The internet has always had a love for pets, and many of the web’s most famous memes and online celebrities have been cats and dogs. These animals achieve a unique kind of fame and become sort of mascots for the whole internet.
A Shiba Inu named Balltze was one of these pets, achieving fame as the meme “Cheems.” But after years of delighting the internet, Balltze has sadly passed away.
According to Balltze’s website, he lived in Hong Kong with his owner Kathy, who adopted him when he was 1. Like many pet owners, she started an Instagram account to show off her Shiba Inu’s cuteness — little did she know how much it would take off.
An Instagram user commented on one of Balltze’s photos that the dog “looks like Cheese.” That photo caught on, and soon became a character known as “Cheems,” who has a passion for “cheemsburgers.”
“That day was just like any normal day, because I really like the smiley expressions of Balltze, so I often took photos of his daily life,” Kathy told Know Your Meme. “I saw Balltze’s back leaning on the marble steps so casually, and I thought it was very funny, so I immediately snapped some photos.”
Cheems often appeared in memes with another famous internet Shiba Inu, Kabosu aka Doge. Cheems was popular in the r/dogelore subreddit, and the “Swole Doge vs Cheems” became a popular meme template.
Maybe none of this makes sense to you: Like many internet memes, the jokes are absurd and full of inside humor. But if you’ve been online in the past few years you’ve almost definitely seen Cheems.
“At first, I didn’t understand why people associated cheese with Balltze and why there were typos in the spelling,” Kathy said of her initial reaction to the memes. “Later, after knowing the reason, I learned it was just a fun joke that brought everyone joy!”
“Some of them are really bizarre and I don’t understand them at all,” she confessed, though said she was moved by some like “Cheems Dog Goes to the Moon.”
As Cheems became an internet phenomenon all over the world, Kathy embraced it, selling merchandise with her dog’s face, proceeds from which went to animal protection charities.
But soon, Balltze began suffering health problems. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis in 2022; he later recovered but then his owners noticed he was having respiratory problems. He was then diagnosed with leukemia.
While undergoing thoracentesis surgery, Balltze died in his sleep on August 18, his owner announced on Instagram. While it was sad news for Balltze’s countless online fans, Kathy, in a sweet tribute post, urged people to remember the good times.
“Please remember the joy that Balltze brought to the world,” she wrote. “A Shiba Inu with a round smiling face connecting you and me, he has helped many people during the pandemic and brought a lot of joy to many of you, but now his mission has completed.”
“I believe he is running freely in the sky and having a lot of delicious food with his new friends. He will always be inside my heart. I hope he can continue to bring joy to everyone in the online world, that’s my only humble request.”
She thanked the medical professionals who treated Balltze and all his followers for their support during his illness. “Having Ball Ball in my life is the best thing ever happened,” Kathy wrote.
In her interview with Know Your Meme, Kathy reflected on what Balltze would want his legacy to be, and asked people to remember the real dog beneath the meme: “Meme fade, Doge is eternal. Remember me as ‘Balltze,’ not ‘Cheems’ or ‘cheemsburger,’ I’m just a Balltze.”
Rest in peace, Balltze! Thank you for bringing so much joy to people over the years. A true meme legend ❤️💔
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