Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 11, 2014

Hashtag hounds rack up followers with wacky antics

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tuna, the hound so homely he's irresistible, peeks out from beneath his blanket, baring his row of buck teeth in a slapstick smile for the camera.

Courtney Dasher of Los Angeles rescued the Chihuahua-dachshund mix with the bug eyes, big nose and infamous overbite in 2010. Four years later, the dog dubbed a "Chiweenie" in hashtags has 837,138 followers as of Tuesday night, when he ranked as the most-popular dog on Instagram.

Pet owners are unleashing their pooches on the photo-sharing service, setting up accounts to show Manny the French bulldog sporting spectacles or Tuna poking his schnoz out of a suitcase.

Funny pet photos continue to be a trend on social media. They get plenty of play on Facebook and Twitter, including "muttbombs," where people Photoshop dogs into snapshots of themselves or celebrities. Muttbombs and animal Instagram accounts are so popular that shelters and others use them to promote adoptions or rescue campaigns. These famous pooches also have been featured in shelter public service announcements and swarmed by fans in public.

That's because animal lovers eat up the snapshots of dogs doing the darndest things, giving Manny and Tuna insta-fame on Instagram.

Dasher, who says Tuna resembles Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons," started @tunameltsmyheart in 2011.

"You would never hear me call Tuna ugly," Instagram spokeswoman Liz Shepherd said. "He has unconventional beauty. Some people say Tuna is the best part of their day."

Handsome is the word Dasher uses. "He's so unique, and I love that and everything about him," she said.

For Manny, the dog once rejected by a breeder is now the world's most followed French bulldog on Instagram, with 502,594 people subscribing to @manny--the--frenchie as of Tuesday night. Amber Chavez of Chicago says her dog looks like a cross between a bunny and a piggy, and he is the fourth-most-followed pooch on the social network.

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