Case Studies: BELG-L

LISTSERV Choice Awards Grand Prize Winner: BELG-L

LISTSERV Choice Awards

The BELG-L LISTSERV® list has a tremendous impact, both on dogs who face euthanasia or a life of homelessness and on the people who love Belgian Shepherd dogs. Since 1995, the email list has connected Belgian Shepherd owners worldwide as a family, through email discussion, support and a shared love of Belgian Shepherds. BELG-L currently has people from 16 countries among its more than 1400 subscribers.

"BELG-L is used almost daily by people involved with rescue to find and identify Belgians that may be in pounds. If a dog is found, the word goes out and a list member who is close by will go get the dog," says BELG-L List Owner Libbye Miller. "Once the dog is out of danger, BELG-L is used to arrange transport to the dog's forever home. Using volunteers assembled via the list, dogs can be transported across the country at no cost to the rescue organization."

"BELG-L is a community of Belgian Shepherd owners – nearly every member being owned by a Belgian – one of any of the four varieties: Groenendael, Laekenois, Malinois, and Tervueren," says Miller. "If they aren't owned by at least one, then they probably are doing what you are doing, searching, questioning, researching to ensure that they know what to expect and what is expected of them once they find their special dog, no matter which variety it might be."

"Our purpose is to provide an information network for the worldwide Belgian community," says Miller, noting that the list originally began as a message board on Prodigy. Dog-focused email lists were among the very first LISTSERV email communities.

"BELG-L in its current form was created on August 10th, 1995, by our original list owner Alicia Weirsma-Aylward. Alicia was a real pioneer for dog owners on the Internet, starting several lists that are still active today, such as EPIL-K9," says Miller.

Miller adds that the list has grown, with some 150 new subscribers since 2010, yet its success lies in its consistency and focus. "Our original purpose remains unchanged. I think one of the big things is our insistence that the list stay specific to Belgians so the list isn't bloated with off-topic posts. Also, the list admins Judy, Kat and I try to rule the list with a good humored but firm paw. Mary Siegel, the originator of SHOWDOGS-L, was a fabulous mentor to me as a list owner. I still miss her wise counsel."

People find BELG-L through word-of-mouth: "New people coming into the breed meet someone who tells them that BELG-L is the place to be," says Miller, adding that the list is extremely active: "Subscribers were informed of the impending shortage of a commonly used medication, an important rule change for registering dogs in Europe, and a drive to raise money for bulletproof vests for police K-9s ... and that was just this morning."

Topics include all aspects of Belgian Shepherds. "List members and their Belgians are involved with multiple activities such as herding, tracking, agility, obedience, conformation shows as well as medical service dogs, therapy dogs, protection sports, search and rescue and law enforcement," says Miller. "A lot of our Belgians have multiple jobs in addition to being our much loved family pets. This makes for lively and diverse discussions."

BELG-L subscribers describe the tremendous impact of the email community in their own words:

"I've been a member of this list since 1999 or even earlier, and it has helped me enormously over the years. Nowhere else can one find so much information about health problems, training solutions and every other Belgian-related topic. I can honestly say this has been my first go-to place any time I had a question, and I appreciate the answers I found here so much that even my non-doggy friends and relatives know about the 'Belgian list'."

– Anna

"I can't count the many times shared posts on this list made me think, and feel sad or very happy. I've only been part of this online community for a little over four-and-a-half years, yet it has touched and influenced my real day-to-day life profoundly. And now that I live in Germany, it's even more important to me to read what's happening in the Belgian world 'over there'. It's a piece of 'home' I get to enjoy everyday no matter where I am. Thanks guys, for the steep learning curve."

– Lilith, owned by Fabulous Harry, CGC and 'Percie' Spiritus Ad'Blkcomb Dumbledore, CGC

In terms of overcoming any technical challenges, Miller notes that the most common issues BELG-L subscribers have are how to set their subscription to "NOMAIL" when they want to temporarily stop receiving messages and inadvertently preventing themselves from receiving list messages by accidentally hitting the spam button on some of the free email providers. In these cases, the problems are quickly resolved: "We include instructions for contacting a list admin on the bottom banner of each BELG-L post. One of the list admins walks the subscriber through the solution to their issue."

"LISTSERV has provided BELG-L with a stable, dependable home over the years. The software has grown even more user friendly and easy for subscribers and list admins to use, so handling 1400 subscribers is a breeze," says Miller.

Offering perspective to organizations considering starting an email community, she adds: "I think the history of the LISTSERV lists speaks for itself. Other lists running on other solutions come and go, but the LISTSERV lists go on forever it seems. The ease of use and dependability of LISTSERV, and L-Soft's excellent customer service make running an email community easy."

"Our list is like a family. We share the joys of new puppies, the loss of dear old companions, and everything in between," says Miller. "And while we may occasionally squabble within our 'pack,' the Belgian community is amazingly helpful and supportive in times of trouble ... the easy flow of information and the ability to 'meet' so many new friends has truly changed our world."

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