Adopt from local shelters
I realize I’m getting around to this a few weeks late, but October is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Adopt A Shelter Dog Month. Say that five times fast.
I’ll take any excuse I can get to talk up the benefits of a) having a dog (or cat); and b) adopting that animal from a local animal shelter. Last spring, finally ready to have another dog in the house after having lost my mutt Kona a few years before, I went to the Humane Society of Parkersburg in search of the perfect companion. I had another dog in mind, after perusing photos on their website; but shelter staff looked at my application, asked a few good questions, and brought out another dog, too.
It turned out that dog could not be a better fit for my household and lifestyle if I had designed him myself. Max is 45 pounds of goofball American Bulldog/Siberian Husky (maybe?) mix; and the most visible part of the husky in him is his size and the almost-human blue eyes. He goes on hikes to humor me, but flops down right in the middle of the trail when he has had enough exercise for the day. (No, really. I’ve had to carry him half a mile … We’ve learned to take shorter hikes.)
He is both terrified of and fascinated by the cat (who is also from the HSOP shelter). The two of them have a “this is your space, this is my space,” relationship until I catch them early in the morning sharing the same patch of sunlight on the floor.
He has met very few strangers, but has let me know twice that the person he was barking at was not someone he wanted getting any closer; and I believed him.
In fact, he has been very loyal — some people have described him as clingy — to me. But that wasn’t a surprise, because it is what I have come to expect from shelter dogs who know I, or before me, my parents, rescued them. Dogs know when they have been rescued by good humans and brought into a good home. They reward you for it.
Now, I know there are amazing purebreed dogs, and their owners have very good reasons for getting them. They can be just as smart, loyal and loving. My sister has a Newfoundland with all the papers. She’s a great dog. She was also very expensive, and now has some very expensive medical problems that, it turns out, are common to the breed. And she’s … not the smartest dog I’ve known.
I’ll take my shelter mutts any day.
One other note about adopting from a shelter: Max did not become Max until he came home with me. Before that, he was Ruger. So I talked to the shelter staff member who had brought him to meet me, about whether I should have any concerns for his temperament. I will admit to being a little worried about a pit bull-type breed whose previous owner had named him after a gun. I wanted to make sure there was not any poor treatment or training that had gone along with the name.
I shouldn’t have been. The staffer was very knowledgeable about Max’s history, and gave me as much information as she could, in addition to letting me talk to other staff members who had worked with him and observed his behavior. They all cared a lot about making sure I was informed; and that they were making a good match for the dog. They worked their magic well.
Max has been fantastic. He lets my young niece and nephew wallow all over him. He even lets my niece wrap him up in shimmery pink blankets and read stories to him.
If you have been thinking of getting a dog; if you are able to give an animal the time, attention, exercise and love it needs; and even if you have a specific type of dog in mind, please consider your local animal shelters before turning to a breeder. You might just find your new best friend.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org