Over the years, this newspaper has covered numerous stories that held the public’s attention over a period of days, even weeks.
Murders. Scandals. Floods. Manhunts. The closing of the Air Force Base. The Ice Storm. Friendly visits from the “reverend” Fred Phelps. The tragic departure of Arby’s Roast Beef from Plattsburgh in the mid-’90s.
Few stories, though, have ever generated the furor and the interest of the current Great Puppy Caper.
Two dozen puppies allegedly mistreated, and then, without question, whisked away and abandoned in a variety of spots around the region.
The alleged perpetrator was soon uncovered, and the tiny canines began to reappear, alone or in pairs or in small groups. Sick, hungry, pathetic, helpless.
Ordinary citizens organized their own search parties to find any remaining survivors. Many donated to pay for the enormous veterinary bills. Dozens — who, it should be noted, could have adopted a dog at any time during the past 10 years — applied to adopt these particular dogs.
Through it all, people have continued to read — whole stories, not just the headlines this time. In fact, they keep demanding more.
There isn’t anyone associated with the newspaper, from the publisher to the lowliest employee (me), who hasn’t be pestered on the street or over the phone or in the checkout line at Target for some new tidbit of updated information on the condition or the whereabouts of the puppies.
People, if we find another puppy, or if we discover that a puppy is now leading a marauding band of wolves against local alpaca farmers, or if we uncover that a puppy was captured and savagely beaten by Sasquatch, we will immediately tweet it. Promise.
Some people called every day for the first week to find out if there was more information that wasn’t printed in that morning’s paper. Others called Speakout to rant and rave, using language too offensive for us to print, or in some cases for us to even comprehend.
These puppies, I have come to understand, are the most sympathetic creatures in the history of our culture. Perhaps any culture.
Using focus groups, we’ve scientifically tested other potential stories. Infant children forced to work in coal mines. One-legged ducks dodging traffic on the highway. Single moms fighting to keep their babies from the Internal Revenue Service. Adorable boy band One Direction stranded in the forest without a stylist.
Nothing, however, compares to the plight of the precious pooches in the hearts and minds of the people.
Sure, feral kittens are cute, too. They’ve gotten their share of attention in the past, but it was never to the extent of the puppies. I think people realized that 1) kittens come out of the womb as ready-made killing machines, capable of fending for themselves in the wild, and 2) kittens will just grow into cats, who only truly care about humans around feeding time.
We at the newspaper have not, as of yet, resorted to individual profiles and mug shots of each puppy. Rest assured, however, if circulation drops even a smidgen, each pup will be getting its own Press-Republican Web page and we’ll be having a “Vote for the Cutest Puppy” online contest.
Hey, wait a second. Boss, have I got an idea …
At the time this was written, there were still a handful of puppies that hadn’t been found. Hopefully, by the time you read it, they will have been located and turned in, or at the very least secretly adopted by some friendly mountain people.
For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, there’s nothing I care more about.
Email Steve Ouellette: email@example.com