Dog lovers everywhere will be quick to tell you about how their dog makes the world a better place — or at least makes their home a better place. But science backs up the bark: affection from dogs really is medicinal.

A study published in March of 2022 reported that participants involved in an emergency room study reported decreased pain after experiencing 10 minutes of care with a therapy dog.

But what if the dog that provided affection to those who experience pain, illness, or discomfort could also support patients financially?

The Doug the Pug Foundation is a nonprofit developed by famous social media star Doug The Pug (well, by Doug’s parents, Leslie Mosier and Rob Chianelli) to bring joy and needed support outside of treatment to children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. 

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Who is Doug The Pug?

Doug The Pug is a social media sensation with over 18 million followers across the Internet. Based in Nashville, the potato-shaped prince of pop culture has won a People’s Choice Award, been featured in music videos and animated films, and posts daily photos and videos from his puggy perspective.

Doug the Pug surrounded by orange flowers
Photo of Doug the Pug / via @itsdougthepug on Instagram

Doug’s digital presence was born out of his “momager” — Mosier’s — tendency to post cute photos of him for her friends and family to see. When she realized he was a natural in front of the camera, she got more creative, and their content went viral. 

Since then, the Doug The Pug brand has been built on the idea of spreading joy and kindness to all, and now, to support children and families facing cancer and life-threatening illness.

Doug the Pug with his human parents, Rob and Leslie
Doug’s parents, Rob Chianelli and Leslie Mosier, with Doug the Pug at a Doug the Pug Foundation event / Via @dougthepugfoundation on Instagram

“There was definitely that factor that we were in the right place and the right time with going viral, but turning it into a brand is a lot of work,” Mosier said.

“We really aim to let Doug just be as much of a dog as possible, but to him, it’s not even work because he’s just having fun, going to the park, being in front of our green screen. It’s all about the connection you have with your pet.” 

Meet the Doug The Pug Foundation

When Doug the Pug’s following began to rise, Mosier said she started receiving messages about his impact. Some were from folks who lost their pets and processed their grief with Doug’s content, while another was from a boy who said he watched Doug’s videos when he was getting chemotherapy treatments.

Soon, Mosier and Chianelli took Doug to visit the local Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with Seacrest Studios, which brings creative media opportunities to children staying in the hospital, like singing along with musicians, producing a show — or visiting with their favorite social media super-dog. 

Instantly, Leslie noticed Doug’s influence.

Doug the Pug, his human owner Leslie, and a girl in a wheelchair, smiling
Doug the Pug and Leslie Mosier at an event at a children's hospital with Seacrest Studios / Via @dougthepugfoundation on Instagram

“From the very first time we were there, it was like, ‘oh, this is why we’re doing what we’re doing,’” she said. “It’s so much more than social media. Doug has this very beautiful quality of knowing who needs the most love.”  

It was then that the idea of a charitable foundation began to take form. Years later, The Doug The Pug Foundation serves children and families through generous donations and partnerships with organizations like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Sing Me A Story. 

The Doug The Pug Foundation serves families through hospital visits, helping families in need, and spreading joy and hope. Submissions from families or loved ones help determine who gets financial support from the foundation, which aims to provide relief to families outside of direct hospital treatment.

Instagram from @dougthepugfoundation: One of the many reasons we started this foundation, was to make wishes come true!  @itsdougthepug was able to make Audrey’s wish come true. Audrey and her family drove to Nashville to have a very special day with Doug. They had a pizza picnic at @cheekwood and Audrey got all of the best Doug stuffed animals.  Audrey said “she had the best day ever” and we can’t be more thankful to @makeawishmidtn for providing us this opportunity to make her smile 💛
Doug the Pug with Audrey, as a part of a Make a Wish Foundation wish in Tennessee / Via @dougthepugfoundation on Instagram

“We are able to use the funds we’ve raised to directly go to these families for expenses we don’t always think about,” Mosier said.

“For example, one of the recipients’ parents had to quit their jobs and get a second home near the hospital, which was hours away. It was a massive financial strain, so we were able to help them in whatever way they needed.”

Donations also support families in happiness and healing by using the funds to go on a trip to Disney World, or buy items that bring comfort during these difficult times. 

“That’s just as important as paying the bills,” Mosier said. 

Doug the Pug’s Impact

As part of bringing joy and healing to families and children impacted by cancer, the Doug the Pug team and supporters will send “Pug Love” packages to children in hospitals, has helped tell a young girl’s story through songwriting, and made a young girl’s dream of meeting Doug come true.

The first recipient of money from the Doug The Pug Foundation was a girl named Azaelea, whose family received over $15,000 fundraised by the foundation. Although Azaela lost her battle with cancer, the support her family received from the foundation made a world of difference.

Tweet: Doug The Pug @itsdougthepug We are rasing money  @DTPfoundation  for sweet Azaelea, a fellow pug owner who has a rare form of Leukemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. She is a FIGHTER. All of the financial burden is falling on her family & they need our help.  Donate here: http://dougthepugfoundation.org

“I cannot properly express how meaningful this relationship was for Azaelea,” her mother, Jessica Bleichner, wrote on Facebook. “Azaelea’s last Christmas and long hospital stay were made so much better with the grant we received. It gave us the financial wiggle room to say yes to many things our girl wanted or needed.”

Mosier said that everything the foundation does now is to honor Azaelea, breathing her legacy into the work that uplifts and supports all other families like hers. 

Mosier has encountered a number of parents who are grateful for the support Doug and his foundation have brought to their children.

“This one parent in Nashville came up to us after a hospital visit, and she said: ‘That's the first time I've seen my son smile in three months,’” Mosier said. “It’s one thing to see Doug's cute videos and photos, but to actually meet him, he knows who to go up to, who needs that joy.”

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Hope and Healing

The foundation’s impact has ripple effects and is especially important to Mosier, who has struggled with endometriosis for nearly a decade and found Doug to be an integral part of her healing.

“We need our brains to be operating on a low-stress level to heal in any sort of capacity,” Mosier said. “Seeing Doug with those children, I think there are these moments where we can focus on something good, and it’s all about joy. I’ll look at Doug and realize I just need to be like him. He’s just living life to live life, and that’s how it should be.”

"Seeing Doug with those children, I think there are these moments where we can focus on something good, and it's all about joy."

Mosier said she has learned a number of lessons from Doug and believes his penchant for joy can be a catalyst for his followers everywhere. 

Doug the Pug smiling with his tongue out at the beach
Photo of Doug the Pug / via @itsdougthepug on Instagram

“I think animals teach us a really beautiful lesson to love everybody and every creature,” Mosier said. “When I need to see good, I will spend time with animals, because there is no ego, nothing external.”

She hopes that just like Doug can snuggle up to a child who needs the most love, others can sit with someone new at a lunch table, or extend a hand to a neighbor in need.

“There is always going to be a dark side of the Internet, and we all have the power to be the good side of the Internet,” Mosier said. “And Doug has really brought that out in us.”

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A version of this article was originally published in The Animals Edition of the Goodnewspaper.

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