RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In Rio de Janeiro, two rescue dogs have become local mascots and budding online influencers after joining the ranks of their rescuers, wooing their growing following, one bark at a time.
Corporal Oliveira, a short brown-haired dog believed to be about four years old, showed up one morning in 2019 at a police station on Rio’s Governador Island injured and weak.
“I gave him food, water. It took him a while to get used to me,” said the cap. Cristiano Oliveira, the officer who took the dog under his wing and then gave him his name. But within days, Corporal Oliveira – the furry animal – began following his new master around the compound. Oliveira has since moved to another neighborhood, but the dog never left.
Corporal Oliveira has his own Instagram profile with over 45,000 fervent followers, always eager for more photos and videos of their mascot in his police uniform, standing on armored police vehicles, motorcycles or sticking his little head out the window of a patrol car ordinary. He even has a toy gun attached to his uniform.
About fifteen kilometers away, in the leafy and leftist district of Laranjeiras, another rescue dog has become a mascot.
Caramello – a name inspired by the color of his fur – lies with firefighters who found him injured on the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain since he was rescued nearly a year ago. Meanwhile, the 11-year-old dog has amassed some 27,000 followers.
Older and slightly less adventurous than Corporal Oliveira, Caramello’s online efforts have focused on bringing attention to a wide range of good causes and campaigns.
He has used his newfound influence to promote cancer awareness or to encourage donations for victims of natural disasters such as the recent deadly landslides in Petropolis. He has also helped other rescue dogs or cats find new homes.
“Caremello is a real digital influencer,” said Major Fabio Contreiras, from the Catete fire brigade, one of the oldest in Rio de Janeiro.
But with fame comes the burden. And dog fans are demanding.
“Sometimes I have too much work. I go a week without posting and people are complaining, ‘Where is (Corporal) Oliveira? Has he disappeared? jokes Oliveira, the police officer in charge of the dog’s social networks. It can receive more than 200 messages in a day. Sometimes all he has to do is tell them, “He’s on vacation!”