Cautious to avoid red tape and complicated forms, prospective pet owners often steer clear of adopting shelter dogs. However, the process is no more difficult than purchasing a pair of last season’s jeans that, without your intervention, would have been euthanized.
Budleigh is our first shelter dog. Previously, our dogs were factory-produced schnauzer/poodle mixes and, in one case, a complicated terrier thing that embarrassed the breeder. Budleigh is a composite of several kinds of terriers with maybe a border collie thrown in to run the controls. Three of his paws are white, as are patches of fur on his forehead, chest, and muzzle, and a ruffle around three-quarters of his neck.
The rest of his coat is a deep black so rich as to render him invisible to the most sophisticated night surveillance equipment. The Department of Defense has implored him to reveal this technology, but, you know, what’s in it for him?
“He’s a really social little guy. Smart, too,” said the shelter lady who introduced us.
“Where is he?” I asked.
“Sitting in front of you. Here, you’ll need these special glasses.”
“Nope! Still nothing.”
“Look off to the side. In your peripheral vision.”
“No…no. Wait! I see a hazy, pulsing darkness. With three white paws.”
Animal behaviorists warn that a shelter dog wielding a cloaking device can pose special challenges for its adoptive family. Also challenges for half a loaf of cornbread left on the table in a dark kitchen. But who could blame Budleigh? The streets taught him that talk is cheap, life is tough, and you don’t get much cornbread.
Budleigh’s adjustment to our family and we to him has been seamless, aside from the common misunderstandings about the value of shoes and the correct interpretation of, “Get off the bed!”
Yet, because of misconceptions about shelter dogs, many perfectly acceptable canines are often overlooked, even though they can be a wonderful addition to any family that’s not too attached to cornbread.
Myth #1: Dogs in shelters are criminals. Or illegal aliens. Maybe both.
Often unfairly labeled as “bad dogs,” few shelter animals have ever been convicted of a crime, with the exception of retrievers. And usually those are just tennis ball-related misdemeanors. However, the stigma remains. Much of the public believe shelter dogs were seized in police raids, or ran in wild packs, or sought vigilante justice against the mobster who murdered their family.
Sorry! That last one was Batman.
Dogs that end up in shelters generally were given up by owners who could no longer house them, were not prepared for a large or energetic animal, or were just, you know, a**holes.
Most dogs, then, are blameless, boasting spotless records and valid green cards, pending approval by the Department of Homeland Security.
Sadly, a few breeds are aggressive by nature and thus better suited to owners with advanced martial arts training. These include:
- Norwegian Klepto
- Bribe Hound
- Shorthaired Supremacist
- Irish Gunrunner
- Standard (or Miniature) Heist
- Portuguese Waterboard
- A bear
Myth #2: Shelter dogs are sickly and need lots of shots, and veterinary care, and grooming, and training, and a cage, and probably food.
Do you really want a dog? Maybe you’re better off with a Roomba®.
When it comes to a dog’s health, shelters routinely ensure that their animals are free of fleas, tick and worms. As part of the adoption process, veterinarians often provide free spaying and neutering, and first-visit checkups. Also included can be vaccinations for rabies, kennel cough, heartworm, and DHPP, an acronym for “North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” A quick call to your local vet will reveal the best health plan to follow, and why it’s vastly superior to anything being considered by the majority Republican House.
Myth #3: With shelter dogs, you don’t know what you’re getting. Many are radioactive mutants, like in “X-Men.”
True. And cool!
Myth #4: Other dogs will bully my shelter dog because he wears glasses and reads a lot.
Actually, canines at the dog park that can boast of a shelter background possess a certain caché, a swagger, a je ne sais quoi (French for “What’s that in English?”) that other dogs respect.
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “You know, I retrieved some very interesting things this week.”
PUG: “You’ve got to shut up! Just shut UP!”
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: “Shhhh! I want to hear this.”
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “Say, I once retrieved a—ˮ
STANDARD POODLE: “ʻ— a mountain!’ Yeah, yeah, we’ve aaall heard it.”
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: (Quietly) “I was gonna say ‘ball’”
PUG: “Hey, you think the new guy’s ever retrieved?”
STANDARD POODLE: “Don’t know much about him. Keeps to himself. Once, I tried to pee on him. You know, kind of a ‘How you doin’?’ pee? But he just glared, kinda crazy-like. Brrrr!”
PUG: “Hey, new guy! C’mere!”
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “Can I go get him?”
SHELTER TERRIER: “What’d’ya want?”
PUG: “You ever retrieve anything?”
SHELTER TERRIER: “Nah! Never had nothin’ to retrieve. In…the Shelter.”
Dog chorus: “Oooooo!”
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: (Aghast) “Not even a shoe?”
SCHNOODLE: “Or something with, I don’t know, peanut butter? I’m hungry!”
SHELTER TERRIER: “Nah! But I killed something, once.”
Dog chorus: “Oooooo!”
PUG: “What’jah kill?”
SHELTER TERRIER: “I don’t talk about it much. But it was big. And had fangs. And teeth.”
STANDARD POODLE: “Fangs and teeth?”
SHELTER TERRIER: “Oh, and wings. Also wheels.”
SCHNOODLE: “And peanut butter?”
PUG: “Knock it off!”
SCHNOODLE: “I’m so hungry!”
STANDARD POODLE: “Why did you kill it?”
SHELTER TERRIER: “Well, it didn’t give me any choice, did it?”
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “It sure didn’t!”
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: “Bastards! They’re all like that, those big fang-and-toothed, wheel-winged, peanut butter…things.”
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “Killings too good for them. They ought to be retrieved!”
SHELTER TERRIER: “Well, I’d like one to try to get near my new Giants! Next time, it won’t get off so easy as being killed!”
STANDARD POODLE: “Hey, can I pee with you?”
— Dave Jaffe
Writer, columnist, former Chicago reporter, humorist Dave Jaffe has written for online, print, television and radio. Creative, clever, witty — these are traits that kept Dave in detention for most of the eighth grade. But as an adult those skills led to multiple award-winning columns and commentary, numerous published articles and essays, and even sketches for Bozo the Clown. Dave’s blog, Sleeping between Giants — which explores life, if you could call it that, with a terrier — received the 2018 and 2017 National Society of Newspaper Columnists award for humor blogs. His work has twice been honored with Peter A. Lisagor awards by the Chicago Headline Club, and by the Parenting Publications of America.