Dogs are family. That statement isn’t mine, but that makes it no less true. Dogs want to be with you, protect you, and want to please you. They want to LEARN what it takes to please you. All they ask in return is your love, your time, and, of course, food. Sounds like family to me….
I’ve always loved dogs, as far back as I can remember. I never thought I’d actually get one of my own, though. I couldn’t see having the time to care for them or the ability to schedule my life according to a pet’s needs. And it IS hard sometimes.
It’s my ex-wife’s fault, really, that I have a dog now. Her son (my former stepson) had been asking for a dog for awhile. She finally caved 4 years ago, when her son was 10. My wife and I were actually divorced at this point, but had a “friends with benefits” thing going on. I still remember the phone call when she told me she’d gotten the dog.
What she got was a 5 or 6-month-old Bichon Frise. I never would have thought I’d fall in love with a “foofy” dog like a Bichon, but I did indeed. They’re actually rather cute when their fur is shorter. The day I met this little critter, my ex and I went to PetSmart to get some supplies. I carried him around. I looked down at him and said, “Hold the baby”, which I think is a line from Borat that my co-workers would say all the time. When I said it, he licked my chin. I said it again, and he licked my chin again. My canine obsession was born.
When we got back to my ex’s apartment, I wanted to play with him, and I drummed my hands on the floor, Ba-Da-Dum!, and he performed the same rhythm with his paws. It was a magical bond created that day. I would call to see if I could come over to play with him and offer to watch him if my ex was going out. And it wasn’t one-sided. She told me when my car would pull up that he’d go apeshit and bark at the door for me to hurry up.
Eventually, my ex and I went from “friends with benefits” to not even friends at all. There’s the saying “My wife ran off with my dog, and I miss him”. That’s pretty much how it felt. Thus I made my decision to get a dog of my own. Like I said, it’s all my ex’s fault I wanted to get one.
The point I want to get to with all of this backstory is that I could have rushed out and gotten a Bichon like hers. But I lived in an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, and had to wait 10 months for my lease to expire. This turned out to be an incredibly good thing, in that the time made me think.
Bichons are known for separation anxiety, we found out. The little guy threw up every time he was left alone. And then there’s the grooming….
I used my time to think about what might be a good fit for me, and I bought a book called The Dog Bible. It’s a rather comprehensive encyclopedia of breeds. I looked through and any picture that looked like a dog I might care to get, I read the profile.
Different breeds have different needs and traits. Some dogs are high-energy, and need to run or have a lot of physical activity. Some need a “job” to do, because they were bred for hunting, herding, digging for vermin, etc. If they don’t have this need met, they can get bored and depressed and eventually become destructive. Some are couch potatoes, and if you’re looking for a jogging partner, they’re not it.
I was single again, and would be caring for an animal on my own. A dog breed known for separation anxiety wouldn’t be good since I had to go to work to earn kibble money. And since I don’t have a lot of said money, regular trips to the groomer wouldn’t be my best bet, either. A short-haired breed that doesn’t need trimming would work, and a smaller dog would be better for apartment living. I also wanted a dog with a moderate energy level, so we could play and roughhouse, but I wouldn’t have to be on the go all the time.
I narrowed it down to a final four options, including the Miniature Pinscher and Rat Terrier. I found a Miniature Pinscher (Min Pin) rescue online, and I read books on the breed. And read some more. I picked out one of the dogs they had available, and it turns out she’s a Rat Terrier/Min Pin mix! She behaves more like the Rat Terrier, so that’s how I see her. I of course read up on them, too, when I learned she was R.T. as well as M.P. She will likely not be my last Rat Terrier.
I don’t rule out getting other breeds in the future, including Pit Bulls, but I want to be a more experienced dog owner before getting a larger dog. And, of course, I’ll do my research first.
That’s the moral today: Don’t make a pet purchase blindly. Do your research. If it looks like it won’t be a good fit for you and your lifestyle, you’ll only be out the cost of the books and not an adoption fee. You also will not have risked traumatizing the dog (and yourself) by making uneducated decisions.
P.S.–Adopt from a rescue or shelter. There are so many dogs that need homes, and they may be euthanized if not adopted. They may even have been put there through no fault of their own. Someone else might not have done THEIR research, and gave the dog up because of human mistakes. “Open your heart to an animal in need, don’t give in to puppy mill greed.”
Wonderful advice for anyone hoping to own a dog. Lots of people get dogs without having any idea why theychose that particular breed, but maybe your blog will educate them.
Hopefully it reaches enough people. I’m up to 12 subscribers, I believe, which is fantastic, but I think they were already converts before I posted this….
Excellent post Mr. Fox! I get a little sad when I find out someone I know has “a new golden retriever puppy.” Not that I have anything against Goldens, but you rarely find them in shelters, and they are so over- and in-bred. I’m a mixed breed fan all the way–they live longer, they’re unique, generally healthier, less expensive (speaking in terms of product fee, not necessarily inital setup…that’s about the same for most dogs! hehe) and they need homes!
PS the US Dog Agility Associations calls mixed breeds “All-American” dogs. I think that fits well with your more recent post 🙂
Yeah, I’ve had friends with Goldens, and I hate to say it (might get some flack here), but they’re not my favorite breed. And they do tend have all kinds of maladies due to improper breeding practices. In fairness, not everyone likes Rat Terriers. To each their own, as long as they researched to find out what SHOULD BE their own!