A Dog to Fit All Whims
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A Dog to Fit All Whims
Patty Adjamine
Director, New Yorkers for Companion Animals

One of the things that always amazes me in rescue and placement, is that too many people regard animals as "products" that we can somehow program and create to meet consumer demand.

"I am looking for a dog -- no more than 10lbs -- that is young, healthy, hypoallergenic, housebroken, trained, good with kids, cats, playful, cuddly and likes to sit on laps" is a very typical request we get. I sometimes feel like a fast food clerk in a Chinese restaurant taking outgoing orders. It is tempting to say to some of these dreamers, "Well, as soon as we cook up that dog, we will send him/her (or to their mind, "it") to you."

A few weeks ago, we had a wonderful 5-year-old spayed Retriever mix named "Goldie" who was very nearly a perfect dog; housebroken, trained, healthy, great with kids and other pets and extremely affectionate -- but she wasn't perfect enough for some people. One family made an appointment to see her.

The parents brought their young, very active children and six-month-old Yellow Lab puppy to meet Goldie. Goldie was patient and loving with the two young children. But, while she was accepting of the rambunctious puppy, she did not play with him. The parents were disappointed.

They explained to me that they had previously looked at a one-year-old Shepherd from another group who played great with the lab puppy, but was "too rough" with the kids. On the other hand, Goldie had no interest in playing with their puppy.

I explained to them that they were looking for an impossibility: A young, playful dog, who would be good with their puppy, is most likely going to be untrained and too much to handle with the young children. On the other hand, a mature dog would be good with the kids, but not interested in roughhousing like a puppy. Their demands were thus, "contradictory and conflicting." No dog can wear all hats. We cannot create "multiple personality" dogs -- nor do I think we should try.

Yesterday, a woman came to see "Foo Foo," the extremely docile, sweet Peke/Tibetan Spaniel mix dog we presently have who we described as the "ultimate lap dog." The woman has an 8-year-old Shih-Tzu already and sought a small companion dog who would sit on her lap and get along with her other dog. FooFoo is fine around both cats and other dogs. For more than an hour this woman petted and held FooFoo. I was sure she would adopt this beautiful and gentle dog. But, instead, she told me she had "to think about it."

Some hours later, she called to tell me that she also sought a dog who was "more playful." In other words, a dog to fit all whims.

We have all heard of "old maids" or "confirmed bachelors" for whom no mortal human is ever good enough. They seek an illusion: A man or woman to fit every need and every desire, regardless of how contradictory or conflicting. The perfect God or Goddess, without fault to be put forever high on a pedestal.

But, humans without fault do not exist. And humans to fit every need also do not exist. If one likes "the successful life of the party," chances are, s/he is also admired and pursued by others. Fidelity (if important to the pursuer) thus might not be a given in that relationship. (Remember, Bill Clinton?) On the other hand, the plain spoken, hardworking man or woman may not be the "exciting" challenge that a more popular, charismatic and good looking potential partner might be, but they usually are more likely to stay put by the home fires. In people, one needs to choose their priorities in what they seek and be sure they are not contradictory. The same is true in animals.

In dogs, the mature, gentle and trained "lap sitter" is unlikely to ALSO be the highflying Frisbee catcher, or playmate for your puppy or child. On the other hand, the young, athletic, jogging companion is unlikely to be happy spending 9 hours a day alone in an empty apartment.

Too many people seek the mature dog's personality and temperament in a young dog or puppy's body. But, just as children are not born knowing algebra, neither are puppies born fully "housebroken and trained."

Choose your priorities and be sure they don't contradict and conflict.

Realize, that in seeking one set of qualities in a dog, you are usually "giving up" something else. Just as in humans, there is no such thing as the "perfect" animal or the dog to fit all whims. Those who seek such in humans will remain forever single. Those who seek such in animals will be forever, "looking."

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