Tag Archives: dogs

They’re (Almost) All Good Tweets, Brent

Meet the man behind the ratings: Matt Nelson, college sophomore and creator of WeRateDogs. In Esquire, Megan Greenwell traces the evolution of WeRateDogs from spur-of-the-moment joke to data-driven fav-machine and profiles its creator, who’s always been driven to win — whether at golf, Easter egg hunts, or Twitter.

Stories about social-media fame are generally told as stories about happy accidents—an unknown user posts something intended for a few friends, but through some act of providence or alchemy it “goes viral” and turns its creator into a star overnight. That is not the story of WeRateDogs. To Matt Nelson, Twitter has always been a game to be won.

Of course, to Nelson, everything has always been a game to be won. His sister, Amanda, now twenty-two, was the academic star; she graduated this year from the University of Michigan. His brother, Mitchell, now seventeen, was the laid-back one; he just finished his junior year in Charleston, West Virginia, where the Nelsons moved when Matt was eight. Matt, his mother Barbra said, was “the intense one.”

“As a kid, he was very competitive no matter what was going on,” she said. “It could be as simple as Easter-egg hunting, and he wanted to win at all costs. Not every event in your family can be a competition; it doesn’t always go over well with your siblings.”

“If breathing was a competitive sport, it would be his goal to out-breathe everyone,” his dad, Mark, added.

Read the profile

Money: It Can’t Buy Love, But Can It Rent You a Best Friend?

a disgruntled looking french bulldog
Photo by A_Peach (CC BY 2.0)

Finding new money-making credit products: the American dream. In Bloomberg, Patrick Clark introduces us to Dusty Wunderlich (real name!), the man who’s trying to monetize man’s best friend by leasing out purebred dogs.

Wunderlich rents his apartment. He leases his car. He owns his horse. He’s drawn to the rugged individualism expressed in the novels of Ayn Rand and the blog Cowboy Ethics, but he hastens to argue that while he profits off high-cost lending, he’s also improving the lives of subprime borrowers. He is, he writes in a mission statement on his personal website, “living in a Postmodern culture while maintaining my old American West roots and Christian values.”

Wunderlich dreamed up Wags Lending in 2013, then used the pet-leasing business to launch an improbable collection of financing vehicles—writing leases against furniture, wedding dresses, hearing aids, and custom auto rims. In a little more than three years, his company has originated 66,000 leases for just over $100 million. He once worked out a plan to lease cattle to dairy farmers, though plummeting commodity prices soured the economics. (He got far enough to decide that if a cow gave birth during the terms of the lease, the lessee got to keep the calf.) In another idea that never reached the market, he explored lease financing for funerals.

“We like niches where we’re dealing with emotional borrowers,” Wunderlich said.

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They’re Good Dogs, Brent: Meet Costa Rica’s Stray-Dog Whisperer

three brown puppies
Photo by Anoir Chafik via Unsplash

In Outside magazine, Bob Shacochis profiles Lya Battle, creator of Costa Rica’s Territorio de Zaguates, an open-air shelter home to hundreds of dogs. His own love of man’s best friend comes through loud and clear in his descriptions of the Territorio’s denizens.

Incredibly, every dog has a name. Everybody’s different, clownish and hilarious: fuzzy splats of happiness, skeletal shells of wincing eagerness, buoyant lumps of grinning muscle, the faltering and the withered, the robust and the dignified, dogs like pieces of frayed rope with legs and head, senatorial dogs like Boris, old and wise and reposed, a seeming mix of corgi and Bernese mountain dog that resembles the 30-pound butt of a half-smoked cigar. Blanquita is a dirty-white floor mop who has betrothed herself to Ronney, one of the workers, and cries inconsolably from the minute he leaves the compound until his return the next morning. There’s a sweet little dog I of course call Stumpy, his right front leg hacked off with a machete by his owner after a long night drinking at the cantina. And there’s Milu, one of the precious cohort Lya calls her “walking dead,” who came to her with distemper a couple of years after she opened the Territorio in 2008. To save a dog from distemper is no small task, and now Milu, in his dotage, weighs less than a fart and walks like a drunken tarantula.

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Why I Hate My Dog

Photo (and all photos below) courtesy of Richard Gilbert

Richard Gilbert | Longreads | July 2016 | 18 minutes (4,584 words)

Belle Krendl, “our” dog but really mine, is a furtive, ragtag creature. She suffers in comparison to our prior dogs—and to most we’ve known. In fact, she suffers in comparison to any pet we’ve ever owned, including jumpy, escape-prone gerbils; a pert exotic lizard that refused to eat; cannibalistic chickens that stared with malice in their soulless green eyes; and a sweet, dumb, tailless black cat named Tao who spent his life staring into space with huge yellow eyes—but once, in a blur, grabbed and gulped down a gerbil our daughter dangled before him by way of introduction.

A Jack Russell terrier, or maybe a Jack cross, Belle Krendl is covered in whorls of stiff white hair. Bristly brows and white lashes accent her black eyes, as do her lower eyelids, a disconcerting garish pink. In the house, her movements are wary; outside, she streaks like a Greyhound after any creature unwise enough to enter our yard. Her long skinny legs with knobby joints—King crab legs, I call them—make her too gangly, at 16 inches tall, for a proper go-to-ground Jack. At 22 pounds, she’s too heavy for a lapdog. She’s ambivalent about cuddling anyway. We’re seldom inclined to offer much physical affection, given her peculiar odor, an intermittent acidic stink, especially pungent when she’s hot from running. A mouthful of missing, broken, and bad teeth partly explains her vile breath.

Richard's rescue dog, Belle Krendl.

Richard’s rescue dog, Belle Krendl.

“She’s a rescue—6 years old when we got her!” we crow, cashing in where we can, harvesting meager props for having saved her from euthanasia. In reality, she’d been lodged at a no-kill shelter. It had placed her twice in good homes before we showed up.

Baiting my family, I say, “I’d return her, but now she’s 12. Belle may have to take a dirt nap.”

“You can’t have her killed!” everyone cries.

“I’m thinking about it.”

“But you can take her back! They have to take her back! And they can’t kill her!”

I’m certain it would be more humane to have her euthanized than to take her almost anywhere. Read more…

The Story About Pit Bulls That Rarely Gets Written

This is a story about an American dog: my dog, Dexter. And because Dexter is a pit bull, this is also a story about the American dog, because pit bulls have changed the way Americans think about dogs in general. Reviled, pit bulls have become representative. There is no other dog that figures as often in the national narrative—no other dog as vilified on the evening news, no other dog as defended on television programs, no other dog as mythologized by both its enemies and its advocates, no other dog as discriminated against, no other dog as wantonly bred, no other dog as frequently abused, no other dog as promiscuously abandoned, no other dog as likely to end up in an animal shelter, no other dog as likely to be rescued, no other dog as likely to be killed. In a way, the pit bull has become the only American dog, because it is the only American dog that has become an American metaphor—and the only American dog that people bother to name. When a cocker spaniel bites, it does so as a member of its species; it is never anything but a dog. When a pit bull bites, it does so as a member of its breed. A pit bull is never anything but a pit bull.

-Tom Junod, in Esquire.

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More on Junod in the Longreads Archive

Photo: matthewalmonroth, Flickr

Our Longreads Member Pick: Watch Dog, by Kerri Anne Renzulli & Narratively

This week, we’re excited to share a Member Pick from Narratively, the New York-based (and Kickstarter-backed) storytelling site that launched last fall and has been featured on Longreads in the past.

“Watch Dog,” by Kerri Anne Renzulli, will be published in a two weeks, and they were kind enough to make the story available early to Longreads Members. Renzulli, a journalist and Columbia grad student, investigates the difficult task of training guide dogs for New York City—and helping develop relationships between the dogs and their future owners.

Read an excerpt here.

Support Longreads—and get more stories like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.

Illustration by Laura McCabe

Can a pet change the life of a boy born with fetal alcohol syndrome?

Chancer sometimes heads off tantrums before they start. If a tutor or a therapist has worked with Iyal in the dining room a bit too long, Chancer moves between the visitor and the boy, clearly relaying: We’re done for today. From two floors away, he will alert, flicking his ears, tuning in. Sensing that Iyal is nearing a breaking point, he gallops up or down the stairs to find him, playfully head-butts and pushes him down to the floor, gets on top of him, stretches out and relaxes with a satisfied groan. Helplessly pinned under Chancer, Iyal resists, squawks and then relaxes, too. The big dog lies on top of the boy he loves, and seals him off from the dizzying and incomprehensible world for a while.

“Wonder Dog.” — Melissa Fay Greene, New York Times

See also: “Can the Bulldog Be Saved?” — Benoit Denizet-Lewis, New York Times, Nov. 22, 2011