Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't You Just Want To Take Them All Home? -OR- How To Pick A Puppy

Confession #4. Is it four? I think it's four.. It's been awhile.

Confession #4 or possibly 5: No, I do NOT want to take them all home.

At least once a day, someone asks me this question. Don't you just want to take them all home? I used to just fake a smile and say, "Yeah!" as enthusiastically as I can muster. Just for the sake of the customer. Because I thought, people won't understand if I say no. Then one day, I thought, eff that, I'm just going to be honest. Now I'm sort of in the middle. I'll try to judge if I should be honest or just smile and nod.

How can I possibly NOT want to take them all home?

Because I know myself. I love dogs. But there are some breeds whose traits I could not handle on a full time basis.

Let's take Basset Hounds as an example. Just because there is currently one in the store, and so Basset Hounds are on my mind.

When I say I'm not a Basset person, true Basset people will immediately smile and know why. The traits they have had bred into them since 1561 include a very loud, yodeling voice, the desire to use that voice frequently (very VERY frequently), and a nose that can smell things with such intensity that they never want to stop smelling things.

The noise. The noise of a Basset is incredible. They yodel and bark and howl when they're happy, when they're not happy, when they're excited, when they're bored, to tell you they've found something, and sometimes, I swear, just to hear their own voice. I call the one at the store Elvis not only because he ain't nothin' but a hound dog, and he's cryin' all the time, but also because he just delights in "singing."

When I rub his ears, he grunts. When I'm cleaning his kennel, he howls. When I talk to him, he yodels and murmurs and whimpers and whispers. They make a really interesting range of sounds that you just won't ever hear out of any other breed.

BUT OMFG IT DRIVES ME INSANE. I can tune it out at the store. But if I had to go home and in my free time when I'm relaxing, hear that.. Holy crap, I would be pulling my hair out. I love him now, while he's mine. But I would never, EVER, want one.
I know myself (and Basset Hounds) well enough to know that we can get along great, as long as we go to sleep in separate houses. Some people love the Basset voice. They think it's great. More power to 'em. I love them for it. Me? No.

So it really bothers me when people come in the store looking for a puppy, ask if Bassets bark much, and upon being told they do, say things like, "Well, but they can be trained."

Listen. This dog has been bred to have that loud of a voice and use it all the time for HALF A MILLENIA. There's no training 500 years of selective breeding out of them. It just don't work that way. And this isn't just with Bassets, mind you. I get it every time someone just wants, and expects instant gratification, with regards to a dog.

Sometimes I want to tell people, hey. If you want an exercise in futility, that's fine, go sit on the beach and try to hold the tide back. But don't bring any other living creature into it. Especially not one that's going to suffer when you finally realize your folly.

Because who is going to be the loser in the end? Not the people who weren't honest with themselves about what they can deal with when bringing home a puppy. It'll be the dog. The dog will be out a home, and possibly a life.

I love it when the rare moment comes that a customer says to me, "I really don't know anything about dogs. I know our family wants a dog, but I know nothing about the different breeds and I don't want to just bring anything home. How do I pick out a dog that's right for me?"

I want to jump around and hug them and tell them, "You. You are the greatest thing ever."

Picking out a dog that's right for you is like finding God. You have to be brutally honest with yourself, about yourself. Can you handle the incessant barking of a Basset Hound? Do you have the time and patience to train good ground manners into a dog that's going to be 120 pounds someday? Are you really willing to give up your passion for cute fuzzy rodents in order to have a dog that's been bred to kill them?

Be honest with yourself, and then start looking. And when you find a breed that you think fits you, and that appeals to you, call the first breed specific rescue for that breed, and ask them, "What is the number one reason these dogs get surrendered?" And then ask yourself if you can really handle that. Honestly.

And if what they tell you doesn't sound too bad, then you've got yourself a winner. Congratulations, you've just found a God. Err. Dog.

As for myself. No, I don't want to take them all home. There's a long list of dog breeds I'd love to own, and some surprising individuals of breeds I never thought I'd enjoy who just endear themselves to me while they are with me. (Yorkies, I'm lookin' at you.) But when I think about it, and I'm really honest with myself, even the ones I think I'd love I know better than to bring home. It just wouldn't be fair to THEM.

And there are some dogs I know would work out splendidly for me.. just not right now.

I've waited half my life for an Irish Wolfhound. Someday, I will have one. But the time is not now.

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