Maryland Today | 'Golden' Era for Internet's Dog Mom – Maryland Today

Now, the internet’s dog mom has stepped outside her wheelhouse in the College of Information Studies
as a nationally known expert on social media, privacy and artificial
intelligence to co-author a new book out tomorrow, “The Purest Bond,”
published by Simon and Schuster, on the science behind the connection
between people and dogs. Written with health, wellness and science
writer Stacey Colino, it’s a mashup of a research roundup, feel-good
anecdotes a how-to guide on caring for canines over their lifespan.

“Dogs enhance our lives and connect us with each other and our
communities,” said Golbeck. “We form the same bonds with our dogs that
parents and children form with each other.”

While writing, she put out calls to her social media followers for
their own anecdotes about how their relationships with dogs improved
their lives. One of her favorites is about Chomp, a Brussels Griffon and
pug mix, who saved his owner’s life: He kept waking up his owner at
night, staring into his eyes and refusing to get off his chest. After
several days, the owner decided to see his doctor—and discovered that he
had a “widowmaker” artery blockage requiring immediate surgery.

[What It Takes: Wags for Wellness: Dogs Deliver Stress Relief Through Popular University Health Center Program]

Uniquely, the book includes two chapters on end-of-life decisions and
grief, based on her years of experience caring for senior and
special-needs dogs. This summer, for example, Golbeck and her husband
had to make the tough choice to put down their dog Hopper, who they had
driven as far as Ohio and Canada for arthritis and cancer treatments
before deciding there was nothing more they could do for her.

“You have normal grief, but it’s disenfranchised,” she said. “We
don’t have social rituals as a society (for pet deaths), so you don’t
get the same kind of social acceptance for that grief.”

Jen Golbeck

Golbeck (left) has never known life without a golden—her parents had one named Goldie
when she was born—and says the breed, known for goofy, adventurous
personalities, is a “good spiritual match” for her (not to mention their
matching blond hair). As an adult, she worked her way up to four, which
felt ideal. But six years ago, she and her husband got a call from a
rescue organization about a 13-year-old golden retriever who’d been tied
up in a backyard her whole life.

“Queso was totally deprived of affection, matted and flea-covered and
so broken. Then to be able to see her blossom at our house into what a
golden is supposed to be, happy and playful and romping and relaxed,
that’s so rewarding,” she said.

Golbeck has been active on social media as both a user and a
researcher since its earliest days, but it wasn’t until the vitriol of
the 2016 election season that she decided to start the Golden Ratio
accounts (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok), hoping to
bring a little joy online. They took off, especially on Snapchat, where
she has 620,000 subscribers and reaches a younger audience, many of whom
started following her when they were in high school or college.
(They’re who gave her the “GR Mom” nickname.)

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She and her husband, Ingo Burghardt, who run the accounts together,
have intentionally created content and comment sections that are beacons
of positivity. “If you say anything mean to anybody, we block you,” she

As her following grew, she created a Patreon for devoted followers to
pay for bonus content; a nonprofit foundation to offset dogs’ medical
costs; and lots of swag, including calendars and dog pins. The pandemic
surge in pet ownership then led to the offer to write a book—and
longtime fans can even get “paw-tographed” versions.

The paw-sitivity continues in recent reviews: “Informative and fun,
this is a treat,” wrote Publisher’s Weekly. “A charming, lucid
exploration of how dogs can heal our bodies, minds, and hearts,” wrote
Kirkus Reviews.

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