— LET INGA TELL YOU:
Olof and I have slowly, tentatively, started looking at dogs, not that our beloved Winston could ever be replaced. We confess we’re ambivalent about it; when we had a lot of yard work done this spring, we couldn’t help but reflect that it was a lot easier not having a dog. Particularly not a dog who would eat power tool-toting people.
But we have sorely missed the dynamic of a dog in our household. Winston brought out a side of my husband that I had ever seen before in the 51 years we’ve known each other. We’ve both spent the spring pretty much marinating in sadness.
In starting to talk about what kind of next dog we’d get, we both agreed that, ironically, it would be the not-Winston. While English bulldogs are delightful animals, they are the canine apotheosis of in-bred health problems. We were hoping to have a respite from being frequent fliers at our local veterinary hospital.
Given our ages (68), I wanted a lower weight dog going forward, at most 25-30 pounds. I’m not getting younger or stronger. The 58-pound Winston was a challenge for me on a leash. Fortunately, we have the ultimate dog park yard so he got more exercise than he could ever have gotten on a walk.
Undeterred by being neutered, Winston was fond of humping dinner guests under the table. So I thought maybe we’d go for a female this time who hopefully had better social graces.
Olof had his own requirements. Whenever I said “smaller dog,” he developed a facial tic. “Please,” he begged, “no yappy little handbag things!” (On behalf of yappy little handbag things everywhere, I apologize. You’re entitled to love, too!) He was also not too enthused, he confessed, about “foo-foo dogs” that need to be professionally groomed. No, Olof wanted a short-haired dog suitable to star in a Dodge truck commercial.
There have to be at least 25 canine rescue groups in San Diego, a number of them small private ones who heroically rescue dogs from high kill shelters and put them in foster homes awaiting adoption. It is truly heartbreaking how many dogs there are who need homes, all of whom one can prescreen on the Internet. In my sleep, I am literally haunted by their adorable faces, all crying “Pick me! Pick me!”
That said, we are decoding some of the buzz words on these sites, for example: “vocal” (barks until your neighbors call the police); “doesn’t like to be alone” (will shred your sofa); “lively” (totally hyper), and “needs minor dental work” ($1,000 under general anesthesia).
Online bios are a nice screening tool but you really have to meet the dog in person. At a pet adoption event, there was a sweet dog there that I thought Olof would really like. That was until the foster mother’s teenage daughter volunteered that the dog “really hates men. She has bitten my dad so many times!” adding gratuitously, “She pees on his shoes, too!” The bio, by the way, read “was a little shy with men at first.”
Most of the dogs on these sites are mixed breeds, often listed as, for example, a terrier-beagle mix suggesting mom was a terrier and dad was a beagle. In reality, they generally tend to be the products of many generations of careless parents. But given the health problems that we and friends have had with overly in-bred purebred dogs, we can only conclude that this is a good thing. (English bulldogs, for example, have heads so large they have to be born by Caesarian section.) It does, however, make for some really strange-looking dogs.
I think it is really important that rescue organizations thoroughly screen potential adopters. These poor dogs have been through enough. But some of those applications were like applying to Harvard, except that Harvard doesn’t do home visits. Other than our ages, we thought we were pretty ideal adopters. We’re home most of the time, we have a fabulous dog yard, and we are willing to keep our vet in the high standard of living to which she has become accustomed. Still, one application not only required the name and phone number of three references, but also the name and number of the person who will assume ownership of the dog if you crump. And they plan to check.
Olof and I would both look at the same sites and share favorites, which I might add are never the same animals. Olof will note “a little bigger than you wanted but looks like a nice dog” attached to the picture of a 70-pound vizsla. Our vet mentioned starting with fostering, with the caveat that we are both such mushballs that we’d probably end up keeping the foster dog no matter how inappropriate it was for us. She might know us too well.
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org