I lost my dog (for 10 minutes) and she became a social media star

dog tweetLast week, a friend who’d come to stay delighted in letting me know that he and his fellow Americans think Brits love their dogs too much.

“But I don’t spoil mine,” I protested. “I only hugged her for 10 minutes when I walked in the door! Someone who REALLY loved their dog too much would hug them for at least 15.”

Case closed.

However, after I temporarily misplaced my mutt on Hampstead Heath this weekend, and she turned into a viral celebri-pooch on Twitter, it dawned on me that this cynical observation might actually be rooted in truth. After one or two famous people and several thousand non-famous people somehow got wind of my errant hound’s little sojourn, I spent the rest of the day, and a large part of the next two, fielding the social media frenzy that came my way.

To give the situation a little context, my 13 year old mongrel Koko was having a gay old time on the Heath on Sunday, running ahead in her usual fashion, when I suddenly realised I couldn’t actually see her. After calling her name repeatedly to no avail, I did start to get a little anxious, and feared that getting excessively impassioned over regaling my friend with my top six actors list was probably not a great excuse for losing the cherished family pet. I mean, Marion Cotillard really is a wonder of the silver screen, but that thought alone would not sustain the void induced by my negligence in my parents’ hearts.

After a few minutes went by, I did what all people desperate to share their problems with the world do, and sent a tweet with a photo of my dog appealing for help from any Heath-goers. About a minute after I posted the tweet, my dad called to let me know that Koko had been taken in by some nice ladies who could still make out the rusty home phone number on her collar. My initial reaction was one of surprise that this had happened so quickly, followed by irritation (at the incorrect notion) that my grandparents had been stalking me on Twitter again and relaying my ineptitudes back to my long suffering ma and pa.

Consumed by jubilation, and quite a lot of sweat, we marched to the scene and recovered the small creature, who ignored me entirely upon my arrival. And then, to top off our reunion, she then defecated in front of a large group of people. On some level I feel she knew that I’d used my only plastic bag on her first poop party, and was intentionally seeking to shame me in front of the dog walking community. Or maybe she just really needed to crap twice that day. Hard to be sure.

When the drama had subsided, I checked Twitter again to find that I had an uncharacteristically large influx of tweets enquiring about the fate of my poor little pooch. I couldn’t quite understand how this had happened until I noticed that comedian Sarah Millican was one of the key pioneers in my dog’s rise to social media stardom, and that a fair portion of her 900k+ followers had transferred their love and affection to my plight. I felt a bit rude telling people that my predicament had in fact lasted about 15 minutes, and Koko is an incredibly well behaved dog who was essentially in the spot where we left her, but I certainly wasn’t going to blow what will probably be my only chance in life to have people be unrelentingly nice to me on social media.

It did get a little intense at points, with ‘erotic stars’ reposting pictures of Koko’s innocent little face alongside their, ahem, less than innocent avatars, dog-lovers from different continents wishing us a happy life and others telling me they were ‘praying’ for my ‘baby,’ which was quite heart-warming, if a little unwarranted. Part of me wanted to say, “Thanks for getting in touch, guys, but how about we all pray for the sick and needy instead? They probably need our good wishes more than a mongrel who’s been led astray by a pungent stick!” But people had been so very kind, and hardly anybody used the situation as an excuse to make dubious puns about dogging, so I thought it better to just go with the flow.

dog2What this mini Sunday saga has taught me above all is that we may be unable to reach a mutual agreement on Syria, or the bedroom tax, or middle lane drivers, but we bloody love our pets, and I think that counts for something. In a world of political confusion and social unrest, it’s sort of; well, nice, that Brits all share a mutual sense of compassion for something – even if that something is an animal that spends a significant portion of each day licking its own backside. But then I suppose as a nation that gets frequently accused of being too far up our own arses, it’s no wonder that we’re so wonderfully in sync with our four legged friends.

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