On The Habit of Getting the Back Story

I have been seeing too many fellow bloggers subjected to all sorts of unfounded judgment lately. Come to think of it, it’s a pervasive attitude on social media in general. It has me asking: Why is there this need to criticise. Where is the desire to do so publicly coming from? And why is there a sense of entitlement attached to the behaviour?


Recently, I stumbled across a delightful fine art photography series: Little Kids and Their Big Dogs. Sadly, in the comment section the conversation was quickly deteriorating from “These are gorgeous” to something far more sinister. The downward spiral started when someone pointed out how dangerous the situation was for both child and dog. And although there is nothing inherently wrong with the statement, the lack of research and accusatory wording was troublesome.


The artistry is insane!

Rather than the commenter stating something like: “Please leave this type of shoot to professionals that know how to keep both dog and children safe”; what I saw instead were accusations of irresponsibility, stupidity, name calling and child/animal abuse insinuations thrown at the parents, photographer and even the Art FB page for sharing the collection.

People were quick to say that although they understood these particular photos were art, they feared it would encourage folks to duplicate this at home in a DIY way. The long list of imagined horror stories showed just how creative humans can be. And it left me shaking my head because we’ve been on the receiving end of this behaviour more times than I care to think upon.

I can’t tell you how much hate mail I receive on a weekly basis from people who accuse my bipeds of putting me in harm’s way. Some have actually threatened to call animal welfare on us, because of photos like this one:

Montecristo travels small dog travel to switzerland

Mom is on her belly on the grass taking this shot. This wall is less than a foot high. I am not even wearing a harness! GASP! Bern, Switzerland 2015 Europe trip

What’s the worry with this photo you ask? I am on a ledge, without a leash or even a harness.


Here is why all this inflammatory fuss is a problem. Instead of asking “how did you safely achieve that photo?” people prefer to be judge and jury. In fact – they feel entitled to. And frankly that’s not ok. It boggles the mind that although I am so obviously loved, many people assume that my life has been intentionally put in danger. It is one of the most preposterous and infuriating things. It’s also incredibly uncouth.

Have any of these concerned folks stopped to think of what they don’t see? Have they considered that perhaps steps were taken to ensure “safety first” while still achieving such a shot? Are they inquisitive and asking about the training?  Do they enquire on how we achieved the optical illusion? No. they prefer to feed the frenzy fires … or light them.

More surprising is that no one seems to jump to the conclusion that we use Photoshop (we don’t actually, but you would think they’d at least consider it!). Photoshop (and there are a bevy of software’s and apps to choose from) can be used to remove pretty much anything from a photo. Anything from cosmetic issues such as tear stains on white fur to much larger things like an unwanted passerby in a big red coat, an electrical wire in the sky… or a hand in the way. To give you a stellar example of this let me introduce you to Scruffy Dog Photography: as you can see leashes ARE used but get removed digitally if desired by the client.


Maybe I am playing devil’s advocate here but for those that say that kids should not ride dogs… well, kids shouldn’t ride Lions either. But two little girls do just that in the Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe book and more recently the movie.


Do we hold Marvel Entertainment responsible for someone tying a cape to their shoulders and trying to fly after purchasing a comic book? Where do we draw the line? Is it a case of “real world” versus imagined? Because let us be honest: since any gaming platform, painting, cartoon, movie and photograph is a potential teachable moment; are artists and now bloggers going to be expected to place a warning label on every photo because we know the viewer isn’t getting the complete story but assumes they are?

I ask you Dear Reader, are these folks harsh and judgmental because it’s easy to hide behind a screen and pseudonym on social media? Has it become too easy for us to seize an opportunity to feel righteous and thus better about ourselves? Is it a case of “knight in shining armor” syndrome that makes self-declared specialist think they must shout “J’accuse…!” at every opportunity? And do we need to stop brushing it off as “haters will hate” and actually address this poor behaviour? Is it even possible to silence the unconstructive criticism?

I don’t know. I wish I had the answers. But on my blog, if you’ve got criticisms, try asking first and getting the back story.

38 Comments on “On The Habit of Getting the Back Story

  1. Yeah, people are weird and internet gives them a means to attack without having to do it face to face. The world of mom (human) blogs are even worse and much more judgmental than dog blogs.

    I have had some borderline weird comments when I have had pictures of Ruby in downtown Chicago without a leash. I actually do keep her on a leash at all times cause she’s a little reactive. However I also sometimes Photoshop out her leash and harness because I am particular about my photos and prefer them without all the other stuff. I now occasionally put a disclaimer explaining the Photoshop thing.

    • What happened to “if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing”? and … like you I am starting to put little comments like “Dad is holding me just out of frame” in the photos but I really shouldn’t have to.

  2. It is kind of crazy the way people attack first without getting the backstory. I love that photo of Monte and am disappointed that people attacked you over it. Because my blog is full of photos by professional photographers, there are many images that have been photoshopped (mostly the leash was removed.) It makes me sad that you have received so much criticism. I was really stunned when I watched the interview on YouTube at all the stupid stuff people say. I love seeing all the adventures and there is no doubt that Monte is well cared for and loved!

    • Thank you Beth, (for those who would like to know what video – here) and yes I did not mention the horrors I received for being a woman doing the proposing. A blog post for another day perhaps? What I am wondering is … is social media in part to blame for how pervasive this is OR was it always there and all social media has done is made it more noticeable.

      • I proposed to my husband over 30 years ago, I can only imagine the backlash we would have gotten then if social media existed! It is infuriating and saddening how many people think that their way is the only way.

  3. There have always been hyper critical folks out there, but social media makes it easier for them to be internet “trolls”. The fact that we came up with a derogatory term like “trolls” for people who lurk and snipe, shows how ubiquitous the unfortunate phenomenon is.

    • Very very good point. The fact that there is a name for it does indeed speak volumes! Thank you for a most eloquent response.

  4. I think these days in social media world we live in many people are too preoccupied with being miserable and grumpy than being pleasant or share constructive criticism. Negative or rude comments like that show you who those people are. As much going on in the world today, there are so many other REAL life altering issues to be worried about than criticizing a blogger sharing their adventures.

    • Very good point! So perhaps these folks “use up their energy” on the “small stuff” then feel like they have accomplished something and thus feel off the hook to deal with real 1st world problems.

  5. Hi Monte,

    It is sad to read how bad it is and that you get so much hate mail! People are quite awful. I don’t get it. Especially when they see that you are so loved!

    I think many if not every public figure has to deal with this. I hear about it more and more, so I believe the more popular the social media is, the more “free to do and say whatever” people feel while they are safely tucked away behind the screen. They feel empowered by not having to say the comment face to face.

    I was quite upset when I heard your mom say that people were attacking her over the proposal!!! That is disgusting! People are so unaccepting of different ways of thinking.

    Don’t be discouraged and dragged down by trolls. Unfortunately I doubt anything will change to the better though. I certainly hope you have more loving followers like us that understand how well taken care of you are rather than more haters.

    With much love,
    Michaela and the pups ❤️

    • Thank you for you very kind words. I think yes, there is some of that “oh well they made their lives public so they have to accept this…” but really? And when you think about it, our proposal … I mean we aren’t super big Hollywood stars or anything … in comparison in seems so sad that people think that it’s ok.

      We will not let them stop us. We will never let them win. 🙂

  6. The perfect post – Thank You. My first reaction “People complain about what you get up to REALLY!?!?!?!?!?!” WTF!!!

    I get so irritated by stupid people stepping up to be judge and jury on any matter they see fit. Such arrogance. Such stupidity. They will do it for free and spend hours ranting about safety/taste/opinions. What if you started charging for commenting? They would shut up fast!

    I blame Facebook – people can rant and rave all they like and find an audience, so they vent on other people’s posts. I had that with one simpleton. I was spotlighting a cat rescue wanting to refurbish a transition room for cats coming back to the rescue (amazing as they are, the rescue takes back cats it adopts it when owners pass away or fall ill etc.,) A brilliant and inspired idea, a gentle room to help cats return to shelter life, but OOOh no, not according to the commenter. They should only ask for food, and essential necessities. Heaven forbid the rescue should step outside this person’s opinion of the rescues ‘purpose.

    Needless to day this person was blocked and I eventually deleted the thread as you can’t reason with a fanatic of any stripe.

    • that is crazy. Thinking outside the box is exactly what rescues need to do. Push boundaries. Get bigger, better and smarter about how we rescue.

      Charging for comments…. kinda love the idea in a way.

  7. Judgment seems to be “a thing” these days. Everybody is eager to judge everybody and everything. Everybody is the only righteous one “in town.” It is very tiring to just watch, never mind to face.

    • It is exhausting! I agree. And yeah there is a certain amount of “let me feel better about myself” going on for sure.

  8. I was talking to someone about something similar earlier today. I get some of the same on things I post on my Facebook page. Never would even intentionally post anything I thought remotely smacked of abuse or danger, but people will go there on a regular basis for some reason. Seems some people feel the need to be heard, and love to judge others. I usually ignore the comments, or what often happens is another person will set them straight. 🙂

    • Yeah others are good at the defence game. I just do not understand this need to make it public. That element is particularly odd to me. I have from time to time private messaged someone trying to get some background … but to make any comment without some facts? i just don’t get it.

  9. It always amazes me how “safe” people think they are to say mean things on the internet, when they wouldn’t do so in person. Good for you for saying something about this. I’m still relatively new to blogging and have luckily not encountered much of this yet. I’m not looking forward to it.

  10. You are so right questioning these troll-like attitudes. I have a young friend who has been totally cyber-bullied recently. Trolls have accused her of mistreating her dogs and have gone to sponsors. Really awful!!

  11. OMG I totally love this post and agree. I have had people come at me…even some bloggers for pictures of my Mini Schnauzer with my child. They are all like your dog may be trained, but someone may think that’s ok with their dog and it’s not. People are so judgy and don’t know half the story (like my husband is a photographer) or my dog for that matter.

    • And since when are WE responsible for OTHERS? That is the part I do not get. I blame the USA’s “litigation” culture to be honest. There is a little something called responsibility of self. Accountability for ones actions in ones OWN life. I mean seriously? I feel like some people don’t realize what they say and do is = to a public stoning. Viewers, fans and such … don’t get to be judge and jury. In fact a judge can’t be a juror and a juror a judge. That is how dangerous this mob mentality is.

  12. The shot is visually stunning but I don’t think it’s a good idea either for both child or dog. There is definitely a better way of phrasing things though! I’m surprised I haven’t gotten flack for some of the photos I do with Mr. N.

    • The thing is we have NO idea HOW that shot was done. The odds are the kids are not on the dogs. It’s likely a photo montage. I have seen what can be done with photoshop and it’s insane! Kids might be on wooden toy horses and the dogs photoshopped in after. The reality is we do not know for a FACT.

      I would have emailed the photographer. If I was really concerned. I would never start a public debate without the facts.

  13. Brilliantly said! I definitely think this age of social media has given people false courage to speak their minds and spew judgements without thinking because they can hide behind their computer screens. I was just talking about this recently with a friend. It is absolutely ridiculous. I too have had comments directed at me insinuating that I put my cats in dangerous situations because I take them out on adventures. I am the most paranoid and cautious person and would NEVER do anything to put my babies in harm’s way, but when people don’t know the “behind the scenes” story about what’s going on, all they see is my cat on a ledge (like the photo you mention in your post) or my cat without a leash. Whatever happened to asking first before casting judgement, or keeping your mouth shut if you don’t have something nice to say? I’m sorry you have experienced this too, MonteCristo 🙁

    • Well at least we are not alone? Hugs to you. And I SO get what you feel. That’s exactly it. SO many times we find ourselves shouting “REALLY PEOPLE??” … most times we just drop it but sometimes … you can’t. We got person track us down physically at our home, THAT is when you call the police.

  14. I have found that the judgemental comments lately are just ridiculous and its like you have to think twice before posting something – I always say don’t judge a book by its cover as you do not know what the real content is. Thanks for this post

    • Exactly. And nothing wrong with asking. I am never offended by a person sending me a private message saying “Hey so … would love to know how you did that… what safety precautions did you use?”… more than happy to chat about that. But there is a huge difference between a private “I am concerned” versus a public lynching.

  15. There really is way too much unwarranted criticism on the internet. I think that some people forget that there are real people on the other end of things receiving their comments. They would never say those things to you in person! I get criticism from people on my blog too. I have a weekly series where my cats are featured in a comic book style story. Once, someone got upset about a toy they were playing with an asked me if I even knew my cats were playing with that. I wasn’t sure what to say to them. Who do they think took the photos? Who do they think edited the photos and put the post on my website? It hurt my brain to think of it.

  16. I totally agree! I am constantly amazed and horrified at the things people will say on social media. I feel sorry for people on cat pages who are asking for advice on their cats and so many people are judgemental and criticize them instead of offering constructive advice. Everyone seems to think they are an expert! I noticed this lack of a “filter” when I was a college professor 12 years ago and students hid behind emails when writing me. They would say things in writing they would never say to my face.

  17. I’m sorry you had someone comment negatively on your photo. You know your dog and we (your peeps) know you would never put him in harms way.

    That said, I do understand the concern that irresponsible people may not realize the art form and attempt to recreate the photos (large dogs and kids) at home.

    Like TDP, we also add disclosures such as ‘leash removed in editing’ in our captions. It is sad that we have to do so but hopefully it will deter the irresponsible for making a mistake that may endanger their companions.


    • If it was one bad comment … but it’s multiple and daily. Hence the need to say something. I do think that to some degree we also need to put responsibility back onto people – for themselves. It’s silly – I mean … silly like “careful cup hot” on coffee shop cups. Well duh! LOL

      The thing is … why is an artist, blogger etc. suddenly accountable for other peoples responsibility?

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