In a moment of indiscretion, a 4-month-old German shepherd puppy named Jaxx swallowed a wooden skewer, piercing his internal organs from his ribcage to his colon.

One month and $13,000 in emergency veterinary care later, Jaxx is said to be alive and well, living in a new home. That would be the end of the story, but it’s not.

Jaxx’s original owner, heartbroken over the loss of her dog, went to a local TV station, and the story got traction in the internet outrage machine. The Maine Veterinary Medical Center in Scarborough and its staff have been deluged with angry phone calls, emails, social media posts and derogatory online comments, escalating all the way to death threats.

What happened? Obviously, people had sympathy for a dog owner who relinquished her ownership of the animal because she could not afford to pay $10,000 for emergency surgery in time to save his life. But there is something else going on too.

What does it take to get someone to call in a death threat to a total stranger based on a few lines of text in a viral story? How much more would it take to get people angry enough to act out in real-life violence?

As we can see in the videos posted by the Jan. 6 Committee, it doesn’t take much. A few lies from a few trusted sources are enough to mobilize a mob capable of extreme acts. Enough people have been primed to believe that they have been wronged by invisible forces behind the scenes that they are ready to explode if given a spark.


What happened at the emergency veterinary clinic last month was sad, but it should not have been enough to spark so much rage.

First of all, the clinic did nothing wrong. It’s a business that provides professional services for pay. Those services are not cheap.

They informed the dog owner about their payment policy before her pet was examined, and gave her an estimate before performing the surgery. While her dog suffered, the owner tried to raise the money necessary for the vet to operate. When she couldn’t come up with it, they offered her the option of surrendering the dog, while the clinic looked for another owner who would pay for the operation.

It’s easy to see how hard it would be for someone to come up with a $5,000 down payment overnight for a $10,000 operation, and it’s easy to understand how heartbreaking it is to lose a puppy. But pet owners are responsible for their animals and can’t expect free care.

What’s harder to understand is the behavior of the humans who took to their computers to campaign against the clinic and its staff. There are too many media outlets that make money by outraging readers and too many readers who want to be outraged.

Not every sad story is a tragedy; not every disappointment is a scandal.

Since online platforms won’t regulate content, it’s up to us to regulate ourselves. Each of us should pause before hitting send and ask if we really know enough to justify our emotional reaction. And we need to push back on our friends who unthinkingly share these stories.

People are angry enough as it is, and we should all think twice about adding to it.

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