Enrico Genosse relaxes in his workshop on the Isle of Dogs after releasing the Old English Sheepdog. Drawing upon his own expertise in artificial intelligence from his work in real life augmented by the knowledge of his neuroscientist son, Mr. Genosse has created dogs that are remarkably life-like and endearing.

The Story of the Creation of the VKC® Dogs

People often ask, "What is so special about the dogs of the Virtual Kennel Club (VKC)?

Well, what a wonderful question this is! The dogs really are marvelous, aren't they? We all know that they are not real dogs, but they act so much like dogs, one might think that an actual dog has logged in to join their avatar in Second Life. We love our VKC Dogs and take great pains to make sure that they are well treated. Many people don't even like to put their dogs into inventory, preferring to leave their dogs inworld when they log off so that the animals can explore and play.

“The VKC Dogs embody the best of what a dog is,” Blu Sparkle explains. “They greet you with glee. They follow you anywhere. They do things just to amuse and delight you. They seem to respond to the owner's mood. They do all these things without ever leaving a mess.”

There has been some misunderstanding about where the dogs come from and I can clear that up for you. If you have a few minutes to sit back, listen while I tell you the true story about the VKC Dogs.

Back in June of 2006, after reading an article in Wired Magazine, Enrico Genosse appeared in SL for the first time. He was not sure what he wanted to do, but he was curious about the possibilities. “It seemed like an interesting opportunity because it involved real people.”

The first question facing him was what would he would do. “I knew I wanted to create an intelligent agent that interacted with others, wandered on its own initiative, adapted to its environment, and was able to learn as it went.” He considered building a robot, then a soldier, and while he was pondering this question, he absent-mindedly was petting his own Chihuahua. That was it! Enrico would make a dog.

“What theme, what style would suit me?” Enrico wondered as he wandered during those first days. Discovering Caledon, he found his place. “I liked the formality of the society and the politeness of the residents.” As a bonus, Caledon is a Victorian society, the society that gave birth to the very first kennel club in real life. How perfect!

And so, the ideas of the Virtual Kennel Club and the VKC Dogs were created.

Of course having an idea and bringing it to fruition are two very different things. “I am not an artist,” Mr. Genosse admits. “So I advertised to find someone who could build the dog.” After a couple of unsuccessful efforts at collaboration, he gave up on this idea.

With no particular breed in mind, Mr. Genosse began assembling some prims and “Voilá," he said. " I had a Bloodhound!” It was almost as though the dog had trailed him. With the scripts for the dog all ready to go, he placed them in the Bloodhound and, Bo, the first VKC dog was born in August 2006.

“As soon as I released the Bloodhound,” Mr. Genosse recalled, “I was flooded with requests.” One person in particular had befriended Enrico in those early days, a fellow by the name of Exrex Somme, and it was he who lobbied successfully for an Irish Wolfhound to be the next dog. Although Mr. Genosse was not familiar with the breed, he went ahead with the plan. However, he has never really been satisfied with the look of Pluto, the resulting dog.

Now, he relies on the advice and feedback of Blu Sparkle as well as his wife in real life to help him develop the look of the dogs.

The Australian Shepherd, Admiral, was the third dog. This breed was the choice of the winner of the first VKC Raffle. In the early days, people could purchase raffle tickets, as many as they wanted, and the holder of the randomly-selected winning raffle ticket won the opportunity to select the next breed to be created by Enrico. This process for selecting the next breed seemed like a fair way to choose among the many, many requests for breeds that poured in every day. The practice continued until the Lindens put a ban on gambling.

In August of 2008, the first vote was held to select a breed for development. Since the introduction of the German Shepherd, the breed with the maximum votes, the results of this vote has provided ample fodder for expansion of the breed roster.

What else is there? Mr. Genosse hosted the VKC Mutt Contest. After people submitted photographs and sounds of their favorite mixed-breed dog, these submissions were put to a vote. The winning mutt, Widget, became the model for the new dog, with part of the proceeds of its sales going to support real life rescue organizations.

Right before the mutt was released, Mr. Genosse surprised everyone with a Polar Bear. The Polar Bear was a limited release that was available only though the New Years Holiday in 2009. It was briefly available in the spring of 2011 as part of the VKC support of Project FUR Japan, an SL-wide effort to raise funds for Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support.

Since that time, Mr. Genosse has created several more breeds of dogs. Additionally, in October 2011, he introduced two wolves, a grey and a black, and for the 2011 holiday season, he created the Polar Bear Cub, as a companion to the popular Polar Bear. Shortly thereafter, he released an upgrade to the Penguin.

In March 2012, again with an eye to supporting charitable efforts, he created a black Great Dane, donating all of the adoption fees for this dog in support of Relay for Life of Second Life and the search for a cure for cancer.

As time marched on, the original VKC Dogs, made of prims, were really showing their age. Dogs that were clever in 2006 had begun to look clumsy and cartoon-like. What was needed was a major update to the appearance of the original dogs. As Mr. Genosse began to turn his attention to reinventing the original prim dogs as sculpted dogs, Linden Labs introduced Pathfinding, a set of tools and functions that enables the dogs to move more smoothly and intelligently. These two factors spurred a complete redesign to the VKC dogs, beginning with the first dog, the Bloodhound. 

In September 2012, the VKC released the Bloodhound II, a ground up rebuild of the dog using all the modelling skills and techniques perfected over the years and a few new ones. This is the first dog in all of SL to use the Second Life Pathfinding system to navigate around without crashing into things.

Continuing with his tradition of giving us a holiday surprise, Mr. Genosse released in quick succession: a VKC Cat and then another cat, a major update to the Polar Bear and the Polar Bear cub, and finally, right before Christmas, he wowed us all with not one, not two, but four lovable, wiggly puppies!

Currently, he is working alternately on the next big thing for the VKC and on updating the older dogs. He remains dedicated to creating these fabulous animals that have become so widely known and loved in Second Life, and is delighted to have celebrated the Sixth Anniversary of the Virtual Kennel Club in SL in August, 2012.❧

Chronology of the VKC Dogs

Breed Introduced
Bloodhound August 2006
Irish Wolfhound August 2006
Australian Shepherd September 2006
Newfoundland December 2006
Labrador Retriever January 2007
Chow-chow April 2007
Rottweiler March 2007
Doberman March 2007
Bichon Frise July 2007
Hyena September 2007
Chihuahua September 2007
German Shepherd June 2008
Old English Sheepdog February 2009
Portuguese Water Dog May 2009
Polar Bear December 2009
Mutt (Widget) December 2009
White German Shepherd February 2010
Jack Russell Terrier April 2010
Penguin December 2010
Siberian Husky August 2011
Golden Retriever September 2011
Wolf October 2011
Polar Bear Cub December 2011
Great Dane December 2011
Penguin (updated) January 2012
Dachshund February 2012
RFL Great Dane March 2012
Bloodhound II September 2012
Black Cat November 2012
Ginger Cat December 2012
Polar Bear and Polar Bear Cub (pathfinding update) December 2012
Puppies: Alder, Birch, Cedar, and Dogwood December 2012
Golden Retriever (pathfinding update) January 2013
Yorkshire Terrier March 2013
Bunny April 2013
Black Great Dane April 2013
Dingo July 2013
Puppy: Elm Puppy August 2013
Rabbit Halloweenthe Vampire Bunny October 2013
Irish Wolfhound II November 2013
Puppy: Fir Puppy December 2013
Brown Bengal Cat December 2013
Australian Shepherd II June 2014
Puppy: Geiger Puppy September 2014
Puppy: Hickory Puppy December 2014