It’s dog show season again and I’m getting excited! I love dogs. I think dogs are the best thing ever. I really, really, really love them. I used to be an adoption counselor for a local dog rescue here in Chicago and I loved helping people find new family members and helping them learn how to acclimate to each other. As I write this, I’m struck by the similarity to what I did in the dog rescue and what I do helping people find their next home, a recurring theme about what makes life satisfying for me.
My specialty in the rescue was the tough to place, big and/or scary dogs. I might not be Cesar Milan but I’m pretty darn good. I remember one of my pups looking for a home, a Tosa Inu, a Japanese Mastiff. He was so freakin’ handsome I kept threatening to put him in a suit and take him to dinner. So, yes, I am a crazy dog person. BUT, I am also a super responsible and reasonable dog person. I expect excellent behavior, respect and manners from all the living things in my life- children, dogs, adults, whatever.Both my kids piled in my lap, all 230lbs of them. This is the dog that’s scared to let strangers touch him.
My current rescue, a 180lb English Mastiff grew up pretty isolated in the country without much socialization and was terrified of absolutely everything when he came to live with me in the city. He has come a really long way but is still very hesitant to let strangers touch him. His family he can’t get close enough to, he just has some pretty strong boundaries when it comes to strangers. He won’t act out if people don’t respect his boundaries, but he might try and climb into my arms to escape—which, at 180lbs, presents a bit of a problem as you can imagine. Respecting boundaries is extremely important to me and while I can’t teach every person I see how to be better with dogs (or people) it is worth a moment of everyone’s time to learn enough to be safe—and teach our children how to be safe around strange dogs. Here is a super easy to digest, lighthearted diagram of what to do and not to do when meeting dogs.
For anyone who shares me love of dogs or is curious about them, there are a ton of good resources out there. My favorite is www.dogbreedinfo.com which does a nice job giving you the details about breeds and characteristics which will help you decide if a particular pup is a good fit for your family. Obviously, I want everyone to rescue instead of go to a breeder, but even mixed mutts display the characteristics of their different breed combos. Take your time to do the research and you’ll be happier with your pup. Of course, computer research isn’t nearly as satisfying as going out and meeting the pups! And you are in luck. The International Kennel Club of Chicago will be at McCormick Place February 24-26th. It’s a fun, inexpensive way to spend a day and there ARE rescues as well as breeders there. If you prefer to learn about the breeds from your couch—or just want to look, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show kicks off Monday and welcomes 6 newly admitted breeds—American English coonhound, Cesky Terrier, Entlebucher mountain dog, Norwegian lundehund, Finnish lapphund and the Xoloitzcuintli (formerly and commonly known as the Mexican hairless).