Fluffy puppies that scamper between baskets of billowing pillows, graceful creatures, adorned with the finest pedigrees, ready to steal our affection: this is the saccharine-sweet and plasticised image that emerges from the usual media clichés surrounding the dog adoption process. To understand the story of Marnie the Dog, however, it’s necessary to sweep away these sugar-coated stereotypes and consider the adoption of an animal from a completely different perspective. The notion of a young, healthy and perfectly formed puppy to share great adventures with, was certainly not a determining factor in the adoption of Marnie, who has been catapulted to fame thanks to the viral nature of social media.
Marnie: before and after the adoption
But who was Marnie before she won the heart of her new human owner and became an Internet sensation boasting 1.9 million Instagram followers? The small honey-coloured Shih Tzu was approximately ten years old and suffered from a multitude of ailments when she met her new owner. Marnie was found on the streets of Connecticut, U.S.A. in the summer of 2012. She was in a pitiful state: undernourished, dirty and smelly, with a matted coat, rotten teeth, and her left eye was so cloudy, the shelter staff thought she’d never see out of it again. On top of that, Marnie (who had been aptly named “Stinky” on arrival at the shelter) had an unusual gait; she walked with her head tilted to one side and her tongue permanently hung out. After spending four months in the shelter, Stinky found a new home with a lady called Shirley Braha who renamed her Marnie in honour of her favourite musician Marnie Stern.
At this point, Marnie still had countless health issues to deal with. On a positive note, the cloudiness in Marnie’s left eye began to clear up soon after she was adopted, and her vision returned, however her dental health was another matter; and Marnie’s new vet had to remove 14 decaying teeth. This tooth removal process did have an upside however, as it helped eliminate an unpleasant case of bad breath! The vet was also able to identify the likely cause of Marnie’s lolling posture as vestibular syndrome, a disease that affects the balance but fortunately for Marnie would not prevent her from leading a normal life. However no cure was forthcoming for Marnie’s most prominent feature: her protruding tongue, although this wasn’t a concern for Marnie’s new owner, who writes on her dog’s Tumblr page:
“The reality is Marnie just has a long tongue, and has always had a long tongue, and its awesome, and she licks it every few minutes to keep it from getting too dry, and when it’s snowing she puts her tongue back in.”
Marnie the Dog, new web sensation
Marnie’s rags to riches story and her cute, quirky looks have captured the hearts (and social media follows) of legions of fans across the world, including celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato and James Franco. People just can’t seem to get enough of her videos, and photographs. This adoration in turn, has brought Marnie’s story to the attention of the global media, where she her story has been told in magazines and newspapers around the world. This beloved Shih Tzu, however, remains totally oblivious to her celebrity status and the fact that she is dominating the canine pages of ‘Web 2.0’ (the term used to describe the second generation of the World Wide Web, which goes way beyond the early static web pages to the ‘socially interactive’ pages of today). And yet, putting aside political correctness, one wonders just how many would-be owners would actually welcome a ‘problematic’ dog such as Marnie in to their homes.