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Animals & Humanity on Display


The Humane Society of Indianapolis is a fantastic organization; great animals, wonderful volunteers, a very good facility, kind and competent staff. I got to visit today as a prospective adopter, a customer, a guest; I went in with no preconceived notions and was very impressed by the entire operation. I’m sure it has some faults but they weren’t apparent to this mystery shopper—except for one: someone doesn’t know a fox terrier from Terry Goodkind, Terry Fator or Terry McAuliffe.

The dog I went to visit, a young fella named Luke, is mostly Dalmatian by way of a pit bull.

(Mind you, pit bulls are part of the terrier family, but not the side of the family I care to have over to dinner.)

Luke’s “foster mom” and I estimated that he weighs about 40 pounds. The average fox terrier weighs about 20. Luke’s at least 24 inches tall; the average foxy is 14-16 inches.

Luke has a black, stubby head, a thick neck and a white body with lots of black spots, a combination of these two guys:

Dalmatian with black spots

Dalmatian with black spots

American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier

This is the kind of dog I was looking for.

Smooth fox terrier resting in leaves

Smooth fox terrier resting in leaves

I easily found Jill, Luke’s foster mom, and we went outside to a fenced-in play area with her other dog, an Australian sheepdog. Luke can be shy around unfamiliar people and objects, but he and the Aussie got along great after just a few days together. He did not care to meet me, but had a fun time chasing the Aussie all over. He has a kind of funny trot; he lifts his feet up high and almost looks like he’s prancing. I’d never seen a dog do that, so I just stood and watched them as Jill and I talked. Then something happened that surprised me; the Humane Society has a bird feeder in that play spot and some cardinals came to call. Luke had no interest, while a genuine foxy would have been all over them.

I tried to imagine living with this dog; even though he isn’t what I had in mind, I didn’t want to turn him down out of hand, especially after driving 100 miles to meet him; he needs a home. I watched him run; we chatted about food and exercise and obedience training. Given his wariness, we wondered if he was abused as a pup; that didn’t disqualify him either. But I wondered whether I am physically up to giving him what he needs. I don’t walk that well anymore, most days I wake up with stiff joints; I couldn’t run if you paid me. I’m starting to walk like an old man, which shows I really need regular exercise too. I was trying to figure out whether he and I could possibly make a team.

Then he and the Aussie, running around, almost knocked me down. I started to get cold and really wanted to go back inside.

But we lingered awhile, and I thought about what the goal of adoption ought to be: finding a good match between dog and owner. The human has to be responsible for the dog for the next 15 years, and I just couldn’t see Luke and me working out. He needs younger people, and someone to teach him some manners.

Jill could tell this wasn’t going to work out, and she suggested I look at the other dogs in the kennel, something I hadn’t even thought of. I was just glad to be back inside, but I went and looked. Boom, there was a little rat terrier, cute as the dickens, female; not ready for adoption, still recovering from surgery. A lot of the dogs there are getting treatments of various kinds; I’d say a majority of the critters I saw weren’t ready.

The whole experience was just like you see on a TV sitcom, humans walking around peering at penned-up dogs, barking or whining or lounging in quiet pathos. I felt so guilty, even as I’m so grateful that the Humane Society’s doing all that spaying, neutering and treatment work. One very cute dog was diagnosed with heartworms, and a sign said not to get him excited or he’d have heart problems. He was running around his little pen like a madman.

The puppies of course were adorable, whole litters in some cases, little bitty guys looking like every child’s dream. But they were all breeds that get much bigger than a fox terrier. So I finally left and drove home depressed.

Learning of the day: don’t believe everything you read on the internet. I recognized Luke from his photo, but that boy’s a Dalmatian. Learning #2: don’t get all excited and drive a hundred miles only to come back empty-handed. I woke up early this morning, as I knew I would; I was an hour early arriving at the humane society. I’ve got the squeaky toys, the collar and leash, the food, the dog dishes; all week I got the house ready for someone whose view of life is a foot and a half above the floor. No socks on the floor, no plant stands to knock over, nothing to get in trouble over; I’m dog-ready.

But still looking, waiting for a little guy to love.++

Rat Terrier named Andy

Rat Terrier named Andy