Patrick Syndrome

Yesterday I brought your attention to Beyonce, the two-week old pup who’s being billed as the world’s smallest puppy.  She was flown from California to New York City to appear on Good Morning America, which happened this morning.

I made some posts, first to my personal Facebook page and then to Louie’s page, to see if I could gauge whether or not I was overreacting to think that this was a bit of irresponsible reaching on the part of the rescue that initiated this “World’s Smallest Puppy” campaign.  After several of my friends responded to express similar sentiments, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to show that side of the story.  So I wrote a post.

Beyonce is being cared for by the Grace Foundation of Northern California, a rescue group who saved her pregnant mother, resuscitated this pup (the runt of the litter) and then decided to promote her as the “World’s Smallest Puppy.”  I’m sure they do good work, and they clearly have a cadre of devoted fans who believe strongly in the work that they do and are happy to see them getting so much press.  And I’m sure their intentions are good.  But the whole thing bothers me, a lot, and I want to tell you why.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to emphasize here that I am very supportive of rescue workers.  I have many friends, both on and offline, who are involved in rescue in some way.  I have campaigned to fundraise for many rescue organizations through Louie’s Facebook page, and I continue to support good rescue efforts in any way I can.  This post is not about bashing rescue, or the wonderful, dedicated people involved in rescue, or the wonderful work that they do.

I also want to emphasize here that I have nothing but the utmost respect for the people who have been involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of Patrick the Pitbull.  If you don’t know Patrick’s story, he was rescued from a garbage chute, starved and barely alive, just over a year ago.  His rescue and subsequent rehabilitation sparked numerous websites and movements devoted to animal welfare causes, inspired by — and sometimes named for– him.  Patrick was lovingly cared for and nursed back to health by some remarkable, dedicated people.  But he also became an “accidental” celebrity and, sadly, his story has also been used– exploited, you might say– by some whose motives are questionable, at best.

What I’m going to say next shouldn’t come as any great surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention:  Patrick was an unqualified viral sensation who brought a lot of attention to the plight of rescues and the creatures they care for and the work they do.  And today there are a lot of people in animal related work who would love to “discover” the next Patrick.  Failing such “luck,” some of these people would do what they could to manufacture the next Patrick.

I contend that the story of “Beyonce,” who does have a sad story but is in no way the world’s smallest puppy, is being spun in a misguided effort to draw attention (and donations) to the rescue who is caring for her.  They probably mean well.  They probably think that the ends outweigh the means, that they can take advantage of their fifteen minutes of fame, because this is their moment.  And, why not?  It sheds a good light on rescue and raises awareness, right?

Not so fast.  First of all, it’s plain to anyone who has ever bred small dogs that this is just the runt of a small-breed litter.  Who, exactly, has determined that this is “The World’s Smallest Puppy?”  Clearly (to anyone who knows about such things) this is not by any stretch the smallest puppy ever seen at two weeks.  So why make such a fuss?  Doesn’t this seem a bit like a carnival sideshow to you?  You know, those exhibits where they have a trailer with the “world’s smallest horse” and you pay your five bucks to see a smallish pony?

And second, who travels across the country with a two week old puppy?  The spin on this is that she was vet cleared, was very well cared for by experienced rescue people for the entire trip, and her mother was brought with her.  All laudable cautions.  [Editor’s Note:  I have since been made aware that the vet who cleared travel for this pup is also the romantic partner of Grace Foundation’s head.] But most responsible breeders will tell you that, for the first few weeks of life, they are very cautious about exposing pups to anything external to their home environment, because their little immune systems are too underdeveloped to fight off any infections they might acquire.  Many airborne infections, such as parvovirus, are quite lethal and quite common.

During the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, you cannot be too careful.  Yet Beyonce was taken on an airplane (even adult humans fear exposure to airplane air because of the microbes it harbors) and taken into a studio where she was handled by a multitude of people.  Disclosure:  I have not watched the clip of this show, but I am told that not one word was said about rescue or the work that rescues do.    So exactly where is the benefit to outweigh the risk to this young pup?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a rescue should know better, and so should their vets.  A rescue should, above all, be putting the health of their innocent charges front-and-center, thus providing examples of how to care for animals instead of how to exploit them.  I don’t care how much publicity this brings to this group of do-gooders.  Putting the health of this two-week old puppy in danger for the sake of a few minutes of national exposure is a disgrace.

So here we have an example of something I’m going to call “Patrick Syndrome.”  I’m calling it how I see it, and someone needs to be the one to say it.  Everybody’s rushing to find, or to create, the next Patrick.  And, in this case, too many people are all too willing to coo over the cute, tiny, puppy while they turn a blind eye to the exploitation of that puppy and the potential pitfalls and dangers.

Today  I’m asking the animal community to be willing to take a stand against this kind of exploitation.

This is not “good for rescue.”  This is the kind of thing that gives rescue a bad name.

–Louie’s mom

(note about the image:  this is a public domain image of a young pup)  

3 comments to Patrick Syndrome

  • I agree completely. It is the job of rescuers to protect and place these animals in a place for them to get the best health care possible, which is obviously what is needed. Puppies most of all are especially taken to getting what ever is in the air. They most of all need the highest protection of all or any of the animals. We are more concerned of the care they are given and the safest of all places they go to for “forever” homes they go to, more than anything and want to see that they are happy and nothing more. I also want to say, no matter what happy ending that each animal has, Patrick will be my most loved animal. I’ve never been a pit lover, till I met him. I want all animals to be safe and happy, but I’ll love Patrick the most of any animal that I see on here. Just please do us all a favor and just stick to business of what this rescue is all about and nothing more, keep us informed how each one is doing and what good “forever home” that they will be at. Thank you

  • The ‘second’ part of Rescuing.. is ‘Protecting’…..this little pup should be kept safe, warm, well fed and loved. A calm, gentle environment. She does not need to be another ‘Patrick’ exploited and made a pawn.

    I’m very very glad this pup was saved and is thriving so far.. let’s keep it that way.. please <3

  • I think that every life that can be saved should be. If we as a sociality pick the pretty ones or the babies that have rich families where would we be. Charity starts at home give and it shall be given back to you. That puppy is going to give someone happiness that no dollar amount can buy.The happiness is doing everything possible so that little puppy can have a long life. How many runt’s have people let die because they didn’t have FAITH that it would live. Give the puppy a chsnce. The puppy needs to be at least 6 weeks old before it travels. it has to build up it’s immunitity.