Belfast dog Harlso could be top dog at glittering New York gala
A Belfast dachshund who became an online sensation thanks to his ability to balance everything from a sausage to a pineapple on his head has been shortlisted for a top internet accolade, the Webby.
Harlso the Balancing Hound could be walking the red carpet in New York next month at the online version of the Oscars alongside some of the biggest names in showbusiness, including fellow nominees Will Smith, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga.
And while the five-year-old may be the underdog in the Best Social Animal category, owners Paul Lavery and Jennifer Scott are hoping his pack of loyal followers can lead the loveable canine to awards success.
"We're a little stunned by the nomination, but we've been saying we're stunned for the past three years," said Paul.
"We never thought anything like this would happen. He's just a little house dog."
Little house dog he may be, but Harlso now has a big reputation, with millions of followers across social media platforms around the world.
He's now so popular in the US that he has just been signed to a major publishing deal with the company behind the Grumpy Cat calendars, and in 2020 his own calendar will be hitting 7,500 stores across the Atlantic.
One of six shortlisted in his category, Harlso is now chasing votes against rivals such as Facebook giants The Dodo and Izzy the Frenchie, a French bulldog owned by the son of film star Whoopie Goldberg.
The Webbys, which The New York Times called "the internet's highest honour", have been rewarding the biggest names in online entertainment for the past 23 years.
This year's ceremony is on May 13 at Cipriani Wall Street in the Big Apple and will be attended by many of the internet's biggest celebrities.
Online voting opened yesterday on the webbyawards.com website.
His owners are now encouraging the public to get behind Harlso and make sure he takes his place among the stars.
"We feel like we're always asking people to vote for Harlso," said Paul.
"But this is such a major achievement to even be shortlisted. We'd love everyone to help him. People can vote once a day, every day until the voting closes on April 18. We should find out the result a few days later."
If successful, Paul and Jennifer could be packing their bags.
"We've been invited to bring Harlso to the US a couple of times, but it's difficult," Paul added. "He can fly with us on the way out, but regulations say he has to go in cargo on the way home. We don't really want to put him through that. We'd have to look at flying back to Paris or somewhere so we could get a ferry home."
After the first two days of voting things are looking promising for the east Belfast dog - he's polling 30% of the vote and is out in front by a nose.
"We have a smaller fanbase than the others shortlisted, but we know they're dedicated," said Paul.
"We've had messages from all round the world promising votes - there's even a lady in Canada who's bribing people with cookies for a vote for him! To think I thought Jen was being silly posting photos of him balancing stuff on his head at the start. I thought no one would be interested.
"Apart from his balancing trick, he's just a normal dog. He loves going for walks and hanging around the house. That's about it. He doesn't seem too bothered by the fame.
"We were a bit taken aback when all this started three years ago, but we've got more used to fans now and we're not as daunted by all the attention he gets as we used to be."