updated 04/01/2010 AT 2:26 PM ET
•originally published 03/31/2010 AT 3:00 PM ET
What do you do when your 1-year-old dog cracks an almost human-like smile at his first birthday party? Grab the camera–fast!
That’s just what happened when Maureen Ravelo of San Jose, Calif., noticed her dog Riley grinning from ear to ear after he was presented with his first birthday cake in January. A month after the pampered pooch’s birthday bash, Ravelo, a recent college-grad from UC-San Diego, posted the photo on Facebook to give her friends a good laugh.
“I thought it was the funniest picture I’ve ever seen,” she tells PEOPLEPets.com.
That day, John Lipari, a friend of Ravelo’s, saw the hilarious photo online during an evening class, posted it on Reddit.com, and catapulted Riley into overnight viral superstardom. Countless blogs and Web sites, including The Huffington Post, caught on to Riley’s winning grin, branding the Bichon Frise-poodle mix as “The Birthday Dog,” “Smiley Riley,” and the “Stoner Dog.” One Web site even photoshopped the smiling puppy into the arms of President Obama.
All of this publicity has taken Ravelo by surprise. “I’m actually happy that a lot of people really enjoy Riley’s picture because it was just a random picture that I posted,” she tells PEOPLEPets.com. “I didn’t think that it would get so huge!”
Maureen Ravelo’s parents welcomed Riley at just 4 weeks old, and have treated the smiling star as one of the family ever since. When Maureen moved back home from college, she noticed the new family pet displaying his now famous human-like expressions.
“He’ll smile at you, especially when you come home from work,” she says. “He can do difference faces. Whenever I try to pet him when he’s asleep, he shoots me a look as if I just disturbed him … He’s known for that. Part of him is pretty snobbish, but for the most part, he’s just a pampered poodle with a playful attitude!”
Although she admits that witnessing Riley’s looks of happiness and annoyance can be, “really, really creepy,” they serve as proof that Riley is more than just a pet. “Every single time I see that picture online, and the more I look at it, the more I’m convinced that it actually isn’t a dog,” she says. “A lot of people have said things like, ‘I’m convinced that it’s a little boy in a dog suit.’ “
See more smiling pets on PEOPLEPets.com!