Black Lab Stevie Ticks has more than 70,000 followers on Instagram, but her large fan club began with just four neighborhood students who were following her in real life. If that sounds a bit creepy, read on. It all works out. Jack McCrossan and his three flatmates moved into their Bristol digs in late 2019. Though all of them were “dog people,” their landlord wouldn’t allow pets in the property. So it was serendipity when the young men saw their neighbors’ Black Lab pup.
With a severe case of puppy love, McCrossan decided to write their request for a playdate with the Lab and deliver it to the neighbors. The request read:
If you ever need someone to walk him/her, we will gladly do so. If you ever get bored (we know you never will, but we can dream) we are more than happy to look after him/her. If you want to come over and bring him/her to brighten our day, you are more than welcome. If you want to walk past our balcony windows so we can see him/her, please do.
By way of coming off as less like stalkers, the letter explained their living circumstances and how they all missed their family dogs. They were elated to not only get the go-ahead for future meetups, but that the response came from little Stevie Ticks herself (with the help of her opposable-thumbs possessed owner).
Stevie began her response by explaining her pedigree: Labrador and German Shepherd mix. She wrote, “You are right that I am the bestest-girl! How did you know?” and “I love meeting new people and it would be great if we could be friends. I must warn you that the price of my friendship is 5 x ball throws a day and belly scritches whenever I demand them.” She closes with contact instructions, the WhatsApp number for her “servant Chris.”
McCrossan posted the response from Stevie just before Christmas, and Twitter met the news with excitement, racking up over half a million likes from fellow dog enthusiasts. Twitter user Kathleen Zurcher commented, “You boys are making this Gma cry. What an innovative way to have canine companionship. The young kids next door to us proved to their parents that they would responsibly care for a dog by coming to walk and feed ours. Now they have their own dog. They still walk ours too.” Many people shared photos of their own dogs, and Stephen Black, aka “Lily’s handler,” wrote “When I was in college, missing my family dog Molly, I would work on my laptop next to the window. A few resident deans had dogs, so whenever I saw them in the dorm courtyard, I ran outside. Some of the dogs wanted to play, others wanted love and skritches. It was the best.”
Being A Good Neighbor
As the story made its way around the dog-loving world, Stevie Ticks’ new friends, known collectively as “the boys from room 23,” were informed that their correspondence had inspired a new initiative by the Avon and Somerset Police (ASP). The police used the momentum from the viral story to encourage others to reach out to neighbors by making “a spare card count” at the holidays. The mission of the initiative was to encourage people to reach out to neighbors who may be feeling lonely, over the holidays or any time of year. One inroad for forging that connection is to send a card or letter to an unacquainted neighbor.
In their press release, the ASP explain, “Last Christmas our control room received over 28,000 calls in a two week period. These included calls from people who were lonely, anxious, vulnerable or frightened and who desperately needed comfort and reassurance. In the last 12 months over 17,000 of our calls have been linked to loneliness.” They suggest, “Instead of putting spare Christmas cards back in the box, you could use them to reach out to those in your community who might be lonely, elderly or vulnerable and would benefit from a friendly greeting.” The press release goes on to suggest other ways to reach out to those who may be feeling isolated, including simply saying hello or checking if they need help during bad weather.
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