The Tail Wagging The Dog – A Twitter Tale

By Leigh Anne Varney

I’m sure you’re familiar with the American idiom “the tail wagging the dog,” which actually hails as far back as the 1870s. Well, this is a tale of a tail-wagging dog who taught me Twitter.

Even with three decades of PR and seven years as a journalist under my belt before crossing over to “The Dark Side,” I was terrified that I might say and do the wrong thing on Twitter.  The Twitter firehose struck me as so uncontrollable, uncontextualized, and frighteningly overwhelming that surely my sarcasm would get me into trouble. I’d alienate a journalist or client and, in general, look like an idiot.

But as a news hound and connector– I knew I had to master it.

Then one day, at the San Francisco Giants ballpark during the “Dog Days of Summer” with my kids and Golden Retriever, inspiration bit: I should start a Twitter account for Callie, my dog, and use her identity to master the Twitter beast. That night—riffing off our fearless closer, Brian Wilson aka Fear The Beard— @FearTheFur was born (And no, before you ask, Callie doesn’t tweet for treats. ?)

At first, Callie focused on tweeting about baseball, chasing balls, and the SF Giants – she’s a rabid fan. (It was a “pawsome” time to be a Giants fan as we made it to our second World Series in two years!). Under her nom de plume @FearTheFur, I learned how to hashtag, search, retweet, direct message, comment, follow/unfollow, link to pictures and articles, avoid trolls, get creative, etc.  Callie’s Twitter is sweet, witty and sometimes snarky, especially if the Giants are losing a game. Within a few months, we had hundreds of followers. Whenever a journalist or two would retweet her – including the famous Giants’ broadcast duo Kruk and Kuip – I made sure to retweet from my own @lavarney account.


One day, a few important journalists I needed to reach (who had also NEVER responded to my pitches all these years) followed @FeartheFur. I immediately sent them an email saying she was my doggo and guess what?  They now take my pitches!

At number eight, it’s no secret that PR remains on the Top 10 List of Most Stressful Jobs (right after #7 News Reporter) and shares a list which includes deployed military personnel, firefighters, and police officers. Clearly, social media has been both a boon and a bane for us PR professionals as there are many audiences to serve and track. Fortunately, I know I’ve lessened my social media stressors by focusing on my four-legged furry friend. I will add, however, that with so many ways to communicate, PR runs the risk of becoming purely transactional. That said, since I hail from the era of building relationships, Twitter is the place to be for me to uncover just what makes the media I need to reach tick.

Callie’s Twitterverse has expanded greatly: we’ve tapped into a treasure trove of dog lovers and recently became a certified therapy dog through the SF SPCA’s Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program. I capture special moments through this volunteer work at SF General, SF Public Library, the VA Hospital at Ft. Miley, local high schools such as Lowell and Washington, and colleges like USF and SF State.

Every day on Twitter, I actually have fun and learn something new which keeps me fresh for my clients.  As the old saying goes, on the Internet nobody knows if you’re a dog.

14 thoughts on “The Tail Wagging The Dog – A Twitter Tale

  1. Callie’s an excellent Tweeter. Would you kindly have her teach Gaston and Alphonse how to do it well? Great blog, Leigh Anne. Cheers, David

    1. Let’s set a play date at the beach for the puppers. Twitter lesson on the side! Treats provided.

  2. I love the creativity – and, yes, stealth – that you deployed to explore such an important and exposed channel as Twitter. That’s the craft of PR!

    1. Thank you, Betsy! The more doggos ? the better! Dogs should be everywhere (btw, if Callie had been a boy, Bodie would have been her name).

  3. Welcome to LCI, Leigh Anne! Has Callie mastered other social channels such as Instagram? Seems she has a nose for social media. Fun read!

    1. Thanks, Robin! Lol. She’s on Insta under my account- @lavarney. So many social channels, only so enough kibble! ??

  4. I love everything about this blog! Leigh Anne and Callie for the WIN! Good for your for finding a creative way to meet the challenge at hand.

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