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The Life of Wily
It was a dark and stormy Saturday in May, and we were at the dog pound. Dogs looked out from concrete cages, some wagging, others barking, cringing, moping, or simply waiting. We were looking for an American Eskimo, a small white spitz. We worked our way through the stray pens. Here was one. She looked old and fat. She was grumpy and her eyes were running.
On around to the adoption pens. Here was another. Spindly-legged and sway-backed, this one barked mindlessly. We doubled around to the back row, moving slowly, stopping to touch the occasional friendly nose, remarking on this dog or that. A fresh downpour drove us inside. The dogs moved in to greet us along the corridor.
Here was another. He was very tiny, listless and shivery. I thought he might be sick. We headed back to the strays. Craig pointed out a fourth white spitz-like dog. I thought something awful was wrong with its fur, but Craig said it was only burrs. I looked more closely. This dog must have been bedding down in burrs. They were worked in deep and tight by the hundreds. It must have been miserable. The dog lifted its nose about an inch and looked at us hopelessly with eyes narrowed to slits. The tape around its neck showed that it had been in that cage for nearly two weeks.
I said, "That dog looks so depressed I'm afraid it'll die."
Craig agreed. We didn't feel much better. Pirate was dead, and we were miserable without him. We had pored over all the snapshots and retold all the crazy stories. We would never be able to replace him. Half "spitz" and half border collie, he was unique and debonair. We would never find another pure white dog with a jet black eye patch, plume tail, and Pirate's rakish style. But before long, I was buying books and magazines. I couldn't stand it. I was reading the parts about "where to get a good dog."
Where to get a good dog?
According to the books, you should start by figuring out what breed best suits your life style and personality. I looked up the border collie and the "spitz" --- the American Eskimo, as I soon learned to say. I read that border collies need much occupation. I thought of Pirate's relentless extermination of my gladioli when left alone in the yard and his marauding (like Houdini, Pirate could escape from anywhere). That must have been the border collie. I read about the American Eskimo's sociable nature and decided Pirate must have gotten many of his virtues from that side. We would get a spitz.
The books said we would want a puppy. I wasn't sure. Pirate was a young adult when we got him. No messes on the rugs, no shoes destroyed, no crying in the night. I like older dogs. If you get a young adult, you will have him for many years (twelve years, in Pirate's case).
Supposedly, puppies are better because you can be sure the puppy has been raised right if you do it yourself. I saw two problems with this. First, it seemed to me that you could pretty well judge if a dog had been raised right --- you judge by the results, after all. Second, I wasn't sure we knew how to raise a puppy while working full-time. For a grown dog with attentive owners, active weekends, good long evenings and a big yard, the work week is tolerable. Nine hours is an awfully long time for a puppy to be alone every day.
I was undecided about the age of the dog. I read on. Where do you get a dog? The possibilities are: a reliable professional breeder, a pet shop, the newspaper, and the dog pound. The reliable breeder is recommended. Pounds are not highly recommended by the experts who write books. They say you don't know what you're getting.
But this is only true if you're getting a puppy (as the books assume you will). You can't predict much about a puppy of unknown parentage. If you're getting an adult, what you see is what you get. If you want an adult, the pound is a reasonable option. I decided that, if I got a puppy, I would get it from a breeder. Since I was still considering an adult, I kept the pound in mind.
One book said that sometimes breeders have adult dogs for sale. Acquaintances of ours had a little dog that came from a very fine breeder who is also a trainer. The little dog was descended from obedience champions, and her owner became well-known among our town's dog people when she and her dog were high in trial at a major show. About a year later, the woman agreed to sell her dog. So here was a case of a well-bred, correctly raised dog that had been available as an adult.
Let alone that I could not fathom selling a dog, I knew that the story ended sadly. The little dog was so heartbroken that she cried unconsolably until it was feared that she would die. The owner had to take her back and refund the money she had taken. Knowing about this case worried me. I remembered Pirate's early days of listless mourning for the ne'er-do-wells that dumped him on us. I am not sure I would buy anybody else's top-notch adult dog. Continue...