The rescue story you would not watch is the one that will not have a shocking thumbnail that will make you go “wow”. It will not have a dramatic title, in capital letters and exclamation marks. It will not contain shocking words like “mange”, “neglect” and “starved”.
The rescue story you would not watch is about the average rescue dog. The one that is abandoned every day on the streets, or at an overcrowded shelter’s door. The one that was born and raised on the streets, but loved humans so much, followed them around, chased cars and begged for some love.
because nobody was holding a camera while they picked him from the street
The average rescue dog does not have a story that can go viral. Not because it’s not sad enough, but because nobody was holding a camera while they picked him from the street, soaking wet, trembling in fear, running after his owner’s car. The average rescue dog did not get sick enough to make an “aww inspiring” recovery afterwards, and collect shares, likes and god bless yous. He wasn’t starved, he wasn’t abused – at least not in an obvious way for someone to make a video out of it, he was never ran over by a car – or if he was, nobody filmed him bleeding and crying in the examination table.
Don’t get me wrong, I probably wouldn’t watch the average rescue dog’s story either. But let’s say I made a video of it, and published it for the world to see. Let’s say that that since all I have is footage of the dog today, a voice over or subtitles described its past, explaining how she burned her paws on the hot pavement, while she was chasing the car and the people she adored for miles, until she was too exhausted to go on. But nobody photographed her burned paws, nobody filmed her running desperately on the street, nobody has any footage as gruesome and as heartbreaking as the one you would expect to see.
The average rescue dog did not get sick enough to make an “aww inspiring” recovery afterwards, and collect shares, likes and god bless yous
Would this video be a success? Probably not. The rescue stories that go viral are usually the ones in which the dogs are suffering on camera, crying form the pain, trembling on the examination table, emaciated, mangy, bleeding, mutilated. It’s almost as if all of us, the animal lovers, the ones following rescue websites and Facebook pages, want to see the dogs suffer before they get better. Just hearing about it does not do any good, we actually need to see it in order to like it, share it and remember it.
I know that – of course – none of us wants to see any dog suffer. But if we only tend to share the stories of the ones who suffered on camera, the result is basically the same. We encourage websites, rescuers and charities to focus on the most visibly horrific of all stories, and undermine the rest. We force volunteers to hold a camera in their hands and photograph a suffering dog, when all they want to do is hug the animal in their hands and cry. We make rescuers think as marketing advertisers, busting their heads wondering how each rescue can make headlines.
The rescue stories that go viral are usually the ones in which the dogs are suffering on camera
You know I used to be like that. I started my channel without giving it much thought, and realized that unless there is a camera filming the dog when he is being picked from the street, all terrified and miserable, or at least filming it on the vet’s examination table, all suffering and trembling, the story would not go viral. For years I felt like one of those reporters who are constantly on hold, the camera all charged and ready, waiting for a call that would say “Valia, you need to come to the clinic NOW. You won’t believe what we just brought in. Come now, before the ticks fall off”.
The channel went viral with stories like these, and it kept growing until, at some point, I feared that what I did, was exploiting an animal’s pain, in order to get more views, to go more viral, to show more pain. I became overwhelmed. Where is the originality in all that? Where were my genuine animal lover feelings? Did I only care about the gruesome thumbnails and “aww inspiring” before after footage? I started feeling guilty for all the other dogs, the ones that didn’t have a Valia film them while in pain, but had suffered just as much, and maybe more. And if their bodies didn’t suffer all that much, their hearts did.
We force volunteers to hold a camera in their hands and photograph a suffering dog, when all they want to do is hug the animal in their hands and cry
I wish I could tell you about Brigitte’s story, who was abandoned on a mountain to survive on her own, but I don’t have any footage of her as a stray. I wish I could tell you Claire’s story, who was being chased by packs of dogs while she was on the streets in season. I wish I could tell you about Candy, whose family would let her wander off on her own, and when she was hit by a car and had to be amputated, they no longer wanted her for being three legged. I wish I could tell you about Ivo, who had his ears mutilated and was begging for some attention in a village somewhere, surviving without a tongue! About Chino, who was neglected by his drug addict owner, about Daya, you gave birth to ten (TEN) puppies on the street, about Elias, and Ceasar, and Daphne and so many others. But I don’t have footage of them from before. I simply don’t.
The bottom line is, that for every suffering dog you see shared and reshared over and over again, there are dozens of dogs like him, which the charity could not “promote” as much. Their stories are just as sad, their hearts were broken and their spirit was crushed, they just never went viral. They are just as awesome, just as deserving, just as in need of a home.
being deprived of a forever home because someone wasn’t holding a camera while you were trembling on the streets, is just unfair.
So if you are looking to adopt the dog whose story you saw shared everywhere and shocked millions of people, don’t get disappointed if he has already been adopted. Don’t look for the next viral story to send an adoption request, just take a look at the charity’s other rescues. They never made headlines, but being deprived of a forever home because someone wasn’t holding a camera while you were trembling on the streets, is just unfair.