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Saturday, October 1, 2011

An audience with Boo: The Mail meets the world's cutest (and soon-to-be richest) dog

By LINA DAS in San Francisco

Early evening at San Francisco’s swanky W Hotel and a crowd of excitable young women are waiting for a glimpse of the newest star in town.

Suddenly, six minutes ahead of schedule — unprecedented for a celebrity of his stature — he takes his place quietly and with a minimum of fuss beneath the spotlight. His understated entrance almost catches his audience off-guard until a lone, hysterical voice screeches: ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! There he is!’

At that, the crowd surges forward as one, brandishing camera-phones to take his picture to the accompaniment of whoops and cheers as nervous-looking security guards try to hold the advancing fans back.

Flashing his million-dollar smile: The cover of Boo: The Life Of The World's Cutest Dog. The five-year-old Pomeranian dog instantly warms to strangers and happily plays up to the camera like an old pro

Meanwhile, the star himself settles back on his velvet cushion, lapping up the adulation with the calm air of somebody who’s seen it all before.

But these young women are not here to catch a glimpse of a teen idol such as Justin Bieber or Hannah Montana — although, like Justin, this megastar is famous for his fluffy hairdo. The object of their affection is a five-year-old Pomeranian dog called Boo.

Boo may look like a teddy bear, have slightly suspect breath and be unable to sing, dance or act to any discernible degree (although let’s face it, that hasn’t stopped most X Factor contestants), but he is one of the fastest-growing stars, not only in America but across the globe.

He has nearly two million Facebooks fans, a publicist, a book deal, and TV and film offers to his name, as well as a host of celebrity admirers, including socialite Paris Hilton.

He has appeared on the breakfast show Good Morning America and the normally serious-minded Time magazine called him ‘aww-worthy’.

Desperate to see what all the fuss is about, I find myself wedged between hordes of twentysomething women and their slightly bewildered and embarrassed-looking boyfriends at the bash being thrown in Boo’s honour.

The party is to celebrate the launch of his debut book — Boo: The Life Of The World’s Cutest Dog — and some 120 guests have paid $20 (£13) each to grab a specially ‘pawtographed’ book, spend an hour in his company and even (OMG!) have their photograph taken with their hero.

Francesca Gouw, a 28-year-old who works for a data management company, says: ‘I just saw him on Facebook and loved his haircut, so every now and then I’ve been checking his website for new photos. My friends have been teasing me, saying: “You’re paying to go see a dog?” But he’s just so cute I can’t resist him.’

As you’d expect, getting a personal audience with Boo is not easy. After a week of toing and froing between four different publicists, we’re informed that an hour-long meeting with Boo is absolutely out of the question. His schedule simply won’t allow it.

Instead, I am granted a 15-minute audience with him and, as is the way with all superstars, it comes with many conditions attached.

His owner, whom Boo refers to on his website as his ‘human’, and who calls herself Jennifer, must remain unphotographed and anonymous at all times. And although I’m reliably informed Boo is sweet-natured, he will not perform tricks for me.

His PR representative tells me Boo ‘just sits there smiling and looking cute’ — a canine Cheryl Cole minus hair extensions. But once you meet him, well, Cheryl’s cuteness doesn’t stand a chance when faced with the megawatt gorgeousness of Boo.

He instantly warms to strangers and happily sits on my lap, playing up to the camera like an old pro. His hair is cropped an inch short around his head to give him that distinctive teddy-bear look.

Although Jennifer takes him to the groomer every two months to maintain his look, I am assured he uses no special products on his fur.

Some dissenting voices have queried Jennifer’s penchant for dressing Boo up, but this evening he looks fairly happy in his blue-and-white T-shirt — his favourite of his seven outfits, one of which is a Union Jack hoodie.

The story of how Boo the dog became Boo the icon centres, as with many celebrities, on a pivotal event in his childhood.

Bear-faced chic: Boo in a costume for Hallowe'en, left.
This dog's a cool act: From Boo's Facebook page, right

Born on March 16, 2006, Boo was just a few weeks old when Jennifer, a 32-year-old who works in the internet industry, bought him from a breeder as a companion for her other Pomeranian, a three-year-old called Buddy.

Though Buddy’s hair grew normally, Boo’s hair, much tougher and thicker, started to get increasingly matted and had to be chopped off.

‘The groomer said they wouldn’t even be able to get a brush through him,’ says Jennifer. ‘It was pretty traumatic to cut his hair, but when I picked him up, I saw how cute he was that way and he seemed happier.’

It was Jennifer’s friends who alerted her to Boo’s overwhelming adorableness, suggesting she set up a Facebook page for him, which she eventually did in May 2009.

At first, Boo had a few dozen Facebook followers, but the number rapidly expanded over a year and by the time Jennifer Kong, an editor with San Francisco-based publishing company Chronicle Books, came across Boo’s picture, he had already notched up some 60,000 fans.

Internet sensation: Boo has amassed nearly two million fans on Facebook

‘For the first book we took photos at our editor’s apartment or on grass verges outside,’ says April, one of the publicity team.

‘But for the second, we’ll see Boo out and about in more metropolitan locations and with some new puppy friends as well.’

Ah yes, friends. Like many a celebrity before him, Boo has found that fame can be a lonely business, and so he has learned to cling to those he trusts — his ‘human’, Jennifer, and his closest confidant and puppyhood pal, Buddy.

I am assured by Jennifer that there is no rivalry between the two.

‘They’re just happy to hang out together and they like to take naps,’ she says.

‘I don’t think Buddy gets jealous of the attention given to Boo and now people are taking Buddy’s picture, too. But they’re different dogs — Buddy’s the dominant character and Boo’s the one who kind of looks up to him.’

Hug a hoodie: Boo

So with Boo constantly being hounded by adoring fans, one would assume that he has a lady friend or two on the scene. But I can reveal that when Boo takes to his blanket of an evening, he does so alone.

‘He doesn’t have a girlfriend and isn’t girl-obsessed,’ says April.

Indeed, even baby Boos are out of the question — Boo having long since parted company with his, um, equipment.

Given his fame and increasingly hectic schedule however, being neutered might not have been such a bad thing — the last thing the world needs is more neglected offspring of the rich and famous. ‘He just doesn’t have time for dating,’ insists April.

‘And puppies aren’t going to happen, but he’s a happy, loving little guy.’

In any case, Boo’s career is taking off too swiftly for him to have much personal life. He has already modelled for online (human) clothing store Tobi. And he is doing his bit as a ‘dogmanitarian’ by making special appearances for kids charity Operation Smile.

Most excitingly, there has been interest in having Boo star in his own TV shows and movies.

‘I haven’t looked into the offers yet, because it might just be too overwhelming for Boo at this stage,’ says Jennifer.

‘But it’s a possibility and people have already asked how much he charges for personal appearances.’

Behind bars: But nothing can hold back Boo's cuteness

Of course, with fame comes the inevitable dark side — the threat of dognapping, the obsessive fans and, later, the cruel slide into oblivion.

The threat of Boo being dognapped is a real one, so much so that a five-man security team has been assigned to him for the evening.

‘Though everyone tonight has been really friendly, I am a little bit worried someone may try to snatch him,’ says Jennifer.

Others have offered her any sum she wants to hand over the hound: ‘Several rich people have contacted me to say “name your price — I want that dog”, but Boo is not for sale. He’s priceless to me.’

Back at the book launch, after an hour of shaking paws, a dog-tired Boo repairs backstage much to the disappointment of his fans.

One of them, Diana Navarro, admits: ‘When I found him on Facebook, he looked fake, so I came along to make sure he was real. But he was everything I hoped for and more.’

Satisfied fans and the promise of greater fame to come: Boo the dog has this celebrity thing licked.

Sporting fan: Boo is a fan of baseball team The Cubs, left, and promoting the We Day movement, a charitable initiative of Free the Children

Shy guy: Despite Boo's popularity, his owner has chosen to stay anonymous and is only known as Jennifer

All wrapped up: Boo looks more like an exotic bear than a dog

Ladies man: Boo has celebrity fans including Reality TV star Khloe Kardashian and singer Ke$ha

Suited and booted: Boo is looking smart

Dog day out : Boo takes a trip to the Tory Burch store in New York

Snug: Boo relaxes in a cushion

Peek-a-Boo: The little fella says hello

Give us a smile: Boo wearing an Operation Smile hat (left) and with a big fluffy head (right)




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