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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.

Read more at our litter-mate blog, Sleeping between Giants.

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By Dave Jaffe

Black dogs tend to be passed over for adoption because they are associated with evil. Yet studies have proved that relatively few actively worship Satan.

This Black Dog Syndrome, as it’s known to its advocates, would have black-furred shelter dogs adopted less quickly than lighter colored ones. Despite strong anecdotal evidence from animal shelters that this stigma is real, Science has yet to be convinced.

“Controlled tests need to be conducted,” insists Science in that high-pitched, nasaly voice that makes you want to push its head in the toilet. “If it can’t be measured, then I can’t build an app and make money. And this research crap is killin’ me! You know how old my car is?”

Yes sir, right down deep in the toilet!

At the root of this supposed phenomenon is a diversity of conflicting explanations; Black dogs are shunned by the superstitious. Films and television portray them as vicious. A black dog killed my parents.

Watching, waiting, plotting, Budleigh knows that eventually...eventually we have to sleep.

Watching, waiting, plotting, Budleigh knows that eventually…eventually we have to sleep.

However, just as compelling is evidence that suggests coat color is only a minor consideration of dog adopters. Shelter dogs are adopted in nearly equal numbers whether their coats are black, light, brindle or, as in one study, transparent – that from a survey group which “thought it would be cool to watch blood circulate.” NOTE: Those last results were never replicated and that group was hurriedly ushered from the test facility, their names forwarded to the National Security Administration.

So how does one know if a black dog would be a good choice? To determine that, let us leave the realm of the analytic and focus our attention on an area of study I call “me”.

Last year when we first met Budleigh, our vicious, Satan-worshipping, parent-killing terrier thing, I was unaware of the stigma surrounding black dogs. Kelly, the lovely lady who runs the homeless animal shelter, praised this smart, social little fellow while he vibrated around the room, occasionally passing through solid objects. During our conversation Kelly mentioned that such dogs as Budleigh can be difficult to place. I asked why.

“Well first, because he’s black.”

“Ah HAH!” I snapped, nodding with Anderson Cooper clarity. “Isn’t that just typical of The Man?”

“Sorry?” said Kelly, puzzled.

“Well, it’s just like Ferguson. And Selma.”

“Oh…heh!” Cautiously, Kelly edged herself between me and Budleigh.

I felt the conversation coming unmoored, and tried to clarify without actually explaining.

“I mean, you see it in the news, right? People protesting. And they should! Not just on CNN. I watch all the coverage, of course. Because I’m fair. Oh, and balanced! Very, very balanced.”

I was like a man at a dinner party who confidently leaps into a debate on gun control, or religious persecution, or why Donald Trump’s a dick only to realize, late, that the topic is Justin Bieber.

And from Kelly’s tight but polite smile I suspected that I wasn’t getting a dog of any color.

“Anyway, my point is that he’s a very, very talent singer, but troubled,” I concluded. “Soooo…back to dogs.”

“Yes,” she said. “I was saying that black dogs aren’t as popular as the light ones. Also this little guy’s a terrier. And they’re a handful.”

“A terrier?” I gushed. “I love terriers! Terriers are wonderful!”

Some of my best friends are terriers! For God’s sake, mouth, don’t say it! Don’t!

“I’ll take him, Kelly. Wrap ‘em up!”

There are many advantages of a black terrier, none of which benefit their owner.

Chief among a terrier’s assets is stealth, just after teeth, speed, cunning, intelligence, stubbornness, and what passes for “adorable”. So stealthy is this breed that, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, every American is under constant covert scrutiny by as many as 17 terriers, all hoping their subject will turn into a rabbit.

Our formerly alive terrier Oxford, Budleigh’s predecessor, used stealth the way a seascape painter works with blue. He would shimmer into a room, take on the color of his surroundings, and sit quietly for weeks until I set down my toast. Then he’d evaporate, along with the toast and my fingers up to the knuckle.

Budleigh’s black fur renders him a far more effective operative. He’s all but invisible in photographs. Shot against a black attaché, the viewer sees only a black attaché with delightful little white paws. With eyes closed, his head becomes a featureless black ovoid much like the acid-spewing Alien, only with more teeth. Walking him at night, I hold a leash attached to a murky darkness that pees a lot.

Budleigh is Dracula. And his Prince of Darkness shtick is really pissing off the townspeople.

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 1: “Hon, I can’t find Budleigh. Have you seen him anywhere?”

BUDLEIGH: “Hi!”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 2: “No, but I’ve been here folding laundry. Is he under the bed?”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 1: “Hard to say. It’s dark as a Chilean mine. Budleigh! Budleigh boy!”

BUDLEIGH: “Am I under there?”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 1: “I can’t see him. Torches! We need torches!”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 2: “Or maybe just a flashlight and peanut butter?”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 1: “And crosses!”

BUDLEIGH: “Can you see me? I can see you!”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 1: “OK, he’s not under the bed. And he’s not outside and he’s not shut in any rooms. So where….?”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 2: “Dave, is that pile of black yoga pants wagging.”

GIANT TOWNSPERSON 1: “Budleigh! Has he been lying here all this time?”

BUDLEIGH: “I could have taken your toast! Also your fingers up to the knuckle.”

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Where’s Waldog??                 There he is!

Where’s Waldog?? There he is!

Got some extra holiday money burning a hole in your pocket? Make a donation to the wonderful folks at Tails of Hope, a no-kill, non-profit animal rescue and adoption organization, and Budleigh’s alma mater.

This article is part of “Sleeping Between Giants”, a new series of columns on the Write Good!: The Blog blog.

Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.

Your feedback is welcome, probably.
dj

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.writegoodtheblog.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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We rescued a terrier, although why anyone would is beyond me.

Terriers are what dingos strive to be – wild dogs semi-domesticated because there’s something in it for them. Terriers are the The Joker of the animal kingdom.

Yet my wife and I chose a terrier. We felt obliged to our formerly alive terrier, Oxford, a young thug who matured into a dignified, coldly ruthless mob leader lacking only a fedora and Miami tan. His rule was paternal, loyal but arrogant. He passed away to a kidney ailment although he’d have preferred withering under police machine gun fire in a Chicago alley.

He left behind his muscle, Brisby, a German schnauzer-French poodle mix ever at odds with himself. Now with no one to guide him except a couple of pet owners who just didn’t “get me”, Brisby risked succumbing to a lifestyle of violence, drug addiction and madness.

So we got him another little thug.

Choosing to adopt a homeless dog is not an easy decision, and frankly, Sarah McLachlan isn’t helping. It’s not that I don’t want to rescue an abused animal that’s pretty much just a snout, a collar and half a paw. I just don’t have the emotional strength. I’ve always acquired my dogs from well-established, responsible breeders that I’ve never heard of except afterwards when they appear on the national news.

Going the shelter route was our way of giving back to the community without actually giving anything back. The dogs are bargain priced to move. Our veterinarian offers a steep discount on the initial checkup. Friends and family treat us like heroic characters from a Dickens novel.

And with relatively little effort we located a very social, black and white, cow-eyed terrier, about a year old. We bonded immediately, brought him into our fold, and within weeks he’d hacked our passwords and begun siphoning our accounts. But he was housebroken.

Terriers, like Budleigh, are energetic dogs that, with the proper diet and training, can vibrate through walls.

Terriers, like Budleigh, are energetic dogs that, with the proper diet and training, can vibrate through walls.

April 30 is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day – a significant holiday that falls between Hairball Awareness Day and International Turtle Day. Our new terrier, Budleigh, has enriched all facets of our lives, with the exception of footwear. For those considering adopting a shelter dog, here are a few tips to make the transition easier:

1. All shelters name their dogs “Bandit”. No one knows why. It’s ok to change it.

2. Like Congress, not all shelter dogs are housebroken. This is easily managed with a pooper scooper and an educated, informed electorate.

3. There really is a Hairball Awareness Day.

4. Acquaint yourself with the many dog breeds so you know what to expect.
Retrievers, for example, make excellent companions but have become so popular that our nation is rapidly running out of things to retrieve.

5. Ensure an ideal match by carefully evaluating a shelter dog’s behavior when you first meet. Is he wiggly and licky or does he just hand you a business card? The former might be great with children, the latter a potential corporate investor.

Like many first-time adopters, my wife and I feared we’d be overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising a rescue dog. Yet, Budleigh, now in his fifth month with us, has proved no more a challenge than if we’d both pursued medical degrees.

All dogs want is to love their people and fit into the pack. Dog owners just need to commit a bit of time and patience and they’ll be rewarded with a wiggly, licky, devoted little buddy, or at very least a reliable corporate investor.

dj

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