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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?++


9 Responses

  1. Of course. You make me nuts (or more nuts)….I´m a dog enthusiast and have almost always had them (rent or no renting)…I´m known for my love of dogs and I love all of the above…really, truthfully, I´ve noticed a difference (over the years and years and dogs and dogs) the girls are wonderful, warm, and great companions…the guy dogs are fun! Yes, simple as that, for me it´s more like hanging out with a pal…the girl doggies I treat a little more like little ladies the machos I leap and run with and wrestle with too…currently there are five dogs in my home…they are all housebroken and run from room to corridor to inner patio/garden and up and down stairs…one of the dogs, Coban, is about 11 months old…he´s visiting us while his Moms are abroad (for almost three months)…Coban is SO MUCH FUN…he´s a long haired, long bodied, pure white wiz! I´ll miss him when his Mommies come home next week. We also have a rescue Old English Sheep Dog…he´s glad to be in a home the cares for him and would probably kill if we were threatened (he´s almost as big as a bear)…I like him, Fido, and he´s happy as a clam. I inherited , almost three years ago, a Pekaneese mix…he´s a arrogant and mean little thing and therefore he leads his own life pretty much on the outside of the crowd…and then there is Frida the killer, especially if you´re a rat, Minature Snoozer…also a wonderful/smart lady who knows her stuff…but my beloved one is a Cocker Spaniel (I always have Cocker Spaniels since childhood) and she is 4 years old and name Dulce Serena…she IS, SWEET and SERENE…so many dogs, so little time.

    I love dogs.



  2. Leonardo, your dogs sound like a lot of fun. And you’ve hit on what I was so inarticulate about: the behavior differences between females and males. I know what boy dogs act like; run and jump and roll around and go on hikes and have adventures – not much different from boy humans.

    But grrlz! I don’t know how to have doggie tea parties, or Barbie dressup, or tie bows on ’em or none of that. These were somehow left out of my childhood education and I’m not about to learn now. Why would I wanna share my house with a grrl? I never have before.

    It might be different if I had sisters, but I don’t. I’m the youngest in my family, no aunts, uncles or cousins, so reproduction stopped with me (literally). I must have been 15 before I realized, “There are people younger than me.” I was never around them.

    The only females I’ve ever known were teachers, classmates or co-workers, whom I liked just fine, but that’s not the same as living with them.

    So I hereby absolve myself of misogyny, do plead guilty to ignorance, and sentence myself to finding a male fox terrier and bringing him home to live happily ever after, running and jumping and having adventures. That’s the advantage to country life; you can chase all the squirrels you want, and the woods are always changing on you.

    I mean, on your dog.

  3. Does it really matter what the dog looks like? Just with people I go for their mind not their looks. 😉

    Luke would be welcome in my house too, so what are you waiting for?!

  4. Actually Luke’s kinda cute, I’ve just never seen a fox terrier whose face is all black before. Their coloring is typically black, white and tan, but this guy got lucky.

    It’s not his mind I’m interested in (he won’t have much), but his character. Foxies are typically sweet as sugar, which is why I like them so much.

    A five-hour trip to Indy, across the time zone, is not easy to accomplish without planning, and I have to get the last of my garden torn down tonight, as we have frost warnings. If Luke’s still around next week, I’m heading south.

  5. That’s what I had in mind but couldn’t find the right word for… Character with a capital C. [very important]

    When you go give them a call in advance so they know a dog-lover is on its way.
    I’ll promiss, and you know that’s hard for me, not to spoil him when I see him. 😉

  6. You’re right, I’ve learned I have to call ahead. A foxy advertised on Petfinder in Rensselaer was gone by the time I got there. Even calling Indy before I leave doesn’t guarantee Luke’s still there by the time I arrive. Shelters don’t take reservations over the phone.

    The supply and demand situation is kind of sad, but here I am, wanting a specific breed and gender, so I guess it’s as much my fault as everyone else’s.

    The one thing I know I don’t want is the typical “designer dog” everyone in New York seems to crave like a fashion accessory. Registered purebreds hold no interest for me, much less spending a thousand dollars on an animal while human beings go hungry. The purebreds often have health problems, but some people think they need the luxury brand.

    Then there are the puppy mills… Just give me a dog, he doesn’t have to be fancy. I’m glad for my parents’ example, just go to the pound and bring some little guy home. Then get him fixed, so there aren’t ten more puppies running around without proper care. Domesticated animals are dependent on human beings, but a lot of people are irresponsible.

    P.S. The female rat terrier advertised in my area code — “great dog, but we have a baby” — has been adopted.

  7. Update: I called Indianapolis about Luke. Turns out he’s not at the shelter, but at his “foster mom’s,” so the procedure is that they contact her, find out when she could let me meet the dog (which could be anywhere in the city), then the volunteer coordinator would call me, make the arrangements, and if I like him, I go to the shelter on the northwest side to pay for him, then I go back to her house and pick the dog up.

    What a hassle – and no callback from the volunteer coordinator yet.

    If I wanted a pit bull (notorious aggressive breed), there are a thousand within a 50-mile radius. Boxers, dobermans, rottweilers are all plentiful; if you want a mean dog to protect you from criminals there are lots available. But a nice gentle dog to live in a peaceful small town, no can do.

  8. ANOTHER UPDATE: I have an appointment to meet Luke in Indianapolis on Friday! The Humane Society didn’t do exactly what they said at first, but they did make the connection with his “foster mom,” who called me herself. She’s even making it easier on me as far as driving, we’ll meet at the Humane Society so it’ll be one stop shopping; that way she can take her own dog to the dog park right next door. If all goes well I’ll bring him home Friday afternoon.

    She gave me a little bit of extra information: she’s only had him since Sunday, so it’s not like they’re super-bonded already. He was shy at first, which I’d expect with a terrier puppy, but in just three days he’s coming out of his shell and getting along well with her dog, a 3-year-old Australian sheepdog who’s a little smaller than he is; they’re both probably mixed breeds, so I won’t know how big he is till I get there.

    I’d started to give up hope, but now I’m pretty excited.

    I have a hundred questions — What’s he been eating? Is his tail docked? (I hope not, I don’t approve of it.) How fast can we get a potty routine established? How much exercise will he need? Will I have to install a fence for my back yard? Should I buy pet insurance? What’s the vet in town like? How much tearing up my house will he do? And maybe most of all, can I establish which of us is the alpha dog here from the get-go? I’m not going to be dragged around town at the end of his leash. So many people are controlled by their pets, but I don’t think it’s good for the human or the animal.

    I don’t anthropomorphise dogs — they have dog traits, not human traits — and I’m not as sentimental as a lot of people are about them. That’s my country background coming out; I’m used to working dogs who are respected for what they contribute, as well as loved for their dispositions. Yes, my dog will live in the house with me, but we’re not sleeping together; I find that whole idea repulsive. I’ll buy him his own little doggy bed on the floor, one with a washable cover, from Wal-Mart, not Nieman-Marcus.

    I’m going to need a supply of squeaky toys, things to run after and chase. I wonder if I can teach him to catch a Frisbee…

    I hope he’s the one. I don’t need him to be perfect, like what I had when I was a kid; but if he’s a nice dog, maybe on Friday I’ll be falling in love. What will THAT be like at my age?!

  9. It´s easy…no sense projecting about the potential room in your heart, and household, for LUKE…LUKE will be just fine and you´ll probably be suprised to discover that LUKE will make YOU love him…no muss, no fuss (I mean with a face like that, I even love him already)!

    Cobans Mommies have returned…tomorrow they will come and scoop up the elongated bundle of happiness (wjp has a hobby of escavating for Maya ruins in the garden)…I´ll miss him but I know he´ll be back for other visits other times.

    Have a safe trip!!

    BARK! BARK! BARK (wiggle, wiggle, wiggle)!

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