Note: BarkPost has – from time to time – received emails, comments, and Facebook messages requesting that we not write tragic or rough (ruff?) dog stories, so we felt it was necessary to respond.
I get why people don’t want to read sad stories about the unfortunate things that happen to dogs. About shelters burning down. About animal abuse and neglect and abandonment. About dogfighting, dog slaughter, bait dogs, and the like. Cancer! Bucket lists! End of life care! Sarah McLachlan! The list goes on and on.
Trust me, I get it all. Sometimes stories are too sad for me to read in their entirety. Sometimes I’m at work or on the train or at my nephew’s dodgeball game when I come across a dog article and the tears just start flowing. Those tears don’t care that I’m in public. They don’t care that a grown man bawling his eyes out in front of others – for no discernible reason, as far they’re concerned – is beyond embarrassing. They just do what they do. And I just do whatever I can to stop myself from squealing like some sort of man-pig hybrid.
In fact, I occasionally get so emotional about dogs – about all the sad things, but some of the good things, too – that I wonder what life would be like if I were completely emotionless. I half-jokingly have told my wife that I wish I were born a sociopath…but, you know, the good kind of sociopath who was raised to do good things (sort of like Dexter but for helping dogs instead of murdering serial killers).
The point is, I get where people are coming from when they object to the difficult stuff we sometimes publish. And yet, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t publish them.
I’m not going to lie to you – BarkPost is a website that thrives on traffic. We live and die by the unique page view. As the editor of the BarkGood vertical, part of my job is getting stories seen by as many people as possible.
But at the same time, I wouldn’t have wanted this job if I didn’t genuinely believe that what we published was in the service of good. Animal welfare is deeply important to each and every one of us at BarkPost. Many of us adopt dogs, some of us foster or have fostered, and all of us support rescue organizations to some degree or another.
I consider myself a Pit Bull advocate whose brain – or, like, 89% of it – is consumed by thoughts of Pibbles and/or Pibbling on a daily basis. Everybody has that one issue, the issue that they care about most, and Pit Bulls are mine.
So when we publish a story about a Pit Bull being kicked out of town despite being a good, devoted family dog, we do it because we want to raise awareness about the prejudice these dogs face every day – from the media, from certain animal rights’ organizations, from the government, and so forth.
When we write about dogfighting – and all the terrible, horrible things that go along with it – we do it because the world needs to know that this sort of wretchedness still exists. We do it to remember all the wonderful dogs who have survived it – some who have since passed and some who are now thriving, despite all the pain and torture they received at the hands of their so-called “humans.”
When we write about Fospice (hospice for dogs), we do it because we want to help the amazing people behind Foster Dogs NYC in whatever way that we can. We want to get as many eyes on that article – yes, for traffic, but also because more eyes means more donations, more volunteers, more people who might be willing to foster, and in the end, more senior dogs whose lives can be saved. The last time we shared this article, Foster Dogs NYC received $1,200 dollars for their Fospice GoFundMe and were able to significantly raise their fundraising goal. (FYI, they’re less than $300 away from their current goal, in case you want to chip in.)
When we write about people suffering from depression and how dogs can help them – as was the case with Julie Barton, author of the book Dog Medicine – we do it so that our readers with similar experiences can know that they’re not alone in their pain, and that they’re not alone in having been saved by their canine companion. Here’s something Julie wrote to us after we reviewed her book:
Thank you so, so much. I have been reading the hundreds of Facebook posts – and I’m just overwhelmed with happiness. I’m weeping, actually. There have already been over 3000 likes and 600 shares and hundreds of people are writing their stories in the comments section – each one is a version of my story. I really believe now: I am not alone. I was never alone. So many people feel this. So many people go through times where they get up in the morning only because their dog needs them. Dogs do so, so much for us. Thank you for posting this piece. Thank you for reading the book. Thank you for being part of BarkPost and such an amazing family of readers!
And when we publish stories about sad, lonely shelter dogs who desperately need homes, we do it because we desperately want those dogs to find homes. Take Poly the blind Pit Bull, for example. We shared her story when no one wanted her, not even a rescue. One day later, we received an email from a shelter employee saying that the article had generated a ton of interest in Poly and, as a result, they would be transferring her to Forever Home Pet Rescue the following Monday. Now, Poly is living out the remainder of her days with a family that loves and cares for her.
I don’t mean to build us up in all of this. The work we do doesn’t even begin to compare to that of the men and women in the trenches – rescue workers, volunteers, advocates for change, and so forth – who help dogs every day and never ask for anything in return. But as long as those people are out there saving and improving the lives of these animals, we’re going to write stories about them at BarkPost. About bringing an end to puppy mills. About getting dogs off chains. About ending Breed-Specific Legislation. About the good dog things, the sad dog things, and the in-between dog things.
Because ultimately, if our stories can help dogs in need – even in the smallest of ways – it’ll have been worth it, immeasurably, to have published them. Yes, even if they turn me into a squealing man-pig hybrid in the middle of rush hour service on the R train. Did I mention that crying is my least favorite bodily function?
Featured image via iStock