In Part I of this story Obie was doing well under Nora’s care and the world was rallying to support him. He was becoming a celebrity of sorts and I, personally, was really happy to see the issue of pet obesity (especially Dachshund obesity) getting some real, relatable media coverage. He was safely losing weight, beginning to play with his doggy housemates and seemed to be doing well.
Then the Oregon Dachshund Rescue (ODR) came out of left field with a lawsuit suing Nora for custody of Obie with accusations of neglect and exploitation for personal gain. ODR’s accusations appeared to be anecdotal and not backed up with real fact (at least not to the public).
As humans will often do when emotions run high and facts run low, “facts” and motives are speculated and manufactured. There was an outcry in the pet community and ODR became vilified….FAST. People visited ODR’s Facebook page in droves to make clear that people thought what they were doing was wrong and that Obie should stay with Nora.
I watched online as ODR was ripped apart. Things got downright nasty on the ODR Facebook page. Previously negative experiences with Janelle, the President of ODR, was brought to light and were more fuel for people to rally behind the “ODR is evil” front. I watched as the local Doxie community was ripped apart. People picked sides, passionately expressed their opinions and friends were lost.
The ODR Facebok page is apparently ran by volunteers and Janelle doesn’t even read it. In fact, she apparently doesn’t have a Facebook profile (Gasp right? ha, ha). ODR volunteers managing the page tried to make a distinction between the PAGE and Janelle. They did not make a statement one way or another but tried to make it clear that is was Janelle, their president, who make the decision to file a lawsuit and not ODR as a whole.
They tried to draw a line between what was happening at the rescue and the lawsuit. They tried repeatedly pleading with people to stop all of the nasty posts (or the page would be shut down by Facebook due to profanity). They tried deleting the most negative comments – presumably so other people wouldn’t feed on that negativity. None of that worked and “hate posts” continued to come in.
Patricia, who had transported Obie to Nora and had initially suggested that a Facebook Page created for him, tried to clear things up by sharing her side of the story. People had already decided who was in the right and who was in the wrong and this letter only gave people more hate-spewing ammunition.
I was watching things for ODR, and the rescue community as a whole, go downhill fast. In my frustration, I sent ODR this letter:
To whom it may concern -
Hi. I have been following the story of Obie since the beginning. ODR has taken a real beating lately due to the custody issue. I DO have an opinion about what is happening now but that is inconsequential. I am posting here wearing my social media and branding expert hat.
No matter what your company’s intentions are, your brand is what people (your audience) say it is. Your brand is your companies “public face” no matter if the actions are stemming from one person or several employees. Your brand is what causes people to look at your company in a negative or positive light.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter who is in the right or wrong. A vast majority of your audience PERCIEVE that ODR’s actions are wrong and ODR is getting a VERY bad reputation. It is even drumming up people’s experiences with ODR from the past and ODR is being painted in a VERY negative light. People are saying they will no longer support ODR – both by word of mouth (which is one of THE most important things to a companies success – people who love you talking about you to their friends) and monetarily.
ODR needs to figure out how they can heal their image and “save face” here or ODR Doxies will be very negatively impacted in the future. If ODR is truly thinking only about the dogs action will be taken immediately to start to heal the relationship with your audience. I don’t know what that should be. Only ODR can decide what is the correct action but I highly suggest ODR contact a PR firm about this to come up with a game plan if there is no one in-house with these skills. I suggest you drop the lawsuit, come to a contractual agreement with Nora that works for you both and spend that lawyer money on cleaning up ODR’s image.
Sometimes it is not about about being right, but doing what is right. Nora may or may not be doing everything she promised but Obie IS losing weight and raising awareness for obese and rescue Dachshund all over the world. As evidenced on the Biggest Loser page, people have already been inspired to lose weight themselves and get their dogs healthy. I can promise that a lot of people will remember Obie and consider “saving” their own dog from a rescue the next time they are looking for one. This issue is so much bigger than, and reaches further than, Obie here in the Northwest!
This also is bigger than ODR. ODR’s actions are giving people a sour opinion of, and instilling doubt about, ALL rescues. We all know how hard those in the pet world are trying to improve the image of rescue dogs and shelters. ODR is hurting that for everyone and making the rescue community endure a big setback.
Mine is an unbiased opinion about what is happening and a mere plea to save ODR’s image (and therefore continue to do the good work you are doing) and the rescue industry as a whole.
A volunteer responded with thanks and said that was the first constructive feedback they had gotten on the issue. As they do not have money for PR, the volunteers rallied together and made some changes on the Facebook page themselves. I am not so vain to think that my letter was the reason they made efforts to turn it all around but I WOULD like to think I had something to do with it.
On October 29, 2012 Nora and ODR had their day in court. In his ruling, the judge determined that the custody of Obie was not clear and that he would stay with Nora for now.
On Nov 2, a final “we’re moving on” message was posted to the ODR Facebook Page. It is my impression that they deleted anything negative after that because things turned very positive very fast. They started sharing all of the positive ODR adoption stories people were posting on their page. Only supporters appeared on their page. Their page took on a very different tone.
On Tuesday, November 11th Nora reported that Obie was down to 60 lbs – a 17 lb loss over 12 weeks (or 1.5 lbs a week).
The fate of Obie is unknown at this time. In the judge’s ruling, he indicated that this battle will now go into litigation. I do know that things are still moving along because Nora recently posted about the burdensome court costs on the Facebook page and asked for donations to help with costs.
So what IS my personal opinion? Until there are more facts, I think that Obie should stay with Nora. He is losing weight and he seems to be very happy. ODR did not have the resources to properly care for him in the beginning and no changes in that regard have come to light. If they couldn’t care for him then, I don’t see how they can now.
You can bet I will be keeping a keen eye on what happens next and will be sure to let you know.