Toofless Toosday!


A collaborative effort where everyone wins.


When volunteer favorite Nu Girl hit the “she’s been here too long” mark, everyone agreed that she needed some exposure.

She arrived among a flood of 35+ cats that had been seized as part of a hoarding case.  Some were in better shape than others; Nu Girl was suffering from an advanced dental situation that required most of her teeth to be removed. Even with her marvelous facial expressions, that sad, lone fang and low-energy style made it hard for her to hold visitors’ attention.


This *is* her happy face.

Nu Girls’ challenge was to showcase an

unusually low-key personality as something more dynamic.

NG’s prominent trait was the obvious focal point for any graphic feature. An employee joked about how cute a collage of Nu Girl “derpfaces” from caretakers and volunteers would be. That night, I posted this to the volunteer Facebook group.

ng photo call

In just 22 hours, 18 volunteers had mustered the courage to submit a NG-style selfie. The short notice wasn’t ideal, but the call to action was effective.

  • The request required minimal commitment of time and effort from contributors.
  • The objective was clear and a visual aid/example was provided.
  • A general submission deadline was provided.
  • A solution was provided to overcome the main (anticipated) objection. Some people just hate pictures of themselves.

The graphic, a “thanks” to the contributors, and suggested copy were posted to the group the next day, leaving time for staff to review it before their early-afternoon postings on the shelter’s public Facebook page.



Both the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter posted the meme. It brought a handful of families in to meet her, though it wasn’t a good match for one reason or another. David (third face down on the left), Nu Girl’s biggest fan, generously funded a media sponsorship (sponsored/boosted post) through the Friends to help her reach the largest audience possible. It worked, and the adopter credits that extended reach for introducing her to the toothless wonder now known as “Betty Drapurr”. Knowing how well-loved Nu Girl was, she occasionally shares updates and pictures on the Friends’ page.

That euphoric feeling we get from our work being responsible for an animal going home is something that can be shared, and there is immense value in it.

Nu Girl’s story demonstrates the power of collaboration.

  • Be open to others’ ideas.  In the realm of creative, time-sensitive work like this, take every idea, even vague ones, into consideration. Innovation is often the product of an unpredictable brain fart; an open mind makes room for surprising catalysts.
  • Be inclusive. Collective efforts like this are an excellent way to involve the people that don’t typically engage in creative work. Keep your request simple and clear, make the importance of their participation known, and make it as easy as possible for them to contribute.

 Nearly all of the volunteers that submitted pictures shared the public post. In addition to extending media reach, the volunteers were personally invigorated by playing a part  in something so well-received and successful.

 There were an expected number of “I’ll take one when I get home” responses that didn’t work out, though may have with more notice. If I were to do this again, an additional day or two for submissions would be a must.

  • Give credit. Maintain good working relationships and the support of your peers by giving credit where it’s due. Name names, share the spotlight, give special mention to others in your statements, and stay humble. These are victories of the heart, and everyone involved deserves to be rejuvenated by them.