Gideon Kidd really loves dogs. A lot. While he only has one of his own — Walter — the 9-year-old loves to pet others he sees.
And he records each one he meets with a photograph that he posts on his website and, as of last month, to Twitter. So far, Gideon has posted more than 300 dogs to his blog.
His goal is to reach “at least 1 million dogs.”
But do that many dogs exist in his home of Cedar Falls, Iowa?
“Not in my city, but in the world? Heck, yeah,” he said.
The fourth-grader started the website “I’ve Pet That Dog!” in September 2016 as a way to share with the world some of the furry four-legged friends he has made.
“I love dogs,” he said. “I want people to see that these dogs are great animals.”
Gideon’s favorite breed is the Chihuahua. (He and a friend in California even have their own Chihuahua fan club.) But his second-favorite breed is the much larger Saint Bernard, of which he’s only met one so far.
When he sees a dog he wants to pet, he always asks the owner for permission first. Then he places his hand under the dog’s nose so the animal can sniff him before being petted.
Asked if he’s ever met an unfriendly dog, Gideon paused for a second before admitting, “Yeah, but I don’t want to point the finger at it.”
Last month, Gideon’s mother, Rachel Braunigan, decided to help her son set up a Twitter account to draw interest to his blog.
“I was thinking nowadays people don’t just go look at a website, they look at a feed where things go by,” she said.
Last week, Gideon had fewer than 500 Twitter followers. But after a few people singled out the account, he more than doubled the number of fans. Then, after a few local interviews and media stories, his number of followers soared to more than 42,000 followers.
Braunigan takes all of the photos of her son and the dogs he pets with her phone, and Gideon writes a description that gets posted to Twitter.
Because they have already met everyone who lives near them (“We have pretty much depleted the neighborhood dogs,” Braunigan said) the two usually will drive around looking for people out walking their dogs.
“They usually look very surprised. A car suddenly pulls over and out jumps a kid running after them? But most of the time, people are very nice,” she said.
Braunigan said the response to her son’s pet project has been overwhelming.
“I never thought it would be anywhere near this big. It’s pretty incredible,” she said. “Gideon’s excited about it, but I don’t think he understands the scope of it.”
But Braunigan said she completely understands why people are drawn to it.
“It’s simple and it’s sweet. It’s obviously a child that’s doing this,” she said. “There’s no ulterior motive, there’s no gimmick. Here’s the dog I met, here’s a little bit about that dog, look at my picture. That’s it.”
Gideon’s own dog, Walter, is a stray mutt his parents found running across the highway before Gideon was born.
“Walter’s personality is mostly sleeeeep,” he said.
In addition to Walter, Gideon has three cats and two gerbils. When he's not playing with animals or attending school, he's probably playing the piano or drums, or reading comic books.
He said he hopes people who learn about his website are motivated by what they see online.
“I want them to come away with, ‘Oh, man, I really want to pet some dogs right now.’”