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When UT senior Charli Kilpatrick posted a YouTube video of her chocolate lab, Dudley, for her celebrity culture class, she was worried it wouldn’t get the required 1,000 views.
Turns out that fear was seriously misplaced. The first day the video, called “Ruff Dog Day,” went live on YouTube, it got 10,000 views. Now, just a week later, that number has surpassed 720,000.
“I thought, ‘Holy cow, this has to be wrong!'” Kilpatrick, a government major, says. “I wasn’t thinking it was going to go viral.”
The video, which stars 1-year-old Dudley getting ready for the day with human hands, was part of a group project in UT professor Joshua Gunn’s CMS 366C Celebrity Culture course. The mid-semester assignment aimed to get students thinking about how a blog or video gets publicity through circulation.
“The unpredictability of the assignment is part of the learning experience—heck, it’s part of the joy of teaching the class,” Gunn says. “I never know what is going to happen, even though I can sometimes predict the broad strokes. I’m pretty excited to see how this group’s experience turns out.”
It’s safe to say Kilpatrick’s group has learned a thing or two about circulation. “Ruff Day” has been featured on the likes of NPR, Perez Hilton, and Gawker. Not bad for a project that took her just a half hour the Sunday before it was due.
Kilpatrick says she got the idea for the video after watching a video on website StumbleUpon featuring a dog eating with human hands. Thinking she could top it, she employed Dudley, whom she received as a gift last Christmas, to be her star—but working with the “super chill” lab did present some challenges.
“We went through like six sandwiches before we finished filming,” Kilpatrick says. “Dudley kept inhaling the whole thing too quickly. It was hard to get him to take small bites!”
The video, which is only one component of the group’s publicity project, has gained a surprising international following. It aired on a morning show in Canada last week, Kilpatrick reports, and several German news stations have requested interviews with her.
Her previous lack of tech-savviness has left her caught off-guard by all the attention. “I’m not technology smart,” she says. “I’d never uploaded a video to YouTube. I don’t have a Twitter account. [Actress] Denise Richards apparently tweeted the link, but I can’t even see it!”
Now that Dudley is a bona fide Internet sensation, Kilpatrick is considering making more videos—but this time, not for class.
“I’m thinking about doing a video of things around Austin, like dog-friendly restaurants or events,” she says. “It’d be great promotion for the restaurants, and I’d get to show off some of Austin’s best features.”
Keep up with Kilpatrick’s videos on her YouTube channel, charlitabonita10.