A recent feel-good story out of California reported on a first grader named Madeline, who wrote to animal control asking permission to keep a unicorn in her backyard.
“Dear LA County,” she wrote, “I would like your approval if I can have a unicorn in my backyard if I can find one. Please send me a letter in response.”
A couple of weeks later she got her answer from the animal control director: “...I am pleased to tell you that the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control does license unicorns under the following conditions…The unicorn must be cared for in compliance with Title 10 of the Los Angeles County Code. Unicorn owners must also give their pets regular access to sunlight, moonbeams, and rainbows. In addition, they must be fed one of their favorite treats, watermelon, at least once a week.”
They also told her she should polish her unicorn’s horn at least once a month with a soft cloth, and if she wanted to bedazzle her unicorn it had to be with nontoxic, biodegradable glitter.
Jesus Christ, I thought. No home visit? Does she even have a yard… net? A lot of shelters these days won’t let you adopt a tumor-laden, twenty-year-old Yorkie unless you have a PhD in string theory, a trust fund, and a fenced acre of clover. She gets a unicorn, just like that?
This really pisses me off.
I mean, is Madeline even dying? Or orphaned, or suffering from something incurable? Is she at least homely and being bullied?
This unicorn story ignores all the rules of good news. A story from February 10th did a much better job at good newsing:
“Teen Rescues Man and Dog after Jeep Sinks in Iowa Lake”
Sure, you get the little lift from the “rescue” in the headline, but then you read on:
A full grown man, one who presumably votes, decided to drive his Jeep under, not on a road with his unwitting dog inside.
17-year-old Joe was ice fishing with his mom. It was the first time he’d gotten her to go ice fishing with him since his father died, leaving mom bereft years before.
Joe noticed the man drive by and felt concerned because two other vehicles had gone through the ice at the same spot the previous week. He did not flag down the driver to warn him.
The Jeep fell through the ice.
Joe then, “sprinted across the hardened snow toward the Jeep, ignoring the pain from the ankle he had sprained while wrestling several days earlier.”
Dramatic drone video shows the following events:
Joe heroically smashing out the back window of the Jeep with the butt-end of his knife. He would later be treated for minor cuts.
Joe snatching the wiggling Golden Doodle out of the window and hurling him into the icy waters toward shore. That vet bill will surely be anywhere from $700 - $1,200 depending on chiropractic.
Other rescuers reaching for the dog in the icy waters and yanking him up and out onto shore. Trauma behavior recovery treatment $500 - $3,000 depending on the dog’s temperament and the age of the dog.
Joe and another helper pulling the trapped driver out of the car.
So to sum up: a widow, just starting her emergence from grief, witnessed potentially losing her son to the poor choices of an elderly man who decided to jeopardize himself and his dog by driving on ice instead of the road. The kid, running on injuries and chancing hypothermia, pulled the traumatized dog and the trapped man out of his ruined, sinking vehicle, which was now polluting the waters from which the son and his mother later caught their dinner.
Two fish were killed.
Now that’s good news.
Other headlines follow this blueprint. There’s an entire website called the Good News Network filled with soul-swelling triumphs.
“Bioengineers Devise a Way of Growing Skin in the Shape of Hands That Can be Pulled on ‘Like a Glove” Nifty if you’re losing a hand.
“MIT Develops AI that Predicts Lung Cancer Risk up to 6 Years in Advance, Like Finding a ‘Needle in a Haystack” Fantastic news for when you have lung cancer.
The animal good news sources really have this formula down. Sites like The Dodo lay us bare with infinite scrolls — light swipes of inverted, psychological cutting as we look through our fingers at the horror, wiping our tears with the happy endings that resolve in one to three minutes.
Dog with two right-side-shorter legs after experimental amputation finds happiness living in a hillside community.
Cat with a tomato allergy left abandoned in a pizza parlor survives on raw dough, now has a best friend duck who follows her around eating her ciabatta-like waste.
Dog lost on a hike fifteen years earlier finally reunited with family hours before taking his last breath; his tail thumps “I missed you” in Morse code as he dies.
Check your privilege, Madeline. You can’t just have happy stuff happen, call it “good news,” and expect to get away with it.
One thing’s for sure. If that kid finds her unicorn, it better have been abused.
Speaking of unicorns, a reader told me about the Happy Turtle Tea Company, and I ordered Cinnamon Chai Tea Cake, but not in time to write about it this week, unfortunately.
A tea for Bronies? How could I not order it? I’ll report on it as soon as I receive it and brew a pot.
In other good news, I was in TJ Maxx this week and bought a hand-painted glass mug, to drink my coffee out of. Thanks for the justification to buy a pretty cup.
Made my day!