Seventy-four thousand Instagram followers and winner of a YouTube series that garnered nearly 8 million views, Charles Avocado VanGogh has achieved internet fame.
His mother, Chelsea Harbach, a doctoral student studying plant pathology and microbiology at Iowa State, entered her dog Charles into a Twitter contest being held by Keith Habserberger. Habersberger is one of four former Buzzfeed content creators who comprised “the Try Guys”, a YouTube group with over 5 million followers.
The contest — called “the Barkchshler” — is a play on the Bachelor, where Habersberger went through over a hundred dog pictures submitted to determine which is the cutest dog.
Harbach saw the contest tweet one day and happened to have gone to Brookside Park in Ames and took photos of her dog Charles. She sent in a tweet for the contest, and said she thought little of it and didn’t expect anything of it.
“I kept getting notifications of people liking that tweet and didn’t know he was gonna do more,” Harbach said.
The first of the four video “Barkchshler” series aired July 23, 2018, while Harbach was doing RAGBRAI— the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.
"I was doing RAGBRAI and getting notifications and people were telling me to watch this video,” Harbach said. “[After] I ran out of the tent like ‘you guys, Charles is famous.'”
The competition narrowed down, and being given “the first impression bone” gave Charles immunity for the next video so Harbach did not need to submit content for the week. Harbach said she was thankful for this, as at this point Charles was having difficulty with getting around.
Charles suffers from end stage liver failure and during the competition was very ill. He had developed ulcerations on his paw, unrelated to the liver disease, however still dangerous, and causing Charles pain.
Despite all of the treatments done, Charles’ paw never got completely better. Harbach said multiple sores consistently lingered and one of his digits that didn’t ended up being broken.
“In my mind I kind of knew amputating his whole leg would probably be easiest but was also the most expensive,” Harbach said. “He’s an expensive boy.”
Vets at Iowa State’s Veterinary Hospital tried a splint to help with the toe and medications, but four days after getting it Charles acquired an infection, and the limb had to be removed.
Dr. Karin Allenspach from Iowa State’s Veterinary Hospital said that in cases of animals with liver disease, surgery can be especially dangerous.
Allenspach said the liver can’t handle the blood flow, and becomes more life threatening as the liver disease progresses. Charles at the time of his surgery had end stage liver disease.
Despite the odds, Charles pulled through, and remains unfazed by the loss of his paw.
Charles didn’t just beat the odds in his health, but also in the competition for internet fame. All the while this was happening, the Try Guys “Barkchshler” event was still going on, and Charles was a front-runner going into the final four.
When the final video came out, Harbach said she knew the video was coming out, but didn’t know that Charles had won until watching the video.
“I also saw that [Keith’s] wife Becky commented on one of my posts,” Harbach said. “She didn’t for anyone else as far as I know. I think she convinced him to pick Charles.”
To view the Youtube series click here for the first video.
You can follow Charles on Instagram here.