Saturday, August 18, 2018

I Saw a Dog

Clare and I were at our local animal shelter a week ago. She was wanting a second barn cat and it looked like she had found a keeper. A slight, white female, gentle, with no sign of claws or teeth during her frantic efforts to grab Clare's hand through the bars.

The cat was dumped as a teenager in a North-end neighborhood, then spent a year begging for hand-outs and pumping out kittens. The North-end is traffic heavy, loaded with coyotes, foxes and children, and cold as hell. After surviving all these challenges, somebody finally took pity on her and brought her to the pound.

We adopted a sweet, loving cat, now known as Rowena, who impressed us all by being immediately attracted to my 2-year-old grandaughter, Hazel. She's a cat-broke kid and loved her back just as much. This was a fairy tale placement as far as our animal shelter folks were concerned. They like my family. Over the forty years that we have bought various pets from them, we have never returned one, or given one up. We're gold star used-dog and cat buyers.

While Clare was busy falling in love and filling out paperwork on her (now Hazel's) cat, I was hanging out with Hazel, playing climb the chairs and American Bandstand Revival. I'm not technically allowed at the pound, since I tend to come home with something, but Clare was keeping me on a short leash and Hazel had control of the remote. It was all good, but I saw a dog.

A very pregnant young woman, with a toddler and a medium/small black dog in tow, came through the door and stopped at the Animal Intake desk. I glanced, then forgot the interpretive magic-Gaia- witch-dance Hazel and I were doing. There was something about that little black dog.

She was sleek and shiny black. Maybe twenty to twenty five pounds, about knee-high to the fairly short woman who held her leash. She had kind of a whippet thing going on, but sturdier, beautifully muscled, clean legged,  and a high, arched neck. Her head was broad, her muzzle square, and she had a set of alert drop ears. Her eyes were large and brown, set well into her face, not bulgy or weepy, just crackling with curiousity and intelligence.

There was no hesitation in the dog, she watched people and critters equally, yet she never tugged on her leash. She looked up at the woman often, her relaxed tail whip-like wagging a polite question, would wait a few beats, and when she got no response, would go back to watching the activity arund her. She was alert, but not afraid, calm, but ready to go.
This was my kind of dog, she made my heart hurt, she was so much my kind of dog. I even asked about her.

"I found her in my yard," the woman said. We're on a busy street, and when she was still there a few hours later, I brought her here. I didn't want her to get hit."

Which was good. I can hope this fine dog will find her people. She vibrated with good health and good cheer, somebody had to be missing her.

On our way home, I thought about how I choose my dogs. I have mutts, and I have purebreds. One of them is quite fancy. They are different shapes and sizes, different hair coats and colors. All of them met the criteria I just wrote about. All of them are great, healthy dogs, each with their own unique approch to life.

They may come from different backgrounds and sizes, but they all share the same things that draw me in. Well built, athletic, active and smart. I don't care if they are mutts or responsibly bred  whatevers. If they draw me in, then that's how it goes. I haven't been let down yet.

I'm tired of the battles,  "Adopt, don't shop vs. Responsibly bred purebreds." I find them sanctimonious and boring. I am not a pro. I am however, observant, responsible, and experienced. If I buy a pup I want to look at the parents. Then I see the puppies.
If I buy a mutt, I look for the same things I would in purebred parents. Then I meet the dog. I have criteria. I am smart enough, and savvy enough to not listen to the spiel coming from the dedicated volunteer, or breeder. I can trust my gut because it's been tempered with experience.

There is a certain look in a second-hand dog that I wait for. It's when they look me in the eye with an invitation. In my mind, the dog is saying, "Let's blow this joint and go do some shit." Whatever it really means, I don't care, I still reach for the credit card. 




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