It’s been just over a year since I lost my beloved soul dog Mojo. I experienced three other losses last year as well, which sapped my motivation for getting another dog anytime soon. I’ve also had a very busy travel schedule, but my last seminar of 2009 has been presented and I’m now left with the time—and, finally, the inclination—to begin searching for another dog.
It’s a funny thing with dog trainers; many of us do well at helping other people with their dogs’ behavior issues, but when it comes to our own dogs, we have blind spots. Just ask my professional trainer friend whose pit bull/great dane knocks visitors down at the door with her unbridled enthusiasm! Maybe it’s a case of the cobbler’s children, where the last thing we want to do when we get home is train one more dog.
It seems like we who should know better have this same blind spot when it comes to choosing a dog. If I were to sit down and make a list of the characteristics I’d like, they’d include friendliness with other dogs and people, no serious fear or aggression issues, intelligence, and an energy level I can live with; in other words, there won’t be an australian shepherd or border collie gracing my home any time soon. Ironically, the types of dogs I’m attracted to—german shepherds, rottweilers, dobermans, wolf hybrids—aren’t exactly known to have the temperament of, say, a golden retriever. It makes me think back to my dating days, where my rock-star partners were certainly head-turning, but perhaps not always the smartest choices. But just as I ended up marrying a kind, intelligent, great-looking guy with a fabulous personality, I’m hoping for the same luck in the canine arena.
I’ve already warned my husband that he’d be needed in the adoption decision-making process. I may have to bring along a trainer friend as well. Goodness knows I’m completely capable of turning off the red flag processing part of my brain when confronted with a pair of heart-melting brown eyes. Or green ones, attached to a black, suspiciously wolf-like body. (I once described my wolf Phantom to a friend, saying, “He’s tall and lanky, with long black hair and intense green eyes” to which she replied, “Are you describing your wolf or your husband?”)
There’s also the matter of age. Mine, I mean. I don’t regard myself as old, but as I’m grudgingly forced to consider things like my chronic back pain (partly due to recent years of lifting the back end of 120-pound dogs), it seems that perhaps a less-than-gargantuan dog would be a wise choice.
One thing I am certain of is that I’d like to adopt from a shelter or rescue group. My husband has suggested a puppy. Of course, he’d be the one peacefully sleeping as I took the adorable fluff-ball out to potty at 3 a.m. But I’d rather have a dog who’s a few years old, one whose temperament is already obvious, where what you see is what you get. Puppies are great, but even the cutest pup can have a genetic disposition toward aggression or fear that’s not obvious at a very young age. Besides, I want to save a life, and puppies are the last to need my help.
It’s been interesting to read online descriptions of adoptable dogs. Euphemisms abound: “He’d love to be your one and only, and wants all your love for himself.” Can you say dog aggressive? “Would be wonderful for an active family” translates to an adolescent with boundless energy, and if you don’t burn it off you’ll have your very own interior redecorator. “A classy fellow. Very discriminating about who he likes, with both dogs and people.” Uh-oh. Run away! I’m not saying these dogs don’t deserve a chance, but that, as cold as it might sound, I’m just not looking for a major project. Been there, done that.
As exciting as getting a new fur-kid can be, I’m not rushing into anything. I have faith that the right dog will come along at the right time. I’ll keep you posted.