When I posted on Facebook that I was giving our dog away because taking care of her, while pregnant and caring for 2 toddlers, had become too much for me, I could have never imagined the sickening firestorm it would fuel. Poisonous comments, hateful threats, and personal attacks on my character, my livelihood and even my children.
For months, I’d been talking about finding a new home for our dog.
With 2 boys under 3 1/2, and a third boy due in a few weeks, taking care of our 8-year-old chihuahua had just become too much for me.
She poops on the lanai. She barks at the mailman. Everyday. During naptime. She wakes me up at 3am (and, thanks to pregnancy insomnia, I don’t fall back asleep). She snatches food out of my kids’ hands, and snaps in the faces of their playmates.
But, I kept putting up with it.
Out on the lanai, spraying cleaner on the carpet and picking dog feces out of the tread on my toddlers’ shoes.
In our entry way, shushing her everyday at mail time.
On our couch, falling asleep while the boys watched Dora, since I’d been up since 3am.
In my friends’ eyes, where I’d look to utter a heartfelt “I’m sorry” after my dog snarled in their child’s face.
And finally, one day, I said, “That’s it.”
My well-being is more important than a dog’s.
The husband took some convincing, but eventually, he gave me his blessing. It was a given that the dog would never go to a shelter. We agreed that, ideally, we wanted to place her in a loving home. But, if that didn’t work out, we’d find a reputable rescue group.
So, I got started. I called our area’s local chihuahua rescue group. They were full. I emailed a few others. No response. I put out some feelers with friends, babysitters, neighbors and on my personal Facebook page. Over about 3 weeks, I got 4 leads. Each person said they’d take the dog. Then, I’d interview them, and for various reasons, it didn’t work out. I had started talking to a couple rescue groups, but I wasn’t quite sold. We really wanted her to be in a home.
So around 9 last Thursday night, I decided to put one last Facebook feeler out there, and I wrote a post on my old TV news Facebook page. It’s a page I don’t use often, but it has almost 5,000 followers, so I figured it’d be a good way to get the word out to a large group of people in my area.
That night, I was feeling particularly exasperated, not only at the daily aggravations of taking care of a dog and 2 toddlers, but at the mammoth task that responsibly rehoming our dog had become. Most people in my position, I reasoned, would never spend this much time trying to place their dog. This is becoming a full-time job!
As I wrote the post, I tried to sound witty and clever. I wanted to make people smile, while still conveying that I needed serious help in finding our dog a new home. I figured my followers would read the sarcasm in my words.
Boy, was I wrong.
I realize now that the “bane of my existence” and “last call before I give her away to a stranger” lines should have been left out. Again, I was trying to be clever. But, I neglected to consider my audience, which was people who had randomly followed me years before, and since I didn’t post on this page often, they didn’t know my sense of humor.
In the 12 hours that followed, I experienced the most hateful, hurtful words I’ve ever read about myself. (And after 8 years in TV news, that’s saying a lot.)
When I logged onto Facebook at 7 the next morning, I squinted in disbelief at the names on the screen.
“Unfit mother.” “Selfish woman.” “Self-absorbed psycho bimbo.” A “sorry excuse for a human.” “Slut.” A “subhuman piece of sh*t.”
My mouth went dry. The room spun. I felt like I was going to throw up.
Why are these people saying this about me?
Turns out, they’d taken my “last call to a stranger” comment and spun it into “TV news personality is dumping her senior dog.” (Literally. Some guy even wrote a blog post about it.)
They left hateful comments on the thread. Said they were shocked, disgusted, outraged. Called me more names. Said I was “throwing my dog out like trash,” something only a “despicable human, not mother of the year” would do.
“You are a sorry excuse for a woman,” another chimed in. “You don’t give away your companion because you chose to have 3 little brats.”
They shared the post on their pages, calling me names like “delusional” and “monster.” They added comments like, “Beware of this disgusting local TV news woman. She is a dog dumper!” They threatened to contact local TV news stations, to complain if they ever saw me on TV again, adding hashtags to alert my former network and even CNN. (Which, I admit, made me chuckle. I’m pretty sure CNN doesn’t think my story worthy of an exposé, but thanks.)
Still, the comments cut.
With sweaty palms, I sat, paralyzed, at my computer screen and watched the hateful words pour in. In real time.
My head was spinning.
As I scrolled down, I watched as the comments grew more and more hateful, and soon, the commenters started to take on a mob mentality. The “Janie Porter is trashing her dog” non-truth was snowballing into a bitter, nonsensical, saturated-with-evil thread that I was watching unfold, live, on my Facebook page.
After a few minutes, it occurred to me that, since the sarcasm in my post was being read as fact, I’d simply post a quick comment to clear things up. Once I explain I was never trying to “trash” my dog, they’ll understand, and this will stop. So, I posted a comment. I said I’d made the mistake of sharing a post that sounded flippant, but that I love my dog and wasn’t trying to “trash” her. My goal was finding her a good home, and I should have done it without the sarcasm.
There, they’ll stop now. They’ll understand.
But, seconds later, as the response comments started updating, I realized there was no reasoning with this mob.
“Stop lying just because you were found out, you sick pig!”
At that point, it clicked.
The truth didn’t even matter anymore.
In the next several minutes, the comments started to take a threatening and nonsensical turn, and at that point, I actually got scared.
So, I deleted the post (which is something I’ve never done, even in 8 years in TV news).
With knots in my stomach, I sighed and realized it was 7:50am. I closed my laptop and pretended to engage with my children as I dressed them for school. But my mind was in a haze. As I put on my preschooler’s socks and shoes, I felt numb. I was completely silent. My mind raced as I tried to process what had just happened.
While I knew there was no reasoning with the most rabid commenters, some of the others were voicing disgust over the fact that I’d wanted to get rid of my dog in the first place.
“Shame on you. Dogs shouldn’t just be cast away when it’s too much for you. They are part of the family,” one wrote.
Really? I asked myself. Is it so bad that I’m choosing my well-being, and my children’s, over a dog’s?
I’m not sending the dog to the kill shelter. I’m taking the time to find a good home for her. A home that will be much better than the one she’s living in now. Isn’t that what responsible pet owners are supposed to do?
The fact is, I’m admitting that I’m human.
I have limits.
At this point, I can no longer handle caring for 3 kids, plus a chihuahua who barks, craps and occasionally snaps at children.
And, in a culture where mothers are routinely shamed for making personal choices based on family needs, I was taking a stand for something oh-so-revolutionary:
When the debate bled onto the She Just Glows Facebook page later that morning, one reader summed up my thoughts completely:
So, let me get this straight. A woman, a PREGNANT woman, with 2 other small children to boot, is suddenly heartless because she is trying to find her dog another home?
As it turns out, I’ve decided that my own health and sleep and well-being are worth the effort of finding another home for our dog.
Because taking care of my human children is way more important than keeping a dog.
I know there are lots of animal lovers out there, and I truly love the pure passion you have (even if it did fuel the disturbing thread on my Facebook page). But, I wonder how much more powerful your message would be if some of you redirected that passion for pets into a passion for treating other humans with kindness, respect and dignity. Some of you shared that you care for 7 rescue pets, but when was the last time you smiled at a stranger? When was the last time you prayed for your neighbor, or offered a simple act of kindness to someone you didn’t know?
We all have our own truth.
Some of you in the animal rights community took the time to share yours with me, and I’m so very grateful. You shared that my flippant tone outraged you, because it seemed to insult the hard, thankless work you do, of placing pets for a living. I can’t thank you enough for respectfully sharing your thoughts because you taught me something. I now realize that my words were hurtful and didn’t show respect for what you do. And for that, I’m truly sorry.
But, now, I have to share my truth.
And even though it may be different from yours, that doesn’t change the fact that it is true.
Because I am picking up poop and spilled milk and Goldfish all day long. And one more variation of feces is beyond what I can handle.
Because I am kissing boo boos, chasing scooters and crouching to the ground to tie toddler shoes over my 9-month-pregnant belly. And caring for the needs of one more being is that much longer before my weary, baby-creating body can take a 90-second break.
Because I am up at 1am, when the preschooler usually wakes up and comes to our room for no reason. And being woken up again, 2 hours later, by a scratching chihuahua, is just too much for me.
Because someone is always touching me, crawling on me or asking me to hold them. And one more body needing my touch is more than I can take.
I realize that the last 4 paragraphs may seem frivolous to anyone who hasn’t raised young children, or been pregnant while raising multiple toddlers.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, right now, that is my truth. And it’s true, all day. Everyday. No matter what the Facebook mob has to say about it.
In the last few days, my sliced heart has begun to heal, thanks to phone calls from friends, texts, emails, Facebook messages, coffee dates and even a package of whoopie pies on my doorstep. (A pregnant woman’s dream come true!)
I’ve learned that words can cut.
Even a 33-year-old woman. Who has been in the public eye. Who knows who she is. Who is generally confident and self-assured.
Yes, even her.
But, it made me wonder:
What about the insecure teenage girl, reading terrible lies about herself from that glowing screen in her bedroom? What about socially-awkward 14-year-old boy, who lives in an online world that, one day, decides to turn on him and slash his good name to pieces in a matter of hours?
I’ve learned that, when you’re sitting in that chair, those words can feel very real.
You can even start to believe them.
But, I’ve also learned that just because hundreds of people say something about you, doesn’t make it true. The fact that I was trying to find a great home for my dog doesn’t change because 40 strangers on Facebook took a morsel of partial truth and spun it into a huge lie that snowballed into thousands of people believing it was fact.
The truth about bullying is that, often, it does start with some truth. In my case, yes, I was trying to find a new home for my dog.
But that half-truth then morphs. It takes on an evil life of its own, and with every person who decides to feed the hate-fueled fire, it gets spun into one grand untruth.
By now, you’ve probably guessed that I didn’t dump my dog.
Thanks to a local rescue group, Wilshire is now one of 3 small dogs living with a wonderful woman in our area. She’s in a place where she will be loved and cared for and focused on. (Not surrounded by toddlers and flying monster trucks and people forgetting to feed her.)
And in case you’re wondering, I feel great about it.
Because, even though the attacks on my character, my name and my worth did hurt (very much), they didn’t change the truth.
And that is, I know who I am.
I’m a modern mother living in America today, who’s admitting that she can’t be everything to everyone, all the time.
I am human.
I have limits.
I can’t do it all.
And now, I’m in the very best place I could be.
(Oh, and so is my dog.)
Has a growing family forced you to get rid of a pet? What reaction did you get? Share your experience in the comments section below. (And just a reminder, the #glowgirl community has zero tolerance for nastiness, threats and name-calling of any kind. If you violate these guidelines, your comments will be deleted and you will be immediately blocked.)