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Monday, December 6, 2021

Meet ‘Ugly Alan’: Qatar’s most famous TikTok dog

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A special dog with a “wonky” face who was abandoned in the desert a year ago becomes a TikTok star with the help of his forever family.

A year ago, Johanna was driving back home from the mall with her daughter when she found two dogs with collars abandoned in the desert. Upon closer look, she found a litter of tiny puppies, that were not yet three months old, softly barking for help. 

Among them was a tiny brown dog who looked slightly different than the rest. Though his face was a little bit wonky,  there was something truly special and beautiful about him, she told Doha News.

Without much thought, Johanna took the puppies home and began the journey of trying to locate forever homes for them. But for the little wonky puppy who she later named Alanshe knew he already found one with her.

“Alan.. I just fell in love with him. I knew right away that whatever happens, he will end up with me,” Johanna Handley, Alan’s owner told Doha News. “From the day he got here, he was immediately part of our family. He just fit right in.”

However, for the other dogs, the journey was not that easy. The adoption process in Qatar is challenging and quite expensive, Johanna explains.  

“I had to look after the mum, dad and three other puppies. I had to somehow finance them to go to America, find homes for them and even shelter because I couldn’t have them at home,” Johanna said.

“I start collecting donations and reaching out to people so I can ship the dogs to their homes. It is quite expensive to do it on your own and shelters are usually full and doing the best they can.”

Luckily, after consistent effort and donations from volunteers, all dogs were able to land successfully and settled into their new homes. Alan, on the other hand, stayed with Johanna and became part of her family.

 “Alan was born with a birth defect where his nose and mouth are sort of growing in the opposite direction. But he has no idea that he looks different, he is a very happy dog,” she added.

“He is a very special dog. And honestly, I was afraid no one else would take him.”

But after several months, something happened that changed the family’s life. 

One day, Johanna found her young daughter filming a TikTok video that broke her heart. 

“She was looking into the camera and words like “no one loves me” were popping up. My heart sank and I didn’t know what to do. I had two options, either take the platform away from her or turn it into something that resonates positivity,” Johanna said.

She decided to do the latter, and began to film her daughter with Alan before posting the short clips on TikTok. One day, she woke up to thousands of likes and comments from people around the world asking for more videos of Alan.

To her alarm, some people even requested Alan merchandise.

 “It was just a normal video of him wiggling his tail,” she said, “and it just blew up. It completely changed how my daughter uses TikTok and made Alan famous.”

Read also: ‘The world’s cutest animal’ is coming to Qatar

After garnering thousands of followers and fans from all around the world, Johanna decided to put the platform to good use: raising awareness about stray dogs in Qatar and gathering donations. 

She created merchandise under the name “Alan the Ugly Dog” and began using profit made from the sales to donate to shelters and animals in need across the country.

The name is tongue-in-cheek and does not reflect Alan at all, she assures, noting his imperfections are what makes him special to the world.

“We’ve been through quite a lot this year, and Alan has made it so much easier. He’s like a natural therapy dog. All I need to do is touch him or look at him and everything will be better.”

From abandonment in the desert to global online fame, Alan now has 174,000 followers on TikTok, millions of likes and his own merchandise that both helps raise awareness and makes positive change for other animals like him. 

Doha News visited Alan and his family in their home in Doha. Check out our exclusive video below:


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