There are the 2,051,298 (yes, that's more than 2 million) Facebook fans currently talking about Boo, an Internet-generated sensation billed as "The World's Cutest Dog."
If you are neither a cute-dog lover nor a cute-dog lover who also happens to be my animal-obsessed 8-year daughter, Athena, you might have missed the Boo craze. For the non-initiated, Boo is an 8-year old carefully shorn Pomeranian whose features, I suspect, may have been first drawn by Disney animators for maximum anthropomorphic emotive impact before being genetically coded into a designer dog embryo that, through the miracle of modern science, manifests in the bundle-of-ever-cuteness now known as Boo.
Let me explain. If we take the presumed high point of Renaissance sculpture, Michelangelo's "David," as a representation of the ideal human figure -- ensconced in the heavens as a model to which all earthly art may aspire -- then in Athena's mind there indeed exists the perfect, most adorable, cutest and most-cuddly dog in the entire history of all dogs.
This perfect and transcendent dog is Boo, and Athena, bless her 8-year old heart, is in love.
What's to love, you ask?
Daddy, do you know what Boo wanted for his (recent) eighth birthday? Clean water for Kenya. (The Facebook page, which I sometimes let her browse, bears out this charitable birthday fundraiser).
In a recent Facebook photo Boo appears recalcitrant while going for a walk, the rear of his sidekick Buddy visible to the right of the shot. Both dogs wear red booties. The photo has this caption: "some people call this being dramatic, but i just call it monday." [sic]. This photo has over 207,000 likes, and the FB feed even reveals Boo himself has responded in the comment string.
They are made by Pawz, and they are great! We don't even notice they are on us, and they protect our little paws from broken glass and stuff left behind by construction in our neighborhood! You can find them on Amazon
Athena is largely unaware of the product placement, because she is myopically focused on the Boo-ness of Boo. And I suspect she is not alone.
Boo's Facebook page has over 11 million likes. 11 million. He stars in photo books and boasts a series of t-shirts, paper dolls, etc., that allow the legion of Boo lovers to consume the imagery of their Zen-dog icon in as many ways possible.
I recognize the power of Boo not only for my daughter and her cultural imagination, but also for me own sense of connection with Athena. The dog is indeed damn cute, and the Boo empire is still currently in the ascent, expanding along with the contours of modern media to the point that we may one day, all of us, live in a state of Boo-ness.
Not one to miss the boat, I offer these suggestions for future Boo projects. Please note that I am thinking broadly about what "Boo" can mean, not just for Athena, but for all of us.
After all, we are in this thing together.
1. Slogans: Boo's slogan "The World's Cutest Dog" suggests Michael Jackson's dubious self-generated slogan, "The King of Pop." I am suspicious, of course, yet I then think of The Clash's slogan as "The only band that matters." I then feel mildly better about the whole thing. Yet, as Boo's sphere of influence expands, he will require additional slogans: "Boo: why your real dog is ugly." "Boo: the domesticated cat is a major fail."
2. Boo stars in a vampire novel: Boo, in a sense, is already a vampire. He must be shorn -- in opposition to his hairy sidekick Buddy -- so as to produce the same cute image in every photo. He must be continually trimmed and cut to the same specifications. Like a vampire whose long hair at the time of undead conversion must be adjusted at the start of each endless night for shorter styles, Boo's grooming is a matter of special complexity. This all seems like the stuff of an Anne Rice vampire novel, and so I suggest that a series of books centering around the loose theme of "Boo, Undead Cuteness."
These may be quickly serialized on Wattpad, and will no doubt generate robust fan fictions. These will be better if Boo also shimmers in the sunlight. Or if he has to hunt uglier dogs with bow and arrow in an annual contest. Or if he must be initiated into one of five ridiculous post-apocalyptic factions. Of course, he joins "Cuteness."
3. Picture books: Boo is already the star of picture books, Boo: The Life of the World's Cutest Dog (2011), Boo: Little Dog in the Big City (2012), and the forthcoming Boo ABC: A to Z with the World's Cutest Dog (2013), and he successfully tours San Francisco in the second. Why stop there, Boo, when there are so many relevant global locations from which to spread the gospel of cute?
Why not Boo posing with Rupert Murdoch's son as he is recuperated in the fold of News Corp after an eight-year absence? How about Boo, diligently looking with binoculars (also available on Amazon), for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370? Boo as a Ukrainian soldier surrendering to Russian forces in the Crimea?
4. Boo as dream guru: This one is simple. Boo must spread his message even farther. He must try even harder to reach the core something that exists deep within the throbbing heart of the troubled human condition. I desperately want to understand Boo, as evidenced by my recent dream:
I encounter a bubbling river of the freshest water, running through a lush garden. The blue of the water slides over smooth river stones while the throbbing green of high-summer grass spreads on either shore. I step gingerly, barefoot, into the river and feel the water pass through my toes as I begin to wade. The water soon covers my ankles, but no higher, as I calmly move toward a bend in the river up ahead. The current picks up as I move toward the bend, and it's harder and harder for me to continue. But I do, pulling my legs one after the other. I am breathing heavily but regularly. My arms are starting to warm under the toast of the sun. I am at peace, but also always moving, and then I turn the corner.
On the far bank, sitting stone-like on a rock, is Boo, the World's Cutest Dog, nay the Universe's Cutest Dog. His face radiates serene oneness, enumerated in the slight tilt of his head and the open mouth of his smile. His hair, like the grass, bristles in the wind. He is wearing sunglasses, available at Amazon, and I see in the reflection of my approach that I have become overgrown with beard and hair, that my body is thin; you see, I have been in the river now many years.
I approach Boo, who remains unmoving, while I grow larger in his sunglass lenses. He is frozen, but I hear him, in my mind, trying to tell me what I have also wanted to know, nay, what I have needed to hear.
What does he say to me, this Boo, through the mystery of his fetching smile? I cannot understand his transmission. I am not receptive. Boo's message is garbled into unintelligible yelps and barks.
Suddenly, I wake up. In my room. Away from Boo.
What does the dog know that I cannot yet understand?
I walk quickly toward Athena's room.
She may be ready to let me in on the secret.