Some demanded to know her name.
Some wanted to see her picture.
Others called her stupid, mean and heartless and a "freaking disgusting woman."
They suggested she be jailed immediately, or "put to sleep," or made to sit in a locked car in 90 degree weather for four hours -- just like her dog Maddie had done on Tuesday morning.
With a headline, a few paragraphs and fewer details, readers had enough evidence to condemn Bonnie Hinnant of Hilton Head Island. They announced her name, frustrated the paper hadn't. They combed through her Facebook page. They posted a photo of her.
A dog had died.
Hinnant was responsible.
She must be a truly awful person.
Life is never that simple.
On Wednesday when I read the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report about what happened at the Bi-Lo at the Circle Center on Hilton Head the day before, my breath caught in my throat, a warning that I was about to burst into tears if I didn't reel it back a little.
But the details were hard to take.
Just as a deputy broke open the locked black Chevy in the parking lot -- where Hinnant's 12-year-old golden retriever was now slumped over in the back seat -- the dog began twitching. She was limp. Her tongue was hanging out. She was dying.
I thought about how that must've been for the people who came to the dog's rescue. The suffering they saw. The desperation they must've felt to save the dog's life.
I also thought about my own dog.
Then I thought about Hinnant, alone and in a hospital bed, being told by a deputy that her longtime pal Maddie had died as a result of what, one can assume, would indeed be a very low and desperate moment in a person's life.
According to the report, an intoxicated Hinnant was at Bi-Lo at 7 a.m. Tuesday to buy more alcohol. The petite woman -- who is 55 -- later told deputies she had already consumed two handles. While at the store on what she had thought would be a quick errand, she fell and was knocked unconscious. She was taken to the hospital.
This is a description of something truly awful, but it is not a description of a callous human being.
I have one of those for you, though.
A man named Michael Hammons was charged May 9 with criminal trespass for breaking the window of a car to free a dog that had been left there by its owner in broiling hot Athens, Ga.
A woman named Elantra Cunningham owned the dog and the car and was very angry that her Mustang had been damaged.
So she pressed charges.
"We would not have made those charges on our own," Oconee County Chief Deputy Lee Weems told WXIA TV in Atlanta. "The deputies on scene say the owner of the car and of the dog was very insistent that he be charged with criminal trespassing."
Hammons, an Army veteran who said he suffers from PTSD and whose voice bears the strains of someone in pain, used the leg of his wife's wheelchair to free the dog.
This means there is a human being out there who assessed the situation in front of her -- a situation caused when she put her dog in danger -- and said "Yes, book him. Book this guy with the wheelchair wife. The guy who cared enough about my pet to keep it alive and who is clearly not doing so well himself. I would like him to have one more problem in life."
(I do hope they were able to put the leg back on Mrs. Hammons' wheelchair before they carted away her husband.)
Judgment is a reality. It's how we survive. It's how we set ourselves apart from others. It's often how we get a good laugh.
Facebook judgment might be a different animal, though.
It seems sharper, louder, harsher and way more efficient. It seems permanent and way more amplified. Before Facebook, only a few people knew of your darkest moments. Now, your mistakes are there for everyone to stick a toothpick in and nibble on.
Regarding Bonnie Hinnant, the immediate reaction was hard for me to read. But people were upset. I was upset.
I would never do this, I thought. What kind of person does this? We live in the Lowcountry. Why do people need to be reminded that this is dangerous? Every time you get in a car around here you're blasted in the face by the devil himself. You wouldn't leave a doggy bag in the car never mind the actual darn dog.
When a dog dies in a hot car -- when it quite literally boils to death -- there are lessons for all of us. It'll make us think twice before running into a store for "just a minute." It'll make us more aware of the ordinances -- what is and isn't allowed. It'll help us know how to react should we see this play out again. Sadly, we will.
There is another lesson for us here, though.
While Hinnant's situation will still prompt judgment and discussion, there is always a decision to be made on how we react on social media -- what we say about others.
And there is always a kindness we can extend -- to strangers, to a woman, a neighbor, who by all accounts has been described as a sweet person and who loved her dog greatly, who now must live with the memory of this.