“This hot pink bitch was named breakfast!!!” is a string of words and punctuation that’s just barely coherent enough to communicate its subject matter (a magenta dog that is named after a meal) and just crazed enough to inspire intense devotion. The sentence was written, possibly for the first time in history, in a March 22, 2018, post to “Dogspotting” by Katie Dawson along with a blurry snap of a roseate Pomeranian.
In Dogspotting, the 1.8 million-member Facebook group, people post pictures of dogs they’ve spotted and assign them semi-arbitrary point value. It was a mid-2010s internet triumph: one of those rare low-stakes, positivity-only outposts on an increasingly sour and combative internet. In 2014, Buzzfeed News went as far as to declare that Dogspotting would “save Facebook.” (It did not.) And Katie, whose superior snaps and nonchalant captions had already turned her into a power poster, was doing her part. Her 2016 Dogspotting debut “Dog chillin on the waterfront” was an instant success, but Katie continued to hone her craft with “This puppy’s name was storm and it wrecked me like a freaking hurricane” and “Little cherub who are you.”
But the hot pink bitch named Breakfast was Katie’s uncontested magnum opus. It was a once-in-a-generation spotting, a bizarrely urgent caption (its tight prose rivals Hemingway; its matter-of-fact treatment of the unreal recalls Borges), and an affecting work of art. The response was immediate, and comments like “Breakfast is SERVED hunnny” and “never in my LIFE have I felt more connected to an animal” started rolling in. “BREAKFAST. BREAKFAST,” reads another comment, “you’re kidding me. BREAKFAST.”
I became consumed by the snap of a six-pound spitz. Who would name their dog Breakfast? Who would dye Breakfast pink? Where is Breakfast now, and is Breakfast happy? Not only was I firmly in the Breakfastverse; I was falling into a black hole.
I’m not alone. People on Tumblr make Breakfast fan art. Fans on Redbubble sell Breakfast stickers and terminally online posters call themselves “Breakfast” when they dye their hair pink. People dress up like Breakfast for Halloween, and the electronic music artist Gupi, who happens to be the 23-year-old son of skateboarder Tony Hawk, has a line in a 2020 song that goes, “I feel like a hot pink bitch named Breakfast (yeah).” Gupi told me that the line was written by his collaborator Frax, who first saw Breakfast on Twitter and “loves how much Breakfast sticks out from her surroundings.” “Mos Thoser,” the song with the Breakfast line, is Frax’s most popular song to this day, and it inspired a Swedish 26-year-old named Clara Cardell to make a rug of the pink Pomeranian. While Breakfast has spawned imitations (“crazy purple hoe named brunch”), there’s nothing like the OG. Breakfast is served, and the internet is coming to get it.
But Breakfast is, at least by the standards of viral animals, underexposed. Unique among internet-famous pets, Breakfast has no curated online presence, no brand deals, no intention to be anything other than a hot pink bitch. Breakfast presumably doesn’t even know they are hot pink, as dogs are colorblind and pink is not a color they see.
A few weeks ago, after I saw a periodic repost of the photo, I realized that the photo was four years old, and that’s about 30 percent of a Pomeranian’s lifespan, which made me sick with fear that Breakfast might have died. I’d lose my breakfast if I lost my Breakfast!
So I cracked my knuckles, opened a new tab, and started my quest for Breakfast. First, I tracked down Katie, Breakfast’s original spotter who now lives in Arlington, Va., and works in partnerships at a philanthropy organization. The Dogspotting Facebook group has an ironclad rule against posting dogs you know, so it was unlikely that Katie and Breakfast had a long-established relationship, but I hoped that maybe she had stayed in touch with the dog’s owners. I mean, they’d presumably struck up a conversation when they told her Breakfast’s name. I pestered Katie with a few messages and eventually she replied to say that she did not know Breakfast’s whereabouts. “Pretty wild that I still get people reaching out about this when I took that picture close to five years ago,” she added, making it clear that she’d moved on. I, unfortunately, had not.
The original snap offers almost no clues to Breakfast’s location beyond the New York City geotag: All you can see are a few bikes in the background, a leash, a foot, and a hand holding a green poop bag. Breakfast is shrouded in mystery, and my obsessive searching on the internet’s backwaters (i.e. the double-digit pages of Google results) was yielding nothing. I posted desperate pleas for Breakfast information on Instagram and Twitter to see if the internet hivemind knew anything, but no tips came in.
I was getting close to putting Breakfast’s face on milk jugs when I mentioned Breakfast to my friend Reed Kavner, who happens to be in the first page of results when you do a Google Images search for “white guy” (this isn’t relevant to the story). Reed, a sucker for profoundly dumb projects, became invested and quickly pointed me toward New York City’s publicly available dog license data, which counts half a million registered dogs. Oh, the wonders of the modern world and open data legislation. To my astonishment, seven dogs in New York City are registered under the name Breakfast. And only one is a Pomeranian.
But the only useful information listed was the zip code where Breakfast had been registered, which was 10012—a square of lower Manhattan that covers SoHo and Washington Square Park. After some diversion in the dog registry (there’s one NYC dog named Lunch, none named Dinner, and 27 named Snack, in case you were wondering), we turned to a new strategy.
We asked each other, “If you were a hot pink bitch named Breakfast, where would you be?” The answer, instantly obvious, is Instagram. Reed and I looked through the hashtags #breakfastdog and #breakfastthedog, which turned out to be mostly galleries of egg-topped hot dogs or dogs eating bacon, until we found one blurry shot of a Pomeranian by a couch. A bit of sleuthing revealed that Breakfast’s owners had been in an NYC-based punk band—making them the exact type of people you’d expect to dye a dog hot pink, I suppose. Soon enough, I was on the phone with them.
“We got him in 2012 and first dyed him pink in 2013,” Sofia, 33, told me while she was making dinner for her human toddler. In this moment, I realized that Breakfast was a he—a hot pink bro, as it turns out.
In 2012, Sofia and Johnny, now 43, had been partying at a house with a Pomeranian and impulsively decided to buy their own the next day. They followed a Craigslist lead to East New York where they met a teenager who described her unstable living environment and desperation to rehome the dog. “She told us that Breakfast was born at a Wendy’s,” Johnny said. They took him home and changed his name from Coco to Breakfast, which Johnny had been saving for years: “He’s just a very important man who goes with a very important meal,” he explained. (Despite the sentiment, Johnny does not regularly eat breakfast.) Eventually, though, they came around on the name Coco. “Ironically,” Johnny told me, “that’s what we ended up naming our daughter.”
The young Breakfast was so malnourished he could only walk for 20 feet at a time. “His legs were tiny macaronis,” Johnny remembered. But after a healthy diet and regular exercise, he got stronger, and after a few months, they decided to dye him pink.
Why, I asked, which felt to me like an obvious question. To which Johnny asked a question of his own: “Where does anyone get their ideas?” Fair enough. “It’s punk rock, fuck it!” he added.
“I thought it would be so funny to have a pink dog in New York City, and it was,” Sofia said. “You could not walk down the street without getting comments and shrieks of joy.” Occasionally, sidewalk hecklers would give them a hard time, but Johnny and Sofia knew that Breakfast didn’t mind his fuchsia life. “He always is fine with baths and anything that involves pets,” Sofia said. “Being dyed was like a long, extended massage.” In case you were worried, there’s a whole cottage industry of pet-safe hair dyes, which industry leader Opawz calls “creative grooming,” and their one-star Amazon reviews are exquisite found poetry.
It took a while for Johnny and Sofia to realize the extent of their dog’s internet fame. “There’s merch, t-shirts, water coolers, water bottles…?” Johnny said, still a little incredulous about the whole thing. “It’s crazy that … the only time I’ve gone viral was for holding a bag of dog shit.”
Upon my request, they sent me a file of Breakfast pictures from the past decade. Breakfast in costume! Breakfast making beats! Breakfast in a beret!
The dog, now at least 10 years old—nobody’s sure of his exact age—is living his best life in Western Massachusetts where he’s “all natural” (not pink). Johnny calls him “the laziest, cuddliest man,” adding that he wears doggie diapers these days since he’s incontinent. “He’s not looking as fabulous as his pink fur on the Bowery days,” Sofia said, “but he’s the most lovable guy.”