The Internet allows for true outpourings of attention and emotional resonance from time to time. You can see this in viral videos about cats or dictators, in books or movies that seem to suddenly spring from nothing into the zeitgeist, and in real-life dramas.
Two days ago, a well-known and respected dog-trainer was involved in a horrible accident that claimed the lives of two of her dogs, left her miraculously alive, and left one dog spending the night alone in the Arizona desert. Within moments of the news about the tragedy there were donation and FaceBook sites, crowd-funding and prayers, advice from animal rescue professionals, deep discussion and simple outpourings of support. Nearby members of the informal tribe of dog people leapt into providing on-the-groud real assistance. My family is part of the tribe of dog people, and we were instantly engaged, supporting and following and talking about the event. I spent part of a critical meeting yesterday surreptitiously checking to see if the dog had been found, we left each other notes with updates, and we talked about the conversations that happened on FaceBook. It simply became important to all of us, and to many others. When the dog was found alive and well, a lot of the posts were about tears of happiness.
Being fascinated by the stories of other’s great challenges is very human. I find it interesting how deeply this story of a person we have never met and dogs we have never met affected us for a day and a half. If nothing else, I now have a better understanding of why reality TV keeps generating ratings. I also have even more respect for the tribe of dog people that I am a small part of, and for the power of instant communication to mobilize support. Without so many searchers it is unlikely the dog would have been found alive.