Sparkle has long been a staple of the Somerville neighborhood between Porter and Davis. The 11-year-old loves being outside and often sits on the sidewalk to Rush’s front door on Elm Street.
For years, her sweet demeanor has convinced strangers who take the chance to caress her. A sign on the edge of Rush’s property alerts passers-by to the rotting puppy.
“My name is Sparkle,” it says there. “I LOVE being outside and meeting people all year round!”
Sparkle became particularly popular during the pandemic as more and more people strolled the neighborhood to escape the confines of their home.
“People stopped and said how thankful they were that she was out and that she was such a comfort for feeling so alone and isolated,” said Rush. The family even placed a bottle of hand sanitizer on the dog’s shield for people to use before and after the visits.
But it was last week after a local photographer posted a picture of the beige-white-black dog on Twitter that Sparkle’s popularity reached new heights, reaching well beyond Somerville.
“Found a new friend on my walk today,” wrote Eric Magnussen in a November 9 tweet that included a picture of Sparkle near her sign.
Zooming in on Magnusson’s photo, people noticed a second sign besides Sparkle’s introduction that let people know the dog needed some “extra love” because of the cancer that left the pooch with a sore and swollen snout.
Sparkle “brought joy and comfort to many in the neighborhood. We hope that she will be with us for a few more months, but we cannot know, ”says the sign. “If you see her outside, please keep loving her (gently).”
The tweet was shared tens of thousands of times including by WeRateDogs, a popular account that highlights adorable canines and has millions of followers. More than 200,000 people “liked” it, and when it pinged on the internet, people started exchanging memories of meeting Sparkle.
“I remember when my co-workers and I went for a walk a few years ago and found Sparkle. Literally the best, ”said one person.
“Sparkle is the Queen of Somerville! I always check on her on my midday walks, ”replied a second person.
Soon, news networks and online publications reached out to Sparkle’s family about their Elm Street legacy. The news spread quickly, and on weekends people appeared in droves outside their house to comfort the sick dog.
“They were 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 [her regulars] texted me saying they tried to see Sparkle – but there was a line. “
Rush posted the sign about Sparkle’s cancer diagnosis about two weeks ago so that those who met the neighborhood mascot were their favorite neighborhood pet – what some referred to as the “Mayor of Somerville” – in poor health.
But she never thought it would lead to such a surge of support.
People left notes, treats, and toys to show their love for the dog. (While Rush and her family appreciate the gifts, they ask people to donate money to local animal shelters on Sparkle’s behalf instead).
Thanks to mystery givers for great gifts found in front of our door today, blankets, toys and goodies. Sparkle is very honored, however, we ask that you donate a small gift to a popular animal rescue or shelter instead !! If you don’t have a favorite it came from https://t.co/VonJ1zp5fT pic.twitter.com/7lGG9uTnri
– SparkleMayorOfSomerville (@MayorSparkle) November 14, 2021
“We love you Sparkle!” According to a note from a 2019 graduate of Tufts University. “The best girl. A symbol.”
They came from Melrose, Everett and Cohasset. Others changed their running routes just to say hello.
To keep up with the demand for updates on Sparkle, Rush set up a Twitter account – @MayorSparkle – to share stories and photos. Sparkle also has an Instagram account, @sparklemayorofsomerville.
“I get so many messages on Instagram and Twitter just congratulations,” she said.
Rush said Sparkle has always been an extremely calm and gentle pet, the very presence of which calms the soul. She has often thought that Sparkle would make a perfect therapy dog.
In a way, it already is.
“Just to meet and see her is it that people are really touched by her,” said Rush.
Glad to see people from all over the world love Sparkle – she is already a local celebrity. It’s so sad to hear that she is sick. She always brightens my day and my friend facetimes me when he sees her without me pic.twitter.com/JTsciaXVkx
– Meredith Epstein (@meriepstein) November 11, 2021
Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.