Even if yours is the most popular pup at the dog park, it's likely there's another Collier County canine who has him beat in the friend count.It's Sparky, a smooth-coat dachshund that lives with Jim and Linda Glasson in North Naples.
At last count, 252 people liked "Sparky's Blog," a Facebook page that chronicles Sparky's daily life, including his jaunts around the neighborhood, his secret plans to become an astronaut and his many attempts to get his hot little muzzle on a bottle of fizzy Birch Beer.
Recently, the page has also been a place to thank the many friends, fans and well-wishers who have sent him holiday cards.
He's received more such cards than his owners.
"At the moment, he's outnumbered us," Jim Glasson said, looking down on the coffee table where all of Sparky's cards are displayed.
One card sender writes, "I will continue to pray for all puppies to find loving foreber homes," the misspelling a nod to Sparky's own unique dog-speak, used liberally on his blog.
Another writes, "I'm sure you have your Xmas list for Santa Paws, but the best gift is the family you already have."
Many of the cards are from senders the Glassons don't know; people who have learned about Sparky through his Facebook page. Some included pictures and personal messages from their own dachshunds. One person even sent Sparky a stuffed toy beaver as a Christmas gift.
Sparky loves it, by the way.
Past with pain
"He's garnered an awful lot of love, probably because of what he went through," Jim said of the little dog.
It only takes one glance at Sparky to see that he has experienced serious trauma. On his back, there is no fur — just a wide stripe of sleek, black skin and a small, jagged white spot. The Glassons lovingly call this white spot his "Harry Potter scar."
Then there is his tail, which is bent at a sharp angle.
The Glassons aren't exactly sure what happened to cause these injuries. They only know that earlier this year, Sparky was taken to a vet in Miami by his then-owners to be euthanized. The owners claimed "birds attacked him."
"That's no more a bird attack than I am Don Johnson," Jim Glasson said, shaking his head.
The little dog had received burns to a large part of his body. The Glassons speculate that Sparky was set on fire, in part because photographs of Sparky in the days after he was brought to the Miami vet match photographs they have seen of similar animal cruelty.
As for the crooked tail, Jim speculates it was caught in a closed door and never tended properly.
"Can I prove it? No. It's all supposition. But for God's sake, I can see it," he said.
The Glassons have two other dogs: beagle Boo, who is a Hurricane Katrina rescue, and Rosie, a mixed breed who was saved from a kill shelter in Georgia. When Jim learned of Sparky's plight via Facebook friends, he and Linda didn't hesitate.
If it was possible, they wanted to add Sparky to their pack, too.
Linda reached out to Dachshund Rescue of South Florida, which was working with the vet who was nursing Sparky and raising money for his care, to find out how they could adopt him. People from around the country were stepping up to help the little dog, Jim said.
And the pup, for his part, was hanging in there, despite the severity of his injuries. At the vet, they'd dubbed him "Spartacus the Warrior," eventually shortening it to "Sparky."
The Glassons were approved, and on Father's Day weekend in June, Sparky came home with the couple. As the Glassons were leaving, Sparky's new Miami friends asked Jim if he would consider writing a few thoughts on Facebook to keep them apprised of Sparky's progress.
Jim said yes, and Sparky's Blog was born.
At first, it was just Jim writing updates about Sparky's well-being to a handful of followers. But then, those followers started to ask the dog questions directly.
What could Sparky do but answer? Jim began to post updates about Sparky's everyday exploits, such as his love of chicken livers, his naps and his strolls around the neighborhood.
Then Jim got creative, adding details about Sparky's wish to travel into outer space, his love of pro football, his desire to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and his many tries to referee games of checkers between Rosie and Boo.
"I don't know what happened," Jim said. "It exploded."
Writing for Facebook
Before long, fans of the site numbered more than 250, most of whom the Glassons say they don't know. Dachshund owners post pictures and stories about their own dogs. Some people just write to tell Sparky they love him and hope he has a good day.
Many of them post in the same quirky dog speak Sparky uses to communicate, a voice that Jim said was inspired by memories of his playmates growing up in New Jersey. It's all for fun, Jim noted, but people seem to truly enjoy it.
"The people who are fantasizing about the dog are talking in his language," he said. "It's so cute."
Jim will keep writing the site until it loses popularity, he promised. But with new followers signing on to hear about Sparky's adventures every day, it seems he'll be at the keyboard for some time to come. Perhaps in the future, the couple will even find a way to use Sparky's popularity in a way that benefits other rescue pups.
Sparky is safe now, but there are many more dogs that need to find permanent families, Linda emphasized.
"They're with us for life, until that Rainbow Bridge calls," her husband added.