That Viral Craigslist Dog Walking Ad Isn't What It Seems, and Here's the Real Story
If you've been on the Internet at all over the past few days, you've probably seen the ad for a dog walker on Seattle's Craigslist that's currently going viral. It's hilarious — but unfortunately, there's a big ol' problem with it: Whoever posted it this time round didn't actually write it. In fact, it's four years old — and what's more, its original creator, Jason O. Gilbert, has taken to Medium to set the record straight.
In a post that was subsequently republished on The Daily Dot, Gilbert said that he normally wouldn't have cared much about a Craigslist ad,who wrote it, or what anyone (including the plagiarist) had been saying about it; he probably wouldn't have even cared that it was a re-post in the first place, because, as he noted, "Preventing re-posts on the Internet is like trying to walk a million dogs at once: You can control a few of them, but most of them are going to get away." But on top of the ad garnering such attention under the name of someone who didn't write it, Gilbert is actually quite attached to it: It's what he credits with setting him on the road to becoming a professional writer. It makes sense, there fore, that he would step forward to reclaim it; in his metaphorical shoes, I would, too.
Here's the deal. When Gilbert, who is a senior editor at Yahoo! Tech these days, first wrote the ad in 2011, he was a recent college grad in the same boat as many other recent college grads: A struggling one. He wrote of that time in his life:
"When I wrote the Craigslist dog-walking ad I was fresh out of college and broke: staying on a friend's couch in Queens, supplementing bowls of Ramen with peanut butter, brushing my teeth with 50 cent toothpaste, walking great distances to avoid paying for the subway. I wrote I WILL WALK YOUR DOG because I needed money, and I had heard that dog-walking in New York City was lucrative."
He wasn't wrong; dog walking is lucrative, especially in a city like New York. It's not an easy job by any means, but you can definitely make bank: In 2010, NPR spoke to people who made between $100,000 and $200,000 a year walking dogs in New York; in Orange County, the figure in October of 2014 was about $120,000; and so on and so forth. If you're the right kind of personality for dog walking, I would look into it. Just sayin'.
Anyway, Gilbert continued, "So, in a maelstrom of adrenaline, I fired off a Craigslist ad offering my services to the well-coiffed one percent, in the hopes that some NYC dog owner with a sense of humor might see it, respect the jokes, and pay me a little cash to pet-sit." He didn't get any dog-walking offers... but he did go viral, thanks to his ad landing on the front page of Reddit (a site which, at the time, Gilbert had never heard of). Posts covering the ad subsequently appeared on places like The Daily What and the Huffington Post — and then Gawker's Nick Denton reached out to him via social media for a job interview based solely on the strength of I Will Walk Your Dog.
And the rest... well, you know how it goes. Gilbert didn't get the Gawker job, but he did land an internship at Nerve and a job at HuffPo with the ad featuring prominently in his cover letter. He doesn't think any of that would have happened "without the confidence I Will Walk Your Dog gave me to apply and present myself as a real writer."
So, we have yet another adventure to add to our list of Craigslist horror stories. I'll admit that I'm not totally sure what the life lesson should be in this case, but whatever it is, it's probably a combination of "Don't steal other people's stuff" and "If someone steals your stuff, call them on it ASAP." Oh, and while we're on the subject, perhaps we'd all better brush up on how to spot fake Craigslist posts, thanks to this handy guide by The Daily Dot's Chris Ostendorf. We already knew the general rule of "When in doubt, it's probably fake"; now we can add, "And it was probably written by somebody else" to it, as well. Reader beware, am I right?