Early last week, the influencer and YouTube personality Nikki Phillippi and her husband Dan posted a video to “share with you what’s going on in our life,” which is that the couple had recently murdered their dog. “Thank you to everyone who has messaged me with kind words of encouragement and prayers,” Nikki wrote in the caption below.
As has been recounted in a number of recent stories, the Phillipis claimed their dog Bowser had bitten their one-year-old son, though perhaps unwisely Dan noted the nip “wasn’t bad” and left “a little mark on his face.” (According to the Phillipis, this had come after the kid hurt the dog’s ear and separately tried to take away Bowser’s food.) So the couple made the decision to euthanize Bowser, claiming the Humane Society told them it wouldn’t be possible to re-home the animal given his aggressive past. USA Today, God bless them, called up both the national and local humane societies, both of whom indicated they had no record of speaking to the pair.
“I wrote a list of things I would never forget about Bowser,” Nikki said at the end of the video. And then she read them, and cried while a slideshow of the dog she’d killed a few days ago played. It would all be pretty funny if it weren’t so unspeakably dark.
The broader ecosystem of YouTubers and beauty bloggers naturally questioned whether the dog was really that aggressive—so aggressive, in fact, that it could not be trained—and whether an actual veterinarian came to the house the euthanize Bowser (who knows). It was noted that Phillippi is by most accounts a pretty awful person who has, among other things, promoted the multi-level marketing essential oil scam Young Living, suggested an IV of vitamin C cured her coronavirus, and parroted anti-vaxx rhetoric on her various pages. The couple also, somewhat famously, halted the adoption of a Thai child after they realized the country’s laws would prevent them from posting the kid on social media for a year. Like a lot of the personalities on YouTube, they’re assholes who are famous for no reason.
But even outside of Phillippi’s dangerous health claims and terrible politics, I’d argue that the we-killed-our-dog video is a remarkable document, an extreme if logical conclusion of a certain strain of family-oriented influencing. It takes a special kind of impulse for endless disclosure to euthanize your healthy animal and make a 24-minute video about the trauma you feel. Phillippi got her start almost a decade ago posting videos of her beauty hauls and making how-to videos, but the medium requires periodic intensification. Now she’s a mommy blogger with several YouTube channels dedicated to every facet of her life. She gives advice on breast feeding and meal prep, shows off the deals she got at Costco, makes videos of herself having “A Productive Morning at Home!” In one of her most popular spots, she documents her chemical peel.
But there are only so many emotional journeys and intense moral crisis a person can go through in the course of a life, and mommy blogging in particular rewards an escalating series of family traumas and over-shares. Even if it wasn’t a cynical ploy to get views on their page, the Phillippis have been doing this long enough they can’t help but use the language of sorrowful transformation to talk about everything they do. In this case they just applied it to, uh, killing their healthy nine-year-old bull terrier for no good reason at all.