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Bad to the bone

Humane society learns to celebrate the perfectly imperfect

From Animal Sheltering magazine May/June 2015

A 13-pound Chihuahua recently joined the ranks of history’s notorious bad boys after an unusual marketing campaign for “the worst dog in America” went viral.

Once a stray on the streets of Sunnyvale, Calif., Eddie arrived at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) in 2013. A behavioral assessment revealed that he hated other dogs, children and spending time in a crate. Staff quickly placed him in a foster home, where he began behavior modification training.

Fifteen months later, Eddie was still in foster care. He’d made progress, but the shelter had plenty of tan Chihuahuas without the cranky disposition, says HSSV president Carol Novello.

At a November 2014 staff meeting, the question came up: “What are we going to do about Eddie?”

The team decided to “just lay it out on the table,” says Novello. A few weeks later, HSSV’s Adopting Bad campaign launched with a blog noting “Three Reasons You DON’T Want to Adopt Eddie the Terrible.” A YouTube video showed the star attempting to pick fights with some peaceable pit bulls, and then throttling a squeaky toy with devilish glee.

“We kind of joked about it,” says Novello, “but he wasn’t an animal who was a danger to other animals or humans. We believed in him and said he deserves a chance.”

So while confessing “he’s kind of a jerk,” the blog also highlighted Eddie’s redeeming qualities: “He’s housebroken, loyal, fun and friendly. He lives to play fetch. But socially? He stinks.”

Within a week, the blog racked up 10,000 views. (It would quickly shoot past 100,000.) Interviews with “Good Morning America” and “Inside Edition” followed, and media outlets around the globe picked up the story. Best of all, a local news story caught the eyes of Eddie’s future adopters.

A few online critics complained that Adopting Bad could give shelter dogs a bad rep, but Novello has a different perspective. “So many people have said to me, ‘You know, my dog does XYZ.’ … What might be an issue for one family isn’t an issue for another family. People have pets in their homes just like him and they love them.”

And, in fact, Eddie is doing great in his new home. In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Deborah and Randolph Espinoza sit on a couch with the now 2-year-old Eddie nestled in Randolph’s lap. While stroking his new companion, Randolph looks into the camera and says, with all sincerity, “We think we found the perfect dog.”

About the Author

As senior editor of the award-winning Animal Sheltering magazine, Julie Falconer writes and edits articles for the sheltering, rescue and animal control fields. Before joining the staff of The Humane Society of the United States, Julie was a longtime volunteer with rescue and animal advocacy organizations in Central Virginia. She spends much of her free time assisting with trap-neuter-return programs for community cats.