Barking up the wrong tree; Winona viral photo of man hugging dog not what it seems

2014-01-28T22:00:00Z Barking up the wrong tree; Winona viral photo of man hugging dog not what it seemsHannah Jones Daily News Winona Daily News
January 28, 2014 10:00 pm  • 

Winona suddenly became home to both an animal hero and villain Monday, when a photo of a man hugging a dog outside the Winona post office in subzero temperatures shot across the Internet.

A bit of investigation Tuesday, though, turned up a pampered dog, an owner shocked at backlash created from little context and a heartbroken accidental photographer.

The photo, taken by Winona State University student Brittany Knight, pictured a man hugging a dog tied outside the post office. Knight explained in the photo caption that the man had been inside waiting in line, and, when he saw the dog, he stepped out into the cold weather and hugged the dog to keep it warm.

“Most incredible man award,” the heading read.

The photo soon had more than 150,000 views and was splashed across the Internet. On Facebook viewers posted comments praising the man in the photo and condemning the dog’s owner.

(Admission: an early Daily News Facebook post Tuesday about the photo described the man as a “Good Samaritan,” which kept the condemnations coming.)

Knight, who admitted she didn’t know the full circumstances and simply wanted to photograph a guy she saw doing something nice, was surprised by the attention and comments her photo has received.

“I’ve been kind of heartbroken at the negative ones,” she said. “That part sucks.”

Most surprised was the dog’s owner, Winona resident Diane Kennedy.

Kennedy takes her now-famous yellow Lab, Tilly, with her to the post office every day, usually followed by a trip to the bank, where Tilly gets a treat. They take the trip all seasons, warm and cold.

“She loves the cold, loves the snow,” she said. “She’s very disappointed if she doesn’t go with me.”

Kennedy left Tilly outside Monday while she completed her errands as usual, and never saw the man holding her dog. When she came outside, she found him standing next to Tilly and petting her.

“She’s really friendly,” she said. “People come up and pet her a lot.”

Since Kennedy does not have a Facebook page, she only found out about the photo later, when her daughter stumbled across the picture on social media.

As for the comments, Kennedy’s family has instructed her not to read them.

Temperatures Monday were well below average, but Tilly wasn’t in any real danger, said Suzie Ehll at Winona’s Pet Medical Center, in part because dogs have a much higher tolerance to cold than humans do.

“Twenty minutes really isn’t that much for a dog,” she said.

Although every situation is different, depending on conditions and the breed, many dogs, including hunting breeds such as yellow Labs, are fine not just walking but living outdoors in winter conditions, as long as they have a dog house, fresh bedding and a heated water bowl, she said.

“A lot of people think that animals are children,” she said. “Dogs are not like people.”

A lot of people who saw the photo online, it seems, leaped instantly to making all kinds of other wrong assumptions.

“I’m sorry that they took it out of context,” Kennedy said. “She’s the most spoiled, loving and loved dog as can be.”

The Winona man, who was not able to be reached Tuesday, might have came out the best in the incident — after honestly misreading the situation, he got a hug from the loving dog. Or maybe it was Tilly herself who came out best — she doesn’t have a Facebook page.

After the incident at the post office, Kennedy said, she and her dog walked home.

Tilly, she said, stuck her face in the nearest snowbank at every opportunity.

“A lot of people think that animals are children. Dogs are not like people.” Suzie Ehll, Pet Medical Center

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(22) Comments

  1. oldschoolgirl
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    oldschoolgirl - December 24, 2014 2:51 am
    very nicely said Howard...;
  2. janedoe
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    janedoe - January 31, 2014 6:37 am
    I think that the real issue is that the WDN solicited photos and stories from 'citizen reporters' and then failed to actually perform due diligence and learn what was really behind the story until AFTER it published the photo and the photo was shared digitally with other sites (not by WDN, the photographer or any person directly involved.) Not only was the photo caption misleading, but its widespread dissemination set up Tilly's owner for undeserved, often extremely ugly criticism founded on a misperception that the WDN set up in the first place by not fulfilling its obligation to investigate before it published its 'heartwarming story.'

    Despite the continued harsh and misdirected criticism on its site and on its facebook page, WDN has kept the photo and 'article' up. I understand why: the controversy drives a lot of traffic to its sites, which I suppose is a major contributing factor in winning awards. Shame on the WDN. We should be able to trust what they print and cannot.
  3. justme15111
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    justme15111 - January 30, 2014 10:41 am
    The owner of the Tilly know her furrbaby and what she's capable of handling! No I wouldn't have left my dog outside but that's just me! I'm not gonna bash her for taking her dog with her. She knows her dog better than anyone else does. I would've put doggy shoes on her just for the fact of frostbite but in the end it's HER decision! And obviously the dog is fine!
  4. CTR
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    CTR - January 30, 2014 9:19 am
    Several of the comments are from friends of the dog owner, who have come to her defense. That's great, but not the real issue. Being a lifelong dog owner, I understand that pets are not the same as people, which seems to imply that they don't require the care that people do. I think the opposite is true. We determine in what environments they're safe or not safe. My Lab loves the snow too, so when it's above zero, she runs and plays and does not exhibit any distress or discomfort. But when it gets BELOW zero, that's another story. During trips outside for a "#1 or #2" at -10 to -20 degrees, she can only last a few minutes before her feet begin to freeze and she alternately lifts her feet up and has difficulty walking back to the house. My point is that there are many variables at play: Breed, age, the pet's history, etc. The worst part of all this is that author missed a real opportunity to educate pet owners, and chose a sound bite from a vet clinic receptionist instead.
  5. cronn
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    cronn - January 29, 2014 1:34 pm
    True, in many ways dogs are not like people when it comes to cold weather. However, I wish someone had mentioned the potential for frostbite on the foot pads. That has the potential to happen with any breed.
  6. Howard Kruger
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    Howard Kruger - January 29, 2014 1:10 pm
    I personally know Tilly (the dog) and Dianne and Mike Kennedy. I also know their prior dog Emma.

    I own the house next door and live on the block and have ever since the Kennedy's moved from up on the ridge some 13 years ago onto the block I live. I consider myself a friend of all who reside in the Kennedy house and give Tilly dog treats and toss tennis balls.to her frequently.

    If one believes in re-incarceration I would only hope in my next life I could come back as one of Kennedy's dogs.

    Howard


  7. Hive
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    Hive - January 29, 2014 12:31 pm
    Sampson, +1 (add me to your view)...great photo.

    SE is correct, dogs are dogs, deal with it.

    Kathleen is a love, and her dog is loved.

    Would that people (dodgers like you and me) were as concerned about other people...some of us have way way too much time on their hands and a smart phone that needs confiscation.
  8. saywhat
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    saywhat - January 29, 2014 11:19 am
    Just because a dog "loves to be outside" in the winter cold doesn't mean that they understand the dangers of it. It is our responsibility to use common sense. Having shelter and bedding in the cold is one thing, but being subject to the wind and paws on ice cold concrete is another.
  9. ellielundblad
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    ellielundblad - January 29, 2014 9:15 am
    I am the owner of a lab. I'm not arguing that labs don't love the snow; it was just an exceptionally cold day and, in my opinion, an unwise and obviously controversial decision.
  10. Sampson
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    Sampson - January 29, 2014 9:03 am
    It's a good photo!
  11. Sampson
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    Sampson - January 29, 2014 9:03 am
    ellielundblad I think it depends on what the veterinarian association considers "long periods of time". As someone who has owned a few labs I'm pretty sure 15 - 20 minutes isn't it. Several hours without shelter would be bad. The last lab we had was an indoor/outdoor dog. His favorite thing was swimming in the beaver pond and it didn't matter to him if there was ice bergs floating in it! He absolutely loved it. The lab we had before that was strictly an outside dog. She never came in the house. She had a dog house inside the garage. She used to sleep outside and let the snow drift over her back. Most labs I've known love snow. A lot of them root around in it like a hog. A few minutes in the cold isn't going to bother a lab. Other breeds, maybe, but not labs.
  12. ellielundblad
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    ellielundblad - January 29, 2014 8:28 am
    Although previous comments made in regards to this incident were probably overly harsh, I don't think it should be dismissed. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather." With a temperature significantly below zero and a windchill, it just wasn't an appropriate day to leave a dog outside while running an errand. Plain and simple.
  13. ellielundblad
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    ellielundblad - January 29, 2014 8:20 am
    Although previous comments made in regards to this incident were probably overly harsh, I don't think it should be dismissed. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather." With the temperatures dropping significantly below zero and a windchill, it just wasn't an appropriate day to leave a dog outside alone while running an errand, plain and simple.
  14. Insouciance
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    Insouciance - January 29, 2014 7:45 am
    Mob mentality at it's best
  15. forddriver
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    forddriver - January 28, 2014 11:10 pm
    Same as my Lab..... Cold doesn't phase her. Loves it much more than heat :)
  16. forddriver
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    forddriver - January 28, 2014 11:09 pm
    I personally feel sorry for the Lab owner who took her Lab to the Post Office and left him/her outside while she was inside (probably less than 15 minutes). my Lab would have been GREAT with it and people are getting carried away with nothing . I already advised my Lab to be prepared to be tied up in front of the Post Office if it get 20 or more below again this winter !!!! She LOVES the cold and BEGS to stay out . And she will have a "pinch collar" to control her and not a "gentle leader" which was referred to as a muzzle. People have to learn to be more realistic..... this dog was not kept outside with out shelter for overnight, but rather being walked by a carrying owner.
  17. Maquoketa
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    Maquoketa - January 28, 2014 10:27 pm
    With out facts the Winona Daily News should never have editorialized when it made the Facebook post. Very bad journalism.
  18. yupyupyup
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    yupyupyup - January 28, 2014 9:06 pm
    Allen, it's great that you even took the time for the dog. Better to be safe than sorry. I hope someone gives you a hug in return!
  19. tooders
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    tooders - January 28, 2014 9:01 pm
    Let me be the first to apologize to you for these negative comments myself as an avid animal lover was a little put out by this but it obviously got blown way out of proportion I am truly SORRY for any comment I made in regards to this! I've had several labs in my life and know they are capable of handling colder temps
  20. Allen Campbell
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    Allen Campbell - January 28, 2014 8:36 pm
    I'm the guy in photo. I tried to stick up for dog owner (on facebook- dont know or trust the igmar site) but it got way out of control and could not keep up with all the bad comments. People can be so mean.
  21. yupyupyup
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    yupyupyup - January 28, 2014 8:09 pm
    The dog does look pretty healthy, his weight looks good and he looks content. Kind of rare actually, dogs these days are getting more and more obese like their fellow Americans. Honestly, you do yourself and your dog a dis-service when you don't let him outside even in this weather.
    He will not get his exercise, and dogs like a lab need exercise, they need to acclimate to the weather, and they need to get out less they get destructive or crazy with the furniture, much like a human needs to get out.
    Keeping it inside isn't good unless it is a breed that can't regulate it's body temperature, but a lab certainly can, don't believe me, just ask mine. We run outside together all year round.
  22. janedoe
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    janedoe - January 28, 2014 7:20 pm
    Tilly is a well cared for, wonderful dog whose owners truly take great care of her. She does, indeed, love being outside, even in very cold weather.
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