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Sorry, Dog Lovers: KLM’s Lost & Found Beagle Video Was a PR Stunt




Another week, another cuddly-yet-cruel lesson in not believing everything you see. I don’t know how much more I can take of these Internet stunt videos.

Sure, you can try to fool me by dressing your dog up in a bizarre spider costume and filming it terrifying the people of Poland. Or try to convince me that there is a man out there whose sole purpose in life is to create gourmet meals for his hamster. Lots of luck with that, by the way, because those videos were just over the top. You knew they were putting you on.

But if you realistically film a cute, floppy-eared puppy making the day of weary travelers by returning lost items, I’ll buy whatever you’re selling. Hands up if you feel the same way. That’s what I thought.

So did you have to crush me by admitting that there’s no such thing as Sherlock? Thanks a lot, KLM.

Sherlock, the adorable beagle who was reportedly the “newest team member” of the KLM Airlines Lost & Found team, zipped gamely through a Dutch airport and straight into our hearts in a video that has racked up more than 9.2 million YouTube views since it launched on Sept. 23. The gushing KLM employees in the video refer to Sherlock as their “tail-wagging secret weapon.”

The floppy ears get me every time. (KLM/YouTube)

Sorry, Virginia; it was all a PR stunt, dreamed up by KLM’s ad agency, DDB & Tribal Worldwide Amsterdam. The point of the video was to highlight the fact that KLM’s Lost & Found team sometimes returns lost items to travelers before they even know they’ve lost them. It was a charming way to “illustrate that KLM goes above and beyond for their passengers,” agency creatives Alex Herwig and Jeroen Thissen told Mediabistro.

This was confirmed by a Dutch-speaking Reddit user, in a translation of an interview with a KLM spokesman, but not before websites like smarty-pants Mental Floss reported it as legitimate, which, in turn, got its report from CNN. If that doesn’t give you confidence in what you read, I don’t know what will.

But if you’re a particularly good detective, KLM actually left a clue to the hoax on the video’s YouTube page:



Check out the winky-face. (KLM/YouTube)

See that winking, smiley-face emoji? “Boom,” as a wise man once said, “There it is.” You were let in on the stunt and you didn’t even realize it.

I got roped in again?
Afraid so. But Sherlock is awfully cute and, given the irksome state of air travel these days, who wouldn’t want to believe that there was a cuddly, floppy-eared dog working to make sure you didn’t leave the airport without all your belongings? It made me feel as though I really might get back the jacket I lost at the Johannesburg Airport. One day.

Outfitted with an official-looking vest and with a singular look of determination in his big brown eyes, Sherlock’s job as shown in the video is simple and heroic: sniff out the travelers who have left their personal items on the plane and carry the items back to them in his vest pocket. He’s seen reuniting a bereft child with a beloved stuffed toy.

Screenshot from KLM Sherlock video
Screenshot from KLM Sherlock video

Thanks, Sherlock. (KLM/YouTube)

He races back down the plane’s aisle after sniffing and accepting a dropped smartphone from a flight attendant, doggedly (sorry) tracking the scent back to its owner. She, in turn, is so overjoyed to see her phone again that she does the 21st-century version of saying “Thank you”: She takes a selfie with her canine hero.


Thank god dogs can’t make a duck-face. (KLM/YouTube)

The way the ad is shot, Sherlock is the busiest, most productive employee in the entire airport, and the heartfelt “Awwwws” of the travelers only add to the charm, as they watch the four-legged KLM “employee” bound over luggage carousels and dart through the crowds. It is really a shame it’s all a setup.

Wait, I could swear I’ve seen beagles in the airport
You have. Beagles do work in airports to sniff out contraband food items, so that might be why people were so willing to believe that Sherlock was real.

The Beagle Brigade, part of the Department of Homeland Security’s department of Customs and Border Protection, works with agents to recover illegal food, animals or agricultural items, like live birds smuggled overseas while strapped to the bodies of travelers, contraband fruits and vegetables that might harbor disease-spreading insects, or meat from animals banned in the United States.

Contraband-sniffing beagle in airport
Contraband-sniffing beagle in airport

A real beagle airport employee. (Wikipedia)

Why beagles? The breed happens to be among the most food-obsessed of the species. Agents train them not by using “muscle training” as the handler in the video boasts, but by making the search for contraband into a game: Find the meat, get a treat. They’re also unusual in the sense that they can be trained to distinguish between “allowed” food and “banned” food. Plus, they’re small, so they can dart in between bags and around legs easily. Finally, they’re just plain adorable, which makes the sight of them snuffling bags and plunging their little heads into the pants cuffs of travelers a cute sight. An airline would find it bad for business if, say, a German Shepherd with a beagle’s degree of obsession jumped up on a passenger, when all they’d done is forget that they’d brought along an illicit sandwich.

So if someone asks you if you’ve seen the video advertising the newest member of the KLM Lost & Found team, you can say “Oh, yes. Very cute. But here’s the real story …”

And if you do see a beagle working at the airport, don’t count on it to return your iPhone. Or your favorite leather jacket. But they will definitely find that stinky camembert you were trying to sneak back into the country.

Is there something weirdly popular on the Internet that you’d like explained? Write to Deb Amlen at buzzologyYT@yahoo.com and let her know. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@debamlen).