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Finding the Right Dog


(Many updates below; see the comments.)

Here’s a classified ad in a nearby newspaper:

Rat Terrier – 3 yrs. old, female, housebroken. Great dog, but we have a baby. 219-XXX-XXXX

Subclassification: Absolutely Free
First Rundate: 10/08/2009

And here’s an ad on Petfinder:

Fox Terrier
Young, M
Humane Society of Indianapolis

Hi, my name is Luke and I didn’t have the best start in life, so I’m pretty scared right now. I don’t take very long to warm up, though, and when I do, I’m super sweet. So if you can give me lots of love and help me build my confidence I’ll be your best bud. I’m only about a year old, and my adoption fee is $105. Please visit our friendly adoption counselors to ask about taking me home today.

Luke is up-to-date with routine shots, house trained and spayed/neutered.

Luke is shown in the photo up top. Not the cutest guy I ever saw, but he’ll do.

I wrote earlier about falling in love with a dog while Peter was here visiting in June. We met a friend who has an older fox terrier, and it was love at first sight. I grew up with fox terriers, but I hadn’t seen one in decades; the breed lost all popularity after World War II, but before that it was the quintessential Midwestern farm dog, useful and with a good personality. When my dad went to pick out a dog for us kids, he got what he knew, a fox terrier. We had three or four of them over the years.

Once I became an adult I’ve never had a dog. I was always a renter, and it’s hard to find landlords who accomodate pets. But now I own a house, and I’m home all day, and the old terrier Peter and I met was just a joy — sweet, not yippy or aggressive, just a nice little guy. (Size matters; I don’t want a big dog. I only weigh 125 myself, and I figure a 25-pound dog is my upper limit. I want a dog who fits my size.)

Well, I’ve been on the lookout since that day; I’ve been to do the dog pound in this county and the next one. I even thought about a beagle, but the one I visited was a little too big and way too noisy. As we approached the kennel, the animal control officer said, “He’ll be the first one you hear as we start to go in,” and sure enough he was.

I’ve read the want ads, I’ve gone online. I’ve searched on Petfinder.com a couple dozen times. I’m skeptical of all the “rescue” and “shelter” outfits they list; a lot of them sound like businesses to me, and “don’t call or come here, e-mail us and we’ll send you an application, then if we decide you’re good enough your animal costs 300 bucks.” At my local pound you just show up, pick the dog you like the best and take him home, he’s free. The county wants to get rid of the animals it has custody of, not make adoption difficult. They set up incentives, not barriers.

But there aren’t many fox terriers at the dog pound anymore, so if that’s what I have to have (and it is, although rat terriers look and act much the same and I’d be very happy with one), I probably have to travel. Then the money becomes an issue. Should I drive four hours to look at a dog I may not feel good about, if he’s even still there by the time I arrive?

Finally, one more complication which I didn’t anticipate. Apparently I’m a gender bigot. I want a male dog, not a female. How misogynist, how Gay!

My parents’ litter was three boys, no girls. The terriers my dad got for us were always male, because he didn’t want a female having half a dozen puppies behind the garage. (We had a cat once who delivered behind the hot water heater. Warm and private, I suppose.) A lot fewer people got their pets spayed or neutered back then; Bob Barker hadn’t made it a crusade yet, though he was on TV already when I was a kid.

Once we did end up with a female dog when I was 16 and had just started driving. I took her two towns over to the nearest vet so she could get spayed, and on the way she got sick in the car. Of course I told the doctor all about it, he checked her out, she seemed okay, he took her to the operating room — and came back a half hour later and said she died on the table. He was all apologetic, but you can’t bring them back once they’re gone, and just like that, no more dog.

You can see where all this is leading; a conditioned preference for calling, “Here boy!” and not girl.

I feel a little guilty about it, but then again it’s my house and my dog. Of the two ads above, I’d rather drive 100 miles to Indianapolis and pay 100 bucks to the humane society than call someone in my own area code who’s giving away a girl for free. I’m Gay, I don’t know nothin’ about no grrlz.

As long as I’m coming clean, I had one more bad experience as a kid: being around an unspayed female in heat. Goodness, what a sound, half-moan, half-yowl, being in the same house with her for five minutes made me want to get the hell out. “She’ll get over it in a month or so,” the human told me. Jeez, a whole friggin’ month of that? I’d rather have a male humping my leg than listen to a month of misery.

So even if I’m All Wrong, my Petfinder search term now specifies male. I guess I’m getting old and set in my ways. I know lots of pet owners, including Gay guys, who love their female dogs, find them less trouble and all that; I don’t care. The important thing is taking in an animal that needs a home. I’m not taking in a St. Bernard or German Shepherd or pit bull, or anything else that can knock me over. And I’m not taking in no grrlz.

Although isn’t Lucy, the rat terrier below, just the cutest thing you ever saw?++