Tuna Melts My Heart is changing lives, one smile at a time

If you asked Courtney Dasher four years ago if her then newly adopted puppy Tuna would become an Internet sensation, she wouldn't have believed you. But as the saying goes, anything is possible. After collecting a year's worth of adorable photographs of Tuna, including the iconic 'Phteven' photo which turned into a viral meme and his signature overbite smile, Dasher decided to post the pup's snaps on the platform. And just a little under a year later, Tuna became a star in his own right.

Now, the Instagram famous dog has over 1.8 million followers on the platform alone. He's even started his own travel guide aptly titled "The Traveling Tuna" and has a book out called "Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog with the Overbite." But perhaps the most important job Tuna has is to make other people happy.

Dasher claims that even in the earliest stages of his account, people flooded her with messages saying that Tuna helped them take their mind off of the cancer or even put a smile on their faces during a particularly bad week. It's this outreach that has made keeping up with the viral account completely worth it.

We recently sat down with Courtney Dasher and her cute pup Tuna to talk about how his fame has changed her life, what it was like creating a book, and more!

YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews including more exclusives on Tuna, click here.

What's the biggest thing that's changed in your life since Tuna has gone viral?
My schedule. I think that for me, I never had intention to become what is has. I didn't have intention to pursue this full time. Very early on people were making comments that he brought them joy and that he was changing their really bad week to a good one or that he's a great distraction for cancer. So I saw this as an opportunity to be a catalyst to bring people joy and laughter. That's still my primary heartbeat behind the account. I'm much more interested in engaging with this audience and making them feel better than focusing on business transactions. It's a full-time gig, but the reason why I left my job is because I wanted to help others feel happier.

Tuna also has a book out! What was the process of creating that book like for you both?
It's an interesting process. Basically I was approached by Penguin Random House to create this book and they said that they were experts in editing and publishing, but that I was the expert in the brand of Tuna, so they asked me to write a book from any point of view. I had two weeks from the time I signed the contracts to the time the manuscript draft was due, and I had already booked a trip to England. So for two weeks I shot Tuna on a professional camera which I have never done before. I just took loads of photos and then the day before I left for my 5-week trip to London, I sorted through all of them, chose 250, printed them out into pictures and literally go to London and laid out all the photos. I realized I had enough photos to do a 15 chapter short story of Tuna and his daily adventures. So I wrote it in two weeks. It was crazy! It was a bizarre project in the best way. And I didn't have him with me so if I didn't have the photo that I needed, I was out of luck. It ended up being a really fun story from my point of view of how I see Tuna. So if you're reading the book, then you're reading him from my perspective since I'm narrating the book to Tuna. It's a fun story for all demographics.

What's the biggest thing you've learned about yourself since adopting Tuna?
Tuna has redefined my purpose and what I learned about myself through this process is that I have a heartbeat for people. Social media can be seen as this self-centric platform for people. For me, I realized that through this platform there is influence here and I learned that if I used it in a way that promoted and encouragement an hope for people, it could be much bigger than being an account for my dog. I think a lot of times it hits me when when I get to encounter some of his followers who just tell me stories of how he has been used to literally shift their perspective or their bad day. There's just been so many stories and testimonies and I've learned that this is a really cool platform.

Where do you see the progression of Tuna's account going in the next few years?
It's a tricky question because I'm at the mercy at the platform itself. Instagram could take a different turn. For now, what I'm doing is I've started The Traveling Tuna. I'm very transient; I don't have a home base since I work in social media full time so I can virtually work from anywhere. So I decided to create an additional account where I'm partnering with travel brands and hotels so that Tuna can become the Samantha Brown of dogs. I'm not looking at it as a vacation. But it's a way that I can encourage people and show people hotels or airlines that are very friendly for pet transport. I want to create awareness about traveling and I think a lot of people are uniformed about how to travel with their animals. Even encouraging people to learn about their dog's breeds or personalities to learn the dos and do nots of pet travel.

For more adorable Instagram puppies, watch the video below!

These Corgis are Instagram stars for a reason

YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews including more exclusives on Tuna, click here.

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