The Fable of Dogtown

Dogtown, USA is trying to cope with citizens needing help with their collectible dog items – books, figurines, art, etc. Some people are collecting beyond their capacity to safely store the items so the city needs to step in and seize their collection. Others are simply irresponsible collectors, leaving items on the street, at businesses, or just dropping them off at the side of the road. But the majority of people in Dogtown who are struggling with their collectible dog items are experiencing unforeseen and/or temporary circumstances which result in them seeking assistance from the city. They’re people of good will who have fallen on hard times and are asking for help.

So the city of Dogtown decides to set up a municipal store where citizens can bring the collectibles they need help with and other citizens looking to start a collection or replace a lost item or simply add to their existing collection can come in and shop. It seems like a win-win situation.

It turns out that maintaining the store entails a lot of work. Each item brought in has to be inventoried, cleaned, assessed by a professional to determine its value, artfully displayed in the appropriate section of the increasingly crowded store and advertised in various forms of media. Some items have to be retrieved by staff at various locations around Dogtown before the intake process even begins and the retrievals don’t always go smoothly. The store manager and small staff feel overwhelmed.

But soon Sheila comes in and tells the manager she has a boutique specializing in purebred dog memorabilia so if any purebred dog related collectibles come in, just give her a call and she will come over immediately to pick up the items. Then Sheldon comes in and tells the manager he operates a high end dog collectibles store and if any high value items come in, call him and he’ll come right away to get them.

The manager and staff feel a huge sense of relief. They no longer have to inventory, clean and perform all the other tasks for any items related to purebred dogs or collectibles estimated to be of high dollar value. Their workload is much more manageable. They have more space in the store to set up displays of the merchandise, which now consists of books with missing pages, unknown artists’ renderings of mixed breed dogs playing poker and miscellaneous figurines such as this one:

(Image: eBay)

Word gets around that the municipal store doesn’t have the “good stuff” that attracts collectors.

Guess who is shopping in the Dogtown municipal store and looking at their ads? Almost no one. People looking for purebred dog memorabilia are shopping at Sheila’s store. They know that although purebred dog collectibles do come in to the municipal store, those items are immediately picked up by Sheila so there’s no reason to go to the municipal store. The high end collectors are shopping at Sheldon’s store for the same reason.

So even though purebred and high value dog keepsake enthusiasts all enjoy a wide array of dog collectibles, and the slightly mangled, rather odd figurine pictured above might in fact appeal to some of those shoppers, they never see it and it collects dust at the municipal store along with the other misfit memorabilia. Eventually the store shelves become overcrowded again. Looking around at the lack of shoppers in the store, the frustrated manager wonders aloud if it wouldn’t be better to toss some of the items into the dumpster. Staff morale plummets.

Then one day a woman comes into the municipal store and tells the manager she’d like to help. She asks for the item that’s been at the store the longest or that the manager believes is the least likely to ever be sold. She says that she will restore the item to the best of her ability, find a capable buyer who wants it and sell the item. Then she’ll return to the municipal store for another “extra challenging” item. The manager is delighted to meet this woman and asks, “Who are you?”

“I’m a rescuer.”

Note: This story is not intended to be a perfect analogy. We all appreciate that actual living shelter dogs are not the same as books or figurines. The story is intended to provoke thought and discussion. I plan to write more on this topic, though not in metaphorical format, and I thought this might be a good softball introduction.

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