Can you love dogs you have never met and who live thousands of miles away? I can, via Instagram
First there was Plume. Then came Heidi. And now they are both gone.
Plume is a teacup maltese born in 2012 who shuttled between England, Switzerland and the Caribbean.
I got to know this little white dog in August last year, soon after I started an Instagram photo-sharing account for my two dogs.
Plume "liked" one of the photos I posted (it was of course her owner who did so), and I checked out her account.
She was too cute for words. But what made her photos stand out was her glamorous lifestyle.
Her owner (her face is never seen) must have led a jet-setting life because we see Plume inside private planes, on sandy beaches, in a winter setting and atop a vintage Ferrari.
She is photographed sitting inside different Birkin bags, and one photo shows her being cuddled by the actress Gina Lollobrigida.
In late August, Plume's owner posted a photo of a forlorn-looking brown chihuahua puppy trapped inside a parrot cage in the Caribbean.
In the next few pictures, the chihuahua has been rescued, whisked into a plane and flown with Plume to Switzerland.
There followed another 25 or so photos of the chihuahua - now named Heidi - and Plume.
I was one of 5,223 people who followed Plume's adventures. The photos made me smile.
Then in October, silence.
The last photo was a montage showing Plume and Heidi sitting in a sea of autumn leaves with the message "Lovely Sunday... for Plume and Heidi".
There have been no posts since, and it's been four months already.
I'm not the only one who misses them and fears something bad has happened.
In the comments section of that last post, nearly 20 other followers from around the world have shown their concern.
"Hey baby Plume & Heidi.... I hope all is well and that maybe you all are just on a very long vacation! I hope to see you soon!?? God Bless!," said one.
I added my well wishes too.
I even resorted to some cyber sleuthing to track the two dogs down. I got as far as the name and e-mail address of a man in New York who could just be the son of Plume's owner.
Should I message him to ask if the dogs are all right, I asked H.
He gave me an incredulous look.
Don't do that, he said. The man will think you're crazy.
Actually, H thinks I'm crazy.
He can't understand why I'm so hooked on my Instagram dog friends.
Besides Plume and Heidi, I'm following more than 40 other dogs from around the world.
Many are chihuahuas. There's Katie and Ruby who live in New Zealand. They have their own pink-themed playroom, garden swing and a wardrobe filled with frilly Victorian-styled dresses.
There's also dainty Ojiro, Coco and Kojikoji from Japan, fat Timmy and Alvin from Britain, and sweet Aggi from South Korea.
There are other breeds.
Chalky, a French bulldog from Hong Kong, has a biodata that reads "I've a mouth like The Joker & a heart-shaped birth mark on my bum". He wears a lot of costumes and goes to dog parties.
Odie, a bichon frise, is an assistance dog to a girl with mental issues in Australia. Ruby, a maltipoo with ears dyed blue and pink, also lives Down Under.
One of my favourites is Marvin, a Jack Russell mix from Brooklyn, New York.
He goes to art exhibitions and has an owner who makes him say things like "Hello, I am writing an art historical essay. Here is the first sentence: Beginning in the 1960s, minimalists like Carl Andre expanded the sculptural field so that dogs could have more places to pee".
Then there are the celebrity Instagram dogs.
Balkibones, a three-legged havanese who was one of the first dogs I followed, has 93,000 fans. Barkley, a pitch-black pomeranian, has 34,000, and Tuna Melts My Heart, a chiweenie (chihuahua-daschund mix) with a deformed mouth has 700,000 followers.
Recently, these three dogs and others met Dog Whisperer Caesar Milan in Los Angeles. Photos of the meet-up were everywhere on Instagram.
That was how I came across Hank, a pitbull, and his sister Harriet, a chihuahua, both rescue dogs, who were also at the party.
Tiny Harriet likes climbing onto Hank, or as the pitbull puts it in the bio: "One day she just started sitting on me."
Is it possible to love dogs you have never met, who live thousands of miles away and whom you only know through photographs?
It sounds crazy, but I say yes.
Real or via Instagram, a dog's face warms my heart, and it's so great how they live in the moment, chewing a bone, jumping into a rain puddle, waiting for a tennis ball.
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz said happiness is a warm puppy. In this Internet age of shareable photos, happiness is also a picture of a warm puppy.
It's also nice being in the company of like-minded people.
Clearly, we belong to a dog-crazy breed, people who find delight in the antics of canines. We are from different parts of the world but are drawn by a common love for dogs. We share their beautiful moments and in return see the world afresh through their eyes.
This Instagram pursuit has brought me nothing but pleasure.
I just hope Heidi and Plume are okay.
Follow Sumiko Tan on Twitter @STsumikotan
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