‘Sparkle’ the dog — a beloved presence in Somerville — was diagnosed with cancer. When the Internet found out, people showed up in droves to support her

Sparkle has long been a staple of the Somerville neighborhood between Porter and Davis squares. The 11-year-old enjoys being outdoors and can often be found sitting on the walkway to Rush’s front door on Elm Street.

For years, her sweet demeanor has won over strangers, who jump at the chance to pet her. A sign at the edge of Rush’s property introduces passersby to the lounging pup.

“My name is Sparkle,” it says. “I LOVE to be outside and meet people, all year!”

Sparkle became especially popular during the pandemic, as more people strolled through the neighborhood to escape the confines of home.

“People would stop and say how grateful they were that she was outside, and that she was such a comfort because they felt so alone and isolated,” Rush said. The family even placed a bottle of hand sanitizer on the dog’s sign for people to use before and after visits.

But it was last week, after a local photographer posted a picture of the beige, white, and black dog on Twitter that Sparkle’s popularity reached new heights, extending far beyond Somerville.

“Made a new friend on my walk today,” Eric Magnussen wrote in a Nov. 9 tweet that included an image of Sparkle near her sign.

Zooming in on Magnusson’s photograph, people noticed a second sign next to Sparkle’s introduction, letting people know that the dog needed some “extra love” because of the cancer, which had left the pooch with a sore and swollen snout.

Sparkle “has given joy and comfort to many in the neighborhood. We hope she will continue to be with us for several more months, but we cannot know,” the sign reads. “If you see her outside please continue to love her (gently).”

The tweet was shared tens of thousands of times, including by WeRateDogs, a popular account that highlights adorable canines and boasts millions of followers. More than 200,000 people “liked” it, and as it pinged across the internet, people began sharing memories of meeting Sparkle.

“I remember a couple years ago when my coworkers and I went for a walk and found Sparkle. Literally the best,” one person said.

“Sparkle is the Queen of Somerville! I always check in on her during my lunch time walks,” a second person responded.

Soon, news stations and online publications were reaching out to Sparkle’s family about her legacy on Elm Street. Word spread fast, and by the weekend people began showing up in droves outside of her home, eager to comfort the ailing dog.

“It was non-stop people,” said Rush, who adopted Sparkle from Mary’s Dogs Rescue & Adoption in New Hampshire, when she was just a year old. “Some of [her regulars] were texting me and said they tried to see Sparkle — but there was a line.”

Rush posted the sign about Sparkle’s cancer diagnosis about two weeks ago so those who had become familiar with the neighborhood mascot their favorite neighborhood pet — that some dubbed the “Mayor of Somerville” — was in poor health.

But she never imagined that it would lead to such an outpouring of support.

People have been leaving notes, treats, and toys to show their love for the dog. (While Rush and her family appreciate the gifts, they’re asking that people instead donate money to local animal rescue shelters on Sparkle’s behalf).

“We love you Sparkle!” a note from a 2019 Tufts University graduate said. “The goodest girl. An icon.”

They traveled from Melrose, Everett, and Cohasset. Others changed their running routes just to say hello.

To keep up with the demand for updates about Sparkle, Rush started a Twitter account — @MayorSparkle — to share stories and photos. Sparkle also has an Instagram account, @sparklemayorofsomerville.

“I’m getting so many messages on Instagram and Twitter, just offering her well-wishes,” she said.

Rush said Sparkle has always been an exceedingly calm and gentle pet, one whose mere presence eases the soul. She’s often thought that Sparkle would have made a perfect therapy dog.

In a way, she already is.

“Just to meet her and see her, people are just really, really touched by her,” Rush said.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.

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