The first time I met the dog we'd later name Boris, I was certain he'd disembowel me. I'd knocked, and Tina—curled on the nearby couch with the big brindle pit bull that'd wandered into our yard that afternoon—had strolled over to let me in. Tina opened the door and the dog moved toward me, his teeth bared, his eyes on fire. He barked and growled, inching toward the door with a gaze that fixed my feet in quicksand. Tina grabbed him, shut the door in my face and coddled him. I waited outside.
Before midnight, though, we'd discovered that those teeth were more nubs than the fangs I'd imagined, broken by an owner who'd apparently abused him. The body that had seemed so fierce was strong, but badly malnourished, allowing the old breaks in his ribs to point out like fingers. His tail was broken, and his massive head was scarred. His mouth was peppered by dozens of small scrapes. That aggressive reaction, it seemed, was less about me and more about him—or at least his torturous past. Someone had been mean to Boris, and with his cold-nosed nuzzles and kind-eyed attention, he was searching for a new chance, a better home.
Boris had no tags, no identifying microchip. We searched message boards and lost-pet advertisements for his owners, but (thankfully) no one ever asked about their missing, unaltered and scarred male pit. Tina and I debated the inescapable question—"Can we keep him?"—for days. Tina had two cats, one, Sam, in his teens and another, Bastian, who'd just had a large lump removed from above his left shoulder. I had Alice, a peppy Boston terrier mix who's been known to pester more than one dog into aggravation. We'd just moved in together, too, meaning we were paying double rent while furnishing the new place. Fresh from college, Tina needed a full-time job, and I needed to eliminate my credit card debt. Could we afford it? And could we risk our other pets?
No, we couldn't risk the pets, but Boris and Alice quickly became friends. And, no, we couldn't afford it, but we could always ask for help. On a Friday afternoon, we posted to the crowdfunding website Microgiving, asking for money and offering rewards. Tina wrote an essay from Boris' perspective, and we offered treasured vinyl records and services in exchange for help. Almost instantly, the funds poured in—$50 from a drummer down the street, $50 more from a friend of a friend thousands of miles away, $25 from a touring musician who I knew couldn't afford it. Friends and strangers reposted the page, tweeting it 252 times and adding it to their own Facebook pages 123 times. People I'd known only on the Internet sent touching messages and encouragement, ensuring us we were doing the right thing, that what we were doing was somehow important.
By the time we finished dinner, the money affirmed the claim: We'd raced beyond our goal of $1,000, and the cash was still coming. Boris' future was crowdfunded.