Meme But Not Forgotten: RIP to the Glorious Animals of Our Digital Past
From the Gabs the Dog to Cecil the Lion and More
With angel wings Photoshopped in place by bored teenagers and students, Internet images prove that it is possible for the life of a beloved animal to extend well beyond its short, earthly years. When a pet becomes a meme, it becomes something bigger, and that something can never die. The same has happened for a number of meme animals whose lives we remember today. Gone but never forgotten.
Gabs the Dog
Gabe the Dog was an Eskimo-Pomeranian with a voice. Gabe rose to fame thanks to his distinctive bark, or “bork,” which YouTubers remixed to the tunes of popular songs, such as Toto’s “Africa” or Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” His owner Jesse Hamel remembers him:
We first got Gabe in January 2012. My mom had gone to the local animal rescue center (D’Arcy’s ARC) because she wanted to walk dogs. Turns out Gabe had just gone up for adoption, and they were an instant match, so she ended up bringing him home that same day! Gabe was very peculiar. He had anxiety and separation issues, and in some ways was more cat-like than dog-like. He was very antisocial for the first couple of years, only tolerating the company of our family, but he gradually softened up and learned to love attention from others. He could be moody at times, but often did enjoy playing or getting belly rubs. He was happiest with all of our family around him, especially when we had our attention on him!
I had been making stuff on YouTube with a bunch of my friends for years, and it was mostly a very insular community—I only ever made stuff to amuse myself and my group of friends. When I started uploading clips of Gabe to my channel, my friends and I all started remixing the barks into various songs. Some of them got pretty popular and before long I had a much bigger audience than I knew what to do with. I started uploading stuff more frequently, and things really took off when I started the Facebook page. I’m currently looking at my YouTube silver play button I received for breaking 100,000 subscribers and I still can’t really believe it.
I think Gabe will always live on through the memes. I’m so proud of what we created—so many people used their creativity to make amazing stuff using Gabe’s likeness and distinctive bark, and I think that creativity is what made him unique. To me, though, all of the internet stuff was secondary. He was just my weird little dog and I loved him. I’ll remember his quirks, his weird bark, his soft puffy fur, and his personality—how he overcame his anxieties and learned to fit in with a family. I’m glad we gave him love and comfort, even for a short while. Everyone deserves that.
(Died once in 1987, then again in 2018)
Keyboard Cat, real name Fatso, belonged to film-maker Charlie Schmidt, who filmed the original grainy clip of his cat playing an electric keyboard in 1984. Fatso sadly passed away in 1987, but was replaced by Bento, a similar ginger cat who took up the keyboard in 2007, sort of like when they changed the actor who played Aunt Viv in The Fresh Prince and hoped none of us would notice.
*The cat pictured is Boots, not Fatso, who hopes one day to be as good on the keyboard as Fatso.
The ‘Hello? Yes, this is Dog’ dog
This dog, from a Serbian movie that came out in 1984, was popularized in the form of a screen grab of the mutt looking startled with a telephone against his ear. It proved pretty hard to track down the dog from a Serbian film from the 1980s. Surely dead, right? It would be the oldest dog in the world if it was still alive. Knowing my luck, he or she will be alive and will end up reading this book and I’ll get a “Hello, yes, this is the oldest dog in the world” email out of the blue.
Cecil the Lion
Cecil was a beloved lion who was found murdered and decapitated on the outskirts of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Public outpourings of grief were fierce, and it wasn’t long before the hunter who killed him was named as Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota.
As was the case with Harambe, sincerity and sadness soon became irony and hyperbole, as meme-makers rinsed an over-sentimental public for suddenly caring about a lion they’d never heard of a week before. By the time of Harambe’s death, weird Twitter users were mocking up images of Cecil the Lion battling the gorilla in animal heaven. Classy guys.
Excerpted from The Memeing of Life by Kind Studio Copyright © 2019 by Kind Studio. Excerpted by permission of Laurence King Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.