Balltze's contented, slightly measured facial expression spread around the world in 2019 and has spawned countless humorous memes.

The dog, also known as Cheems, is of the Japanese breed Shiba and has over 750,000 followers on Instagram. For the past two years, there has been a cryptocurrency named after the dog: "Cheems Inu".

"It's a really funny picture that has made everyone recognize shiban, especially young people," says Susanne Larsson.

Spread on Reddit

Susanne Larsson says that she and her two Shibor Samurai and Sonja are stopped daily by passers-by on their walks.

"They say, 'Oh look, there's the dog that's on Youtube and Instagram!'

It was Balltze's owner, Hong Kong-based fashion designer Kathy, who took the famous picture. It was posted on Instagram and picked from there to the online forum Reddit where it later exploded as meme material during the corona pandemic.

Memes featuring Balltzes were often about misspelling in funny ways at first: "cheeseburger" became "cheemsburger". From there, the Balltzes got their nickname "Cheems".

"Died during surgery"

After suffering from cancer for a long time, Balltzes fell asleep during an operation over the weekend. He was 12 years old.

"Having Balltze in my life has been the best thing that ever happened to me," the owner wrote on Instagram.

In the clip: Hear the chairman of the dog club Shiba-No-Kai about Balltze's importance to the Shiba breed.