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'People say Tuna is ugliest dog in the world…I tell him he's the most handsome' – The Mirror

Meet Chihuahua who has 1.3m Instagram followers, boasts fans including Reese Witherspoon and has a new autobiography out
As celebrity pulling power goes, his 1.3 million followers on Instagram make him bigger than Sir Paul McCartney, Kanye West and ­Caroline Flack combined.
With a clothing line, product range and, now, autobiography, he is also pretty ­prodigious for a four-year-old.
Meet Tuna, the underdog with an overbite. Plus two hairy warts and halitosis.
When photos of the skinny Chihuahua-dachshund and his trademark teeth went viral, he shot to infamy and was dubbed the world’s ugliest dog.
Today, Tuna’s celebrity fans include Reese Witherspoon, Ariana Grande, Hilary Duff and Georgia May Jagger, and the rescue dog recently jetted to London – on his own seat – to promote his first book.
His owner, American Courtney Dasher, says: “So often, especially in the beginning when he had just gone viral, Tuna would get really horrible comments.
“People were saying things like ‘throw him off a cliff’ or ‘that dog is so ugly he should be put down’ – really horrible things. It was very upsetting.”
But Courtney, who found him as an abandoned four-month-old, adds: “I think Tuna is the most handsome dog in the world, and I tell him that every day.
“He brings love, light, laughter and joy into people’s lives on a daily basis, and I am so proud of what he has accomplished. And now that people have got to know him a bit, they have become a lot kinder.”
As well as being recognised almost ­everywhere he goes, Tuna is regularly sent presents from well-wishers and frequently asked to attend celebrity launches.
The attention, though, has yet to go to his head. Cleveland-based Courtney smiles: “He gets recognised pretty often. I’m always so surprised because I think he just looks like an average Chihuahua, albeit a very handsome one. Well, with his teeth in.
“The most surreal experience was probably at a famous shopping mall in Los Angeles called The Grove. He got stopped, like, 10 times in half an hour.
“Another time I was walking through Times Square in New York and the same thing happened. People were stopping me, saying, ‘Is that Tuna, is it him?’
“He wasn’t even wearing his bow-tie or anything at all distinguishing.”
She adds: “Tuna is very humanised, and gets on well with a lot of people. He never seems overwhelmed.
“I tell him how wonderful he is, and how much I love him, every single day and he is still pretty humble. He can be naughty sometimes, but I attribute that to him being an only child. Tuna is no diva.”
When we meet, at his publisher’s office in West London, Tuna is freshly groomed and wearing a Union flag bow-tie. He is also far better looking in the flesh. Or fur.
This is, in part, down to the fact his overbite is not in evidence at all times. Courtney says: “When his gums dry out, that’s when the teeth protrude.” As the photographer patiently waits for Tuna’s gums to air-dry, the star leaps on to my lap and starts to snooze. Being an A-lister is exhausting.
After rescuing Tuna in 2010, Courtney first uploaded photos of him online a year later. At the end of 2012, he was featured on Instagram’s homepage.
Shortly after, Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon went on US TV and urged fans to follow his page, Tuna Melts My Heart. Within 24 hours, his following had quadrupled. So what does it take to keep a megastar in rude health?
Courtney says: “Tuna has come from humble beginnings and has always been very low maintenance. I wash him weekly in the bathtub with his favourite shampoo and trim his nails when they need doing. In the winter he sleeps in a onesie.
“Tuna is not fussy with his food, but I think he’s put on a couple of pounds recently because he’s found a new British kibble which he absolutely loves. His favourite snack is a twisted rawhide bully stick.”
But there is one aspect of Tuna’s beauty regime Courtney is fastidious about – teeth cleaning, which includes mouth-to-mouth plaque removal. Truly.
She says: “I have to brush his teeth all the time. In addition, he has a ­professional annual clean for which he is put under local anaesthetic, because he doesn’t like it.
“Although I don’t really floss much, I will scrub his teeth every single day because he has a double row of teeth at the bottom. They always get food stuck in them. When this happens, his breath starts to smell. Unfortunately Tuna is prone to halitosis because his jaw is so recessed.
“To get the plaque out, I’ll cover his mouth with mine and physically blow out the food. It sounds a bit gross but it works; he has really clean teeth.”
Though Tuna and Courtney are both single, the pooch has a constant companion called Colin. Or, in fact, several companions called Colin, because he keeps eating his way through the soft monster dog toy.
But with the proceeds of his book going to rescue dogs charities, Tuna isn’t just an ugly face. And so in demand is he, last year Courtney gave up her interior designer job to manage Tuna’s career full time.
“It’s crazy this little dog, who was abandoned when he was a puppy, is now doing so many wonderful things,” she says.
“Tuna has touched all walks of life. Over a million people globally have been touched by my tiny dog.
“I see what I do as a way of bringing people joy, hope, encouragement and laughter, and Tuna is just so special. A funny photo of him can really change the trajectory of someone’s day, and that’s what I love.”
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