A long-haired Chihuahua was found abandoned in the back yard of a northern California home in January when night time temperatures were dipping into the twenties. The family had moved away and left the dog alone.
When she was found she was nursing a small grey kitten that it was believed would have died without the warmth and nourishment she was providing.
They were taken to the local shelter, then to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California where they were named Beignet (canine) and Gumbo (feline) and given a royal treatment.
This could have been a non-story, two homeless animals, a Chihuahua and a kitten, found in a place where the supply of these animals greatly exceeds the demand, where too many are given the needle.
But the Center took their story to the public along with this adorable and uplifting picture celebrating the Mardi Gras.
“This incredible little family really demonstrates the pure hearts of the orphan animals we meet each day,” said Helen Woodward Animal Center Inventory Manager Labeth Thompson. “They love each other. That’s all there is to it. It’s not complicated. They needed each other and they were there for each other.”
Calls and donations came in from all over the world. Everyone wanted to help this abandoned dog and her orphan kitten-son.
But wait, there’s more brilliance…
Anyone who wanted to adopt Beignet and Gumbo was asked to include an essay of no more than 300 words with their application.
And yes, I was a college English teacher and assigned (and read) a lot of essays so naturally I would think it is a good idea. But you know as a writer, the challenge of organizing and developing your ideas to convince your reader. Quite often you learn something about yourself during the writing process.
For the rescuers it would be easy to eliminate those who thought writing an essay was too much like school.
Or the superficial:
I want to adopt these guys to give them a better life.
And the totally honest:
This dog and kitten are more famous than I will ever be so I want to adopt them to show them off so everyone will see how wonderful I am.
Still more brilliance…
After Beignet and Gumbo went to good homes, I hope that the staff might look at other applicants and their essays to write follow up letters such as this:
Thank you for your interest in Beignet and Gumbo. We were most impressed with your application and accompanying essay. You are the kind of compassionate person we welcome to the Helen Woodward Animal Center...
[followed by a sales letter introducing other deserving but less famous Chihuahuas and kittens available for adoption]
Nathan Winograd has made the point that there are thousands of people in the market for a pet. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge to unite human and deserving pet.