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!
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.
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.
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.