Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 7, 2006

Choosing between two great canines

My family is in the process of growing by one. No, an infant is not in our future; we’re seriously considering adopting a dog.

Because three of the four human members of our family are dog newbies, we started this process with the idea that an adult dog is a better choice for us than a puppy.

Puppies are undeniably, heart-meltingly adorable, but they require a lot of work.

All I have to do to quell baby lust is remember potty training two toddlers; I’m pretty sure that housebreaking a dog would rank similarly low on my favorites list.

I don’t want a big dog. When I was very young, the neighbors on the corner of our block had two Great Danes in their completely chain-link fenced yard (front, side and back). I still vividly remember their loud, incessant barking as they lunged toward the fence whenever I walked along the sidewalk in near that house.

When I was a teenager, I baby sat for a family with a huge English Sheepdog that was gentle and sweet, but, even knowing that, I had to quell an urge to panic whenever he bounded up to me when I arrived at their home.

Because I want a dog that can accompany me on walks, tiny breeds are out of the question. And, because we have two indoor cats complete with claws, I think it would only be fair to the dog if he or she were at least the same size as the armed feline members of our family.

I’ve researched breeds and found that for every assertion you discover (Breed X is calm and friendly), someone will contradict it (Who told you that? Breed X is nervous and yappy).

I’ve concluded that I’m not going to give much credence to any breed stereotypes and will instead base my decision on size and the individual dog’s temperament.

I talked to someone who warned me about rescue dogs. While he applauded the urge to save an unwanted critter from being put to sleep, he cautioned me that generally rescue dogs need rescuing because of a behavior problem that their previous owners couldn’t handle.

After that conversation, I briefly entertained the idea of a puppy, but thought about housebreaking and chewing problems and reconsidered. I decided that I would have to find out as much as I could about any rescue dog that I consider.

So, I began looking at descriptions of available dogs posted online by shelters and rescue groups.

The problem with the world wide web is the “world wide” part of it. I started getting email messages about dogs in places like Anchorage and North Carolina that people were willing to ship to me.

Call me overly cautious, but I’m not adopting a dog I’ve never met.

During my online search for homeless dogs, I came across a fabulous Bay Area animal rescue group, Furry Friends Rescue. If you’re looking for a pet to adopt, visit their web site. They not only responded quickly to my inquiries (which, unfortunately, was not true of all the groups I contacted), but they also let me know when a new dog arrived in their care that might be suitable for our family.

As a result, I’m seriously considering adopting a dog from them. On Saturday, we met a wonderful dog that they recommended for us. On Sunday, a volunteer visited our home to make sure it’s suitable for this dog. This adoption, if it happens, will be because of their quick and thoughtful responses to my inquiries.

It’s a lesson that I hope other animal rescue groups take to heart. Customer service counts, even in charity and volunteer work. It doesn’t do much good to seek adoptive pet families if you don’t respond to folks who answer your calls for help.

But my motto is “nothing can be simple,” so why should finding a dog to adopt be straightforward? At the same time I learned about the Furry Friends Rescue dog, I heard about another dog whose family reluctantly needs to find him a new home. We visited them on Sunday and met their fantastic dog.

How to choose? This is more difficult than deciding how to cast my gubernatorial vote. At least my absentee ballot was completed and mailed days ago.

Hopefully, by this time next week, we’ll have a new canine member of our family. It’s a big decision, and one we’re not taking lightly. I’ll let you know how it works out.

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