While the text of the story was a work of fiction created for satirical Facebook pages, the photographs were from a 2016 U.K. documentary titled, "Secret Life Of The Human Pups."
On May 17, 2023, the Antiwokeinvesting.com Facebook page reposted a story that claimed a 30-year-old man named Dustin Sparks, apparently an American, had made headlines after announcing that he identifies as a dog. Days earlier, a Twitter user named Bozinator 0811 had also shared the story, and commented, "Freaks everywhere, I'm telling you!"
However, the text of this story originated on Facebook pages that claim to publish satire. While the photographs did come from a years-old and unrelated news article from another country, the story about Sparks (apparently a made-up name) was not real. A reader of ours alerted us to the rumor via email.
This user appeared to believe the satirical story was real.
Paducah, Tullahoma, Somerset, and Pikeville
We found examples of the satirical story being featured on Facebook pages The Paducah Insider, Tullahoma, TN Government, The Somerset Insider, and The Pikeville Insider. The pages all carried a disclaimer that went something like this: "This is a parody and satire publication. As much as we wish these stories were true, they are not."
The Paducah (Kentucky) version of the satirical story began as follows:
PADUCAH - A local man is making headlines after announcing that he identifies as a dog, but thankfully his wife is handling the news well.
Dustin Sparks, 30, of Paducah, says that he has always felt more like a canine than a human, and that he now identifies as a dog. "I first realized as a child that I was different," says Sparks. "I loved to play with dogs, and as I get older I felt more and more like a dog. I started to eat dog food, sleep on the floor, and even go to the bathroom outside."
Sparks says that he has faced a lot of discrimination since coming out as a canine, but he is determined to live his life as his true self. "I'm not a freak," Sparks says. "I'm just a dog who happens to be in a human body."
'Welcome to WOKE America'
Many of the commenters on the satirical Facebook pages appeared to believe that the story was real.
For example, one commenter said, "And yet another person in desperate need of a mental health intervention."
Another user who appeared to confuse the story for a real news article added, "Satan is the author of confusion. You need Jesus." Others also mentioned Jesus Christ when responding to the post.
Several commenters also mentioned the word "woke," with one person replying, "Welcome to WOKE America. Our dollar has become worthless and people identify as other species. What a joke."
Quite a few commenters apparently believed the story was real.
'Secret Life Of The Human Pups'
As for the pictures that were included in the posts, they came from promotional materials for the 2016 U.K. documentary, "Secret Life Of The Human Pups." In other words, the photographs had nothing to do with the U.S. Also, no one in the documentary appeared to be named "Sparks."
Channel 4 Entertainment in the U.K. described the documentary as follows:
A quarter of British households have a dog. But some people don't just want to own a dog; they want to be one. Secret Life of the Human Pups introduces a previously unseen subculture of ordinary men who lead extraordinary double lives, dressing up in elaborate dog suits that cost thousands of pounds as they strive to become their very own pet. Human puppy play has become a global phenomenon in recent years and there are now an estimated 10,000 'human pups' in the UK alone. But what makes these grown men covet doggy treats, belly rubs and squeaky toys? And why has it risen in popularity? Getting under the skin of this weird and wonderful world, this documentary explores what it takes to become a human pup, the impact it has on friends and loved ones and why, for some people, it has become a way of life.