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No Manners, Need Advice? Try Google, Not Me.

Hi there!

We’ve never met, but I have a dog with a ton of behavior and medical problems and I really need your help. I’m going to share three paragraphs of vague information that contradicts itself, and then ask you 82 questions. Also, my landlord won’t let me keep my dog. Can you help? I don’t want to give my dog up! And I also want to adopt a very specific kind of dog, but can’t find one at the shelters. Can you help me find a dog to adopt?  And btw my dog has diarrhea, a limp, and allergies. And I lost him. Can you help me find him and then recommend a good food? I love my dog!

Thanks,

Random Upset Dog Emailer

p.s. While you’re busy researching the answers and finding links to supporting resources, reaching out to your contacts in animal welfare, and writing a response to me, I’ll be Googling the answers. So by the time you respond to me, I won’t even bother writing back to acknowledge your thoughtful email.

p.p.s If you don’t answer me and I have to give up my dog/can’t afford medical help/buy a dog from a pet store instead of adopting/allow him to bite someone… I’ll probably blame you, because I asked you for help, but you didn’t get back to me. I’ll tell everyone how I reached out for help and you didn’t care enough to respond. You obviously don’t love dogs.  


Ask anyone who works with dogs and they’ll tell you: their inboxes are overflowing with requests for advice and assistance.  People want free help. That’s cool. We all need it at one time or another. No harm there.

That’s why Google exists.

But sometimes we skip Google and reach out to a person. When we choose to email another human being instead of searching online for the answers, we’re also making a choice to engage another person’s time and energy. That’s ok too.

But only if you appreciate it.

There are people who really do appreciate the helpful responses they receive. They write back with thanks, an update, and a virtual high-five to let us know that free advice from strangers rocks.  That kind of thing makes our day. We’re psyched we could help. But oftentimes, all we hear are crickets (or dogs snoring) on the other end of the interwebz. There’s no reply to our reply.

Here’s the thing: When someone takes time out of their life to offer assistance or answer your questions, they deserve thanks, at the very least. Choosing not to respond – leaving a helpful email dangling alone in the dark – makes those of us who are still answering emails feel like chumps.

It’s time consuming and often stressful to read and to respond to the many emails all of us get. Anyone with an email account understands how overwhelming email can be. We’re all drowning in comments, texts, Facebook messages….

But if you are considered an “expert” on any issue – in this case dogs – it’s likely that you’re not only receiving emails from friends, family, and co-workers, but also friends of friends, strangers who found your website, people who you went to middle school with who found you on Facebook, your dentist, and acquaintances of friends of strangers who found your name through an employee at the pet store. It winds up being a LOT of emails asking for help.

And most of us really want to help. Really we do. Being able to provide quality resources, point someone in the right direction, connect them to a local pro that can help, and assisting others is something that most of us are happy to do. We enjoy being a resource for others and sharing what we know.

We’re happy to do it…until we’ve written that 100th email that falls into the black hole of cyberspace. No response. No thanks. No time wasted on the other person’s end letting us know that our free, professional advice is appreciated.

Then we get real annoyed.  Like, I-want-to-write-you-back-one-more-time-and-call-you-a-rude-turd kind of annoyed.

cartoon: savagechickens.com

cartoon: savagechickens.com

Folks, the time is a-coming when no one is going to write back to anyone anymore. We just can’t take the abuse.

Here’s what’s going to happen one day:

Every single trainer, vet tech, advocate, dog walker, rescue and shelter worker, pet store owner, (fill in the pet professional here) is going to:

    • Start ignoring ALL the emails they receive requesting advice and help.
    • Send you an auto response with links you could have found if you took 5 seconds to Google your questions.  Then ignore your follow up questions.
    • Send you a PayPal link up front, so you can pay for the quality advice you’ve been receiving for free up until now. Many are already doing this (it’s called a “consultation fee”).


Combined with the sheer volume of emails we’re all getting, people with bad email manners are gonna blow it for everyone.

We don’t actually want you to stop reaching out for help. We WANT to help. We’re doing our best to get back to people who need a hand. We wouldn’t be in this business (or volunteering in it) if we didn’t want to make things better.

But damn.

We’re not bottomless wells. We’re people with a few jobs and poop that needs to be scooped (literally and metaphorically). Email eats every last morsel of our time. It’s actually kind of amazing that anyone writes back to anyone anymore.

So if you do get a response from someone, go on and throw us a “Thanks! You’re a Baller!” email and keep us from going over the email edge, ok? It’ll go a long way.

Here are a few specific ways we can all help each other out of the email apocalypse:

    • When someone responds to your email, write back thanking them for their time. Acknowledge them, even if the advice isn’t exactly what you had hoped for. They could have ignored you, but they didn’t.  Just let them know that you received the email and appreciate that they got back to you.
    • Or hire a professional to assist you with your needs. Pay for the advice you want.
    • But if manners aren’t your thing and you can’t afford to hire a pro: Use Google. You can’t hurt Google’s feelings. You can’t waste Google’s time. Ask all the questions you want, and then walk away. It’s ok to dine and dash on Google.


Hey, none of us are perfect and we’ve all dropped the ball on an email or ten, so no hard feelings. And we all need to be reasonable and realistic about just how much time we can expect any busy organization or individual to spend answering emails. For many groups, they wouldn’t be able to do the work we admire so much if they answered every email they received.

But it’s important to remember that when we do choose to engage other people in our search for help, we owe them a quick thanks when they respond. Just a few words to let the other human being know their time and thoughtful advice is worth more than the info found on a free search engine.


Note to all you lovelies that write to me: keep writing. I love hearing from you and I’m happy to help if I can. I may not get back to you right away, but I’ll try my best.

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35 Comments Post a comment
  1. TGIF! Tomorrow will be a better day! :)

    May 3, 2013
    • Just having a little snarky fun with this one – it’s the best way to let go of frustration!

      May 3, 2013
  2. Yes, this! Also, kinda loving that PayPal-button idea…

    May 3, 2013
  3. Verjean #

    There is a commonly held belief in society today that one cannot be “responsible” or truly “knowledgeable” if they are in any way compensated for work they do with animals, especially those animals “in jeopardy”. If you are breeder of quality dogs, if you are “good” breeder, you should not make money doing it. If you are a trainer, you should volunteer your time giving advice and support for every dog “in jeopardy”. If you are a club or an organization, you should again volunteer your time for the community. If you are a rescue, you should take in every dog that someone doesn’t want to keep, for a myriad of stupid reasons. This list can go on…and on…and on…
    In my experience, the vast majority of these dogs are “in jeopardy”, because their owners are too busy (or lazy) to own a pet. All the advice in the world is useless if the OWNER is unwilling to spend the TIME to correct the problem. They want someone else to own the problem, to fix the problem, and to create the “perfect” pet, and to do it for free or at least at a reasonable discount. After all, “we” love animals, right? And if “we” are not willing to help, then “we” are the problem. No, Mr. or Mrs. Owner, you are STILL the problem.
    Well, first of all, I am of the belief that just about every animal is salvageable. With few exceptions, and exceptions DO exist. But I have worked with Katrina dogs, with dogs with fighting histories, with abuse dogs, and almost all can be healed. And I work every day with pet dogs that simply don’t get enough physical or mental stimulation, that are not properly socialized, that don’t receive enough indoor (or outdoor) time, receive poor nutrition and medical support…and they are EASY to fix. My god….SO easy to fix. But, it requires the owner to be INVOLVED in the dog’s life, and to be a part of it, and to commit time and energy to providing what the dog needs to be happy. And that’s where it always breaks down. Then comes the “Litany of Excuses”. Well, the dog is never going to be “fixed”, if you, the owner, can’t provide what the dog needs. And the public trying to “justify” it their minds by transferring “blame”…is pointless. The owner IS the responsible party for that animal. They made a commitment by opening their home to that animal, and it is THEIR responsibility to provide for that animal.
    All that being said, I do believe that all us who work with animals, DO have an obligation to serve those less fortunate, and those truly in need. IF, IF, IF we have an owner that is willing to do what is necessary as well. Companion animals, even at their very best, are time-consuming and hard work. FOR their entire lives. AND…you have to be involved in their lives. I have helped many owners and dogs at no charge, or at discounted prices. Those owners have worked extremely hard to correct the problems. It is a partnership, between dog, owner, and professional. And is very rewarding. There are lots of good people out there that just don’t have the knowledge and experience, but do have good hearts. And who have given a dog or companion animal a home for the “right” reason. And who truly need some help. And there’s a lot of people out there, and who want the easy way out, can’t afford the time, effort or expense to correct the problem. There is also no shame in making a profit from our experience, whether that is producing a superior animal, training an animal, offering advice to those encountering problems, or helping to educate the community at large. But it is not a ONE-way street. I have helped to reintegrate many damaged dogs back into society as happy, stable family members. Some with life-time quirks, and some which have simply healed with a bit of confidence and owners that know what they are doing. I also heavily support puppy socialization, and the earlier the better, because it’s so easy to mold little minds. And it’s a great time to educate the owners as well. Many of puppies grow up to be show dogs or performance dogs, but we also open the classes to anyone with a puppy that wishes to come. And yes, I charge for the classes, but it’s $10/hour and we can eliminate so many potential “bad” behaviors before they even manifest. And it’s a great time to talk about potty training issues, or biting issues, or fear issues, and to help both owner and puppy through those challenges. And I do private behavior assessments and training, and charge $50 for thirty minutes, but will discount if the client buys a block of lessons. And I still spend numerous hours per week with free phone consults to rescues, to individuals, to shelters, to on-line groups and individuals. A simple thank you for those we have helped in those situations is sincerely appreciated. And, believe me, it’s become much easier over the years to know which people are sincere, and which are simply trying to dump a problem.

    May 3, 2013
    • “There are lots of good people out there that just don’t have the knowledge and experience, but do have good hearts.” More often than not, this is my experience with people, so that’s what keeps me motivated to help. But everyone once in a while, we get a stinker. And they make it really hard to remember all those good folks who appreciate our help!

      May 5, 2013
  4. Hazel #

    I would never expect someone to spend hours helping me for free when I could do it myself. Spent hours looking for groups and then asked lots of questions of the trainer before putting my fearful boy in her hands and then I PAID for her help. I am old school, I expect to compensate for services rendered but then I also think I should take care of myself and not someone else pay my way, still on my first marriage instead of my 6th, watch my manners, etc. This is another way I am behind the times on. Make note – start bugging experts for free advice. LOL I have a long ways to go to catch up with the times. I love your blogs and all the advice you get out to us!!!!!!

    May 3, 2013
  5. This was a silly, snarky rant for me to blow off some steam, so I just want to make sure that no one misunderstands: I think reaching out for help is great. I think it’s awesome when folks feel that they can trust someone they hardly know with their concerns. I love it when people want help/education/resources so that they can do better for their pets. It takes a village! As long as we’re reasonable and respectful of the other person’s time, reaching out is a very good thing.

    May 3, 2013
  6. So well said. And, please know from the bottom of my heart how much I appreciated your help when I wrote you recently about a dog that was fear aggressive and I was asked to walk it. I did google and YOU came up lol!!! You quickly got back to me with unbelievable helpful advice which I used immediately and passed on to the owner’s. I use your dog in need of space all the time and CREDIT you for your wisdom. You are the best and I truly look forward to your notes! I love your writing style which combines humor with thoughtful anecdotes. I follow you and enjoy each piece. I have asked others to follow you as well, hope that’s ok. Thank you for all you do!

    Rose @ For the Dogs, NH

    May 3, 2013
    • Rose, thank you and you’re so very welcome! I hope things worked out for that dog. And how funny is it that I came up when you googled? I feel like that may be instant karma for my little snark-fest here ; )

      May 3, 2013
  7. I do appreciate your advice & articles on your blog & although I’ve never asked you a personal question before, I hope that if I do you have not been run off by all the ingrates out there. And I’d like to say THANKS for doing what you do!

    May 3, 2013
  8. Anu #

    I don’t think there was anything silly about your blowing off steam. The snarkiness was right on, deserved, and hilarious.

    Verjean’s comments were also right on. Training dogs we know behaviors have consequences. Unfortunately, we can’t train the boneheads who don’t recognize, much less accept, responsibility for their actions and how those directly affect their dogs. These boors are clueless, arrogant, or just lazy. It’s stunning really, how many people feel entitled that others do their bidding or heavy lifting. And for free, yet.

    I recently helped a neighbor who called me about her dog. I dropped off supplies (at her house while she was at work), and then emailed her more advice and links to resources – all without any reply acknowledging she got either the stuff I dropped off for her or my email. Rude.

    Your blog has been a big help to me raising my very fearful, reactive young dog. Thank you for helping me help my little Remy.

    May 3, 2013
    • Thank you Anu! Your neighbor was lucky to have your help, so I’m sorry she missed her chance to tell you so. And I’m so glad to hear the blog has been helpful for you and Remy.

      May 5, 2013
  9. I watch a lot of YouTube vids. I take info from wherever I can find it, use it if it makes sense to me or discard. Since the initial training from a local trainer in my area 12 years ago, I haven’t found a need to be emailing or asking anyone anything because it’s all out there on the interwebz dood.

    Love your blog btw. Good to know other people understand about leash reactive, fearful/anxious dogs, and how we just want to walk and be left alone.

    May 3, 2013
  10. CC #

    Brilliant! I have found that the most demanding are the least appreciative and rudest. I like the idea of sending a paypal link, but beware yelp. I have been slammed online for refusing to give free advice. Thanks for all you do. Love your blog!

    May 3, 2013
  11. Peggy Jefferson Hopper #

    hey, love your column! keep writing.

    Date: Fri, 3 May 2013 15:11:51 +0000 To: pjhopper@hotmail.com

    May 3, 2013
  12. Always enjoy your Public Service Announcements. So true, sigh…..

    May 4, 2013
  13. Curlyh2odogs #

    I always enjoys your blog, as I have an obedience trained dog who also happens to be a DINO in certain situations. I did a stint as training coordinator and first contact person for my (non-profit) obedience club and fielded many inquiries as you describe, only never to hear from them again–and even people from well outside our geographical area. We like to help, yes, but never hearing a thank you or even how the “crisis” resolved is rude. You expressed many of our feelings today.

    May 4, 2013
    • It’s really hard when you only hear the crisis and never the resolution, isn’t it? Thanks for reading Curly!

      May 5, 2013
  14. we love you here in New Zealand… love love love your view on life http://www.facebook.com/petsandpats

    May 5, 2013
  15. Lucy, Sandy, Bandit, Mr. BoJangles and the Gang #

    Dear Jessica,

    Alkeswopw934*&$KWEORIWJDOL…wow typing on this thing with paws is really hard! I think I’m getting it now. Hold on, something on me needs scratching….

    Ok I’m back. Hello! Woof! Hooowwwlll! Those are all my dog pals with me who wanted to say hi to you too. We just love you so much.

    Most humans don’t know this, but we dogs know how to read. We hear our people say all the time, “My dog knows me so well! He always knows when I’m sad or need a kiss!” It’s because we read your diary when you’re not home. Sick puppies! hahaha. Woof. Slobber.

    So we read your blog post about our people not thanking you for all your hard work answering their emails. That made us go into their rooms and tear up their favorite pillow and tinkle on their shoes. Let me tell you, we feel you, Jessica! Sure we get food, walks, and scratches, but we also get a lot of “NO!” and hours and hours of being alone and nobody talking to us even when we’re right there. Grrrooowwwwll. Nobody has ever said “Thank you” to us for all we do either! We’re really sorry our humans do that to you.

    But we have read your emails, and our humans have too. And because of your time and help SO MANY of us get the help we need, especially us DINOS. We have been fostered, adopted, and taken to good doctors. We have been rescued in cars, trained by safe trainers, protected in court, and given delicious, delicious tuna fudge.

    Tuna Fudge. Slobber drool whine gulp .

    We want to share a little trick we learned from them that might help you. If we want a treat, and we are jumping on them, barking, and going crazy at the sound of the the cookies in the box, they make us sit first. We have no idea why they torture us like this. We hate it! We just want what we want! But when they make us sit first, something happens. We calm down for a second. We see the treat but we also see who’s giving it to us. Maybe our humans need to learn how to sit first, and see you, before you give them a treat.

    So Jessica, we hope you can forgive them. We have to all the time. They don’t let us smell their crotches, hump their grandma’s legs, sleep in their beds, or eat the garbage. BARK BARK! GRROOoowwl. How mean can you get?? But we love them anyway.

    And we want to THANK YOU because in the end, we are the ones you are helping.

    Tummy up with a happy grin and our tongues out,

    Your Best Friends

    May 5, 2013
    • If it means helping you guys, I’m always happy to forgive silly humans! Thanks for giving me such a treat – I appreciate your kind words so much! Now who wants a cookie?!

      May 5, 2013
  16. Which do you think is worse – no reply at all. Or when they reply and tell you that your advice is wrong. Or they somehow get offended by your advice :)

    May 5, 2013
  17. Yes. This.

    May 5, 2013
  18. Love this. Thank you for your time. As a business owner myself with an overwhelming email box, I completely agree. Manners do go a long way!

    May 5, 2013
  19. Your article speaks for so many of us, great blog! I’m the go-to for everything animal related: strays, dog training, rehoming, pet behavioral issues. It’s an honor that people trust me with such important advice but not to even get a ‘thanks’ leaves me bitter. Then I help connect a great family with a homeless pet and that fills me up again. That doesn’t fill my bank account but certainly my heart!

    May 6, 2013
  20. silverflame819 #

    You should go to LMGTFY and then send them THAT link. But… only if you don’t mind offending people while also helping them (and giggling hysterically to yourself). :D

    Seriously, the one you forgot, which is MY personal favorite, is when people ask for help, and you respond, and then get a list back of why THAT won’t work, rather than them actually putting your suggestion to use. *eyeroll/serious annoyance!!* (You asked ME because you assumed that I knew what I was talking about, didn’t you?! Then use my advice! And if you don’t think I know what I’m talking about, DON’T ASK ME, and stop wasting my time!)

    Ohhhhhh, people. It’s a good thing some of them are worth knowing, or we’d just strangle them the first time we met them and be done with all their selfishness, entitled behavior, and stupidity! :)

    May 11, 2013

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