On Monday, Noodle, a 13-year-old pug, sleepily rose from his bed.
That meant one thing: It was a “bones day.”
“You’ve got to treat yourself today,” the dog’s owner, Jonathan Graziano, 30, said, addressing viewers in a narrated TikTok video. “The Japanese fried chicken you were going to order for lunch? Get the curry to dip it in. All those festive gourds? Buy them. That raise you deserve, but haven’t asked for yet? You totally deserve it. Ask for it.”
The TikTok video was played more than 10.9 million times by people who checked in to see if it was going to be a “bones” day (when Noodle rises) or “no bones” day (when Noodle gingerly plops back into his bed like someone who just hit the snooze button).
To be clear, this isn’t a story about a boneless dog. Noodle has bones. But millions of people across the internet are using Mr. Graziano’s TikTok videos as a daily horoscope of sorts to see what kind of day they will have. Think of Noodle as a four-legged mood ring.
“Bones days” are good days. As Mr. Graziano said in his TikTok, it’s a day to get out and treat yourself. But that doesn’t necessarily mean “no bones” days are bad.
“Obviously, a bones day is a day to celebrate,” Mr. Graziano said during a phone interview on Wednesday while walking Noodle in Upper Manhattan. “No bones days? I don’t think they’re bad days. I think they are days where you just need to be very kind to yourself, sensitive of others, wear your sweatpants, take a bubble bath, self-care. That kind of thing. That’s certainly how Noodle handles his no bones days.”
Mr. Graziano’s TikTok videos have drawn millions of views. Wednesday was a “bones day,” which Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana took advantage of to motivate people in his state to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
“All right, Louisiana: Today is a bones day,” the governor said in a video online. “And while every day is a great day to get your vaccination, today is an extraordinarily good day.”
The NHL’s Colorado Avalanche attributed their Tuesday night loss to a “no bones” day.
“Blame it on a ‘no bones’ day,” the hockey team said on Twitter after losing, 6-3, to the Washington Capitals.
You might be wondering why you’re reading about a dog and his bones, and why — with everything that’s happening in the world — this dog would even make the news. But there’s more than just another pet video going viral.
Between an online world, where it’s easy to insult a stranger from behind a screen, and a real world rife with fears of climate doom, political divisiveness pandemic and a stubborn lies a safe space with a soft dog bed.
“I think people are just hanging on by a thread,” Mr. Graziano said. “I think people are tired. I think they’re scared. I think they’re stressed out, and I think they really need a distraction.”
Mr. Graziano, who works as a social media manager for a web hosting company, said he thought that living through the pandemic had been a great source of anxiety for many, especially for those who spend a lot of time online.
“Twitter is where I ruin my day more often than anywhere,” he said. “I’ll get a glass of water at 4 am, absent-mindedly open Twitter, and just think, ‘Oh my gosh, I ruined my day before it even started.’ How on earth is this the world we’re living in?”
Mr. Graziano started making “bones” or “no bones” videos sporadically in August and has recently stepped up the pace to several a week. To some degree, he has been playing the “bones” game with Noodle since he first got him.
“We learned very early on, like within the first week of having him, that when Noodle is just waking up or if Noodle has been sleepy or lazy or lounge-y for a while, he will decide when he starts to move,” he said.
Over the past couple of weeks, the number of likes, views and comments on Mr. Graziano’s TikToks have multiplied.
“It’s been awesome to see the positivity,” he said. “To share this dog with people brings me so much joy.”
On a recent “bones day,” Mr. Graziano said, he read a comment on TikTok from a user who said that she had showed the video to her sick 80-year-old mother and that the video had inspired her to get up and go for a walk.
“That touched me so deeply,” Mr. Graziano said. “I have no idea how far this reaches, but it does. It’s doing so much positive work for so many people that I want to continue to share these videos.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Graziano posted a “duet,” a TikTok feature that lets someone watch someone else’s post and record a reaction, with a young woman singing a song about how to handle a “no bones” day.
“Noodle said it’s fine if I don’t get dressed,” the woman sings in the video. “Noodle said that it was OK. Noodle said that it was quite all right if I don’t leave my house all night. It’s a no bones day.”
Mr. Graziano has had Noodle since January 2016, when he got him from a woman who had been fostering him after Noodle was surrendered by his previous owner. With Noodle’s companionship, Mr. Graziano has been able to ride out the pandemic.
“Having a dog is the best thing that I’ve done for me,” he said. “No matter what is going on in my life or what’s going on in the world, this dog has no clue. He still has to eat every morning. He’s got to go on his walks.”
For now, Mr. Graziano said he plans to keep making “bones” or “no bones” videos as long as Noodle is comfortable.
“I’m trying to take it one day at a time with him, because he’s doing good, but he’s almost 13 and a half,” he said. “It’s important to just make sure that these are always videos that he’s comfortable in.”
Noodle was too comfortable to get up on Thursday. In a TikTok video, Mr. Graziano gently picked him up, only to watch him softly tumble back into his bed. It was a “no bones” day.
“Wear soft pants today. No hard pants on a ‘no bones’ day,” he said. Say no to plans.