Why a Video of a Two-Legged Boxer Puppy Went Viral

Who needs a machine when you have an indomitable canine spirit?
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My dad called me this weekend to inform me that my home county in southwest Washington had a new celebrity: a two-legged boxer named Duncan, from Vancouver. 

Duncan was born with two severely deformed back legs and had to have them amputated. His owners thought that he'd need a wheelchair to run around. But he didn't like the technology, so he taught himself to run on just two legs.  

Spirit over body. Spirit over machine. Natural, then viral. 

Dog wheelchairs certainly have a purpose, and they seem like liberatory technology for animals that can't otherwise move well. But as much as the technology helps, it doesn't allow for the same mobility and freedom as Duncan has. 

Am I turning a viral dog video into a parable of the current state of technology? Not quite... But I do think this sort of thing is in the air: All else being equal, it seems better to accomplish something with one's own two hands (or legs) than with the aid of a machine—even if every human relies on machines every day.

And it's also worth noting that the producers of the video are a rescue organization that's savvy. The video is professionally shot and produced. The people in it are photogenic and friendly. The setting is a beautiful beach day. And they got an early boost from local media, which began featuring the dog back in October.

That is to say, it was designed to be a viral video from the beginning. 

Not that that takes anything away from Duncan's cute little face and remarkable balance.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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