Gratitude versus Pity

— rethinking animal charity and shelter dog adoption

It started with a shelter dog. I adopted Gerda 2 years ago when I felt pretty lonely in my one room apartment and she looked like the sweetest little puppy on her shelter profile pic. Note: profile pics are lying all the time.

I had to face the fact that my new best friend was basically an aggressive beast who wanted to tear to pieces all living beings, or similar looking thing ( furs, boxes, mop). I couldn’t be angry with her (gosh, look in her eyes!), but I knew it was impossible to live with this problem for the rest of her life. One day while walking peacefully Gerda (12kg) decided to attack a schnauzer doggy (40–50kg) who accidentally got into our way. That fight was her last. The next day my boyfriend and I took her to a behavioral therapy for dogs with agression issues.

On training sessions you need to use treats to motivate your dog. The only problem with this technique was that Gerda was already “very well fed”. By this I mean she weighed almost 13 kgs which is 5 kg higher to her actual healthy weight. So I looked up some basic dog treat recipes and started to experience with making them more healthy and low-fat. They worked great! We used these pumpkin, banana and spinach based treats for trainings and Gerda seemed super motivated all the time. One year passed and I must say we got a completely different dog now. She’s super slim, very friendly and playful with other dogs, still chasing cats though :) We just couldn’t imagine life without her anymore.

Inspired by her magical transformation we wanted to help other shelter doggies to find their forever family and happiness. But most importantly we wanted to help other people to feel just as lucky as we did.

1. The problem with traditional dog charity

Why we hate animal shelter adverts

When asking for our money most shelters’ adverts build on remorse. Showing sad, dark pictures of these poor abandoned beings, whom no one wants anymore. And the result is: 90% of adopters are women with already one or more dogs. I am forever grateful to these good people but the reason behind this tendency is troublesome. Animal shelters’ number one marketing tool to sell their items — aka shelter dogs — is compassion mixed with pity.

A survey about people’s real motivation why they got a dog. All research materials are original therefore are in Hungarian. Sorry for that.

Rebranding shelter dogs

We don’t see them like that. We believe each dog is a treasure, an inexhaustible love-tank, a best friend forever. Dogs are cool, something people could really really want. As designers, we saw this problem nothing more, than a bad branding issue. Hundreds of custom-designed items with incredible features are waiting in camps for free. How could we make people look at shelter dogs this way?

  • leaving aside pity and remorse
  • connecting mixed breed dogs to desirable life situations.
The team, the logo and the “dogs are welcome” sticker we gave for coffeeshops (bilingual)

2. Solution — Basic Bone, a profit oriented social venture to help shelter dogs.

Drink a coffee bring your best friend, too

In our hometown, Budapest, the pets/inhabitant ratio is one of the highest in Europe. Our coffeshop/street ratio is just as outstanding. We love spending time in the stylish cafes and bars of our beautiful city. Day by day more and more places became dog-friendly but they don’t have anything to offer to their new four-legged guests yet.

WHAT WE DO—“ the one for one model”

We make handcrafted healthy treats for urban dogs. With every bone you buy, we will donate another one to a shelter dog. You’ll find these yummy bones in the dog-friendly cafes and bars of Budapest. Drink a damn good coffee bring your best furry friend, too. If you are a dog lover soul with or without a dog, you can come with us to the shelters and donate those bones you have collected for them. We believe that each bite could be the beginning of a furry friendship.

Stakeholders map

WHY WE DO IT — coffe, dogs, happiness

We are urban. We believe that owning a dog in the city has one clear purpose: to love and get love in return. We want to give you the possibility to bring your best friend with you wherever you go, and have fun together. — Because LOVE IS BASIC.

We are lucky. Just as all people who are living with a dog already. With your help we support the work of dog shelters so they can rehome more dogs in the city we live in. We donate the same amount of quality food, that you give to your best friends, to those who have nobody to love. — Because FOOD IS BASIC.


  • offering real value for people’s money vs. just counting on their good heart
  • making the action of giving money painless (you pamper your own dog) vs. you think it twice..ore hundred times again.
  • donation subject is concrete vs you don’t know exactly what happens to your money
  • building an open community very easy to join vs. closed supporter groups (if any) — follow us on instagram
  • using the marketing value of cute, funny, beautiful shelter dogs vs. pathetic miserable image — see our stories on fb

We founded Basic Bone as a tiny first step on our big mission to create a world where no animal shelter is needed any longer. It turned out a surprisingly fast success in Budapest. In two months these healthy dog cookies could be bought already in 12 dog friendly coffeeshops.

Did you find this story interesting? Kindly tap that 💚 button ! I’d love to hear your thoughts on animal rescue and your ideas on how to change the way we do charity by replying below👇.