Dasher created an Instagram account for him in 2011 for no other reason than pictures of him made her laugh. “I thought they could be a catalyst to change someone else’s day.” In December of 2012, Instagram featured @tunameltsmyheart on its homepage. Celebrities including Anderson Cooper became enamored, as did people around the world.
“The next day, I got a text message from my mom,” Dasher recalls. “She said, ‘Anderson Cooper loves Tuna, and wants to fly you to New York for his talk show.’ I said to her, ‘Who is Anderson Cooper?’ I wasn’t expecting this at all.”
Ever since, Tuna’s brand has flourished. Dasher chalks up some of the account's success to her background in advertising—she knows how to curate an appealing feed. But really, most of the credit lies with Tuna, whose exaggerated overbite, recessed jawline, and wrinkly neck make him the definition of unconventionally adorable.
The most rewarding thing about Tuna’s success is that Dasher can use it to support animal rescue societies. For example, upon the release of Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog With The Overbite, a 2015 book that charts a day in the life of Tuna, Dasher held events to benefit Animal Rescue League of Boston, and PAWS Chicago. Currently, she is using Tuna’s fame to promote It's A Dog, a gift registry for new dog owners that offsets the cost of adopting a rescue dog.
When he’s not posing for photographs, or posting travel advice on his secondary Instagram account, @thetravelingtuna, Tuna can mostly be found recharging.
“I love how introverted he is, and that he loves to snuggle in the covers,” says Dasher.
Check out some Instagram photographs of Tuna below.
Unleashed is Bravo's celebration of pamper-worthy pets and how to spoil them. Want more? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.