Pets are great, but think through the decision first


I don’t have bed bugs. I have bed dogs.

I’m not sure how it came to this.

Growing up, my family had an insane little sheltie that growled at neighbors, bit my thumb when I tried to turn over its dish so it could reach its food, and was so obviously inbred that it was practically in line for the British throne.

I did not like the dog; it was hard to tell what the dog liked.

So years later when my wife suggested we get a dog, I was less than enthusiastic. “No way. No. N. O. No-no-no-no-no-no,” I said.

But occasionally she would find herself driving slowly past the local animal shelter. Now and then she would go in. She would peer into the cages. Soft, moist eyes would peer back. She would reach in to scratch a snout. An appreciative tongue would lick her finger.

Finally, we went as a family. The oldest son was off skiing with Boy Scouts, so he had no say in it. We walked into the room where the dogs were caged. All of them were bouncing and barking, some a little too much like my old sheltie.

There was one, a puppy of about four months, sitting in front of his cage quietly.

“We’ll try that one,” I told the attendant.

She retrieved the small white lab-mix and showed us into a little cubicle. The puppy hopped around. It stretched. It crawled up on our fourth-grader’s lap. We think it peed on him a little. Our son and his little sister looked at us. Their eyes were really wide.

“We’ll ‘try that one?’ ” my wife said, looking at me with raised eyebrows. “Who ‘TRIES’ a puppy?”

We called the Boy Scout. “You’re kidding, right?” he asked.

Nope. We owned a dog.

The puppy grew into a slobbering, friendly hound named Biscuit. It ate a couch along the way, but otherwise figured out how to co-exist in our family. It’s worst moments are only when it slips out the door and galumphs a house or two away, then waits in the yard while one of us chases it down.

Six years later, the Boy Scout now in college, my wife again lingered as she drove past the shelter. It wasn’t the same with our oldest gone, she said. Could we think about getting another dog, she asked. Shoot me, I begged. Now.

This time we were suckered.

We went to the shelter. We had the whole family, including Biscuit, there — we couldn’t have looked more like the Clampetts if we’d strapped Grandma to the roof of the car in a rocking chair.

Lucy was very cute and quiet when she was delivered to our cubicle. She hopped around. She wagged her tail. Biscuit did not eat her.

Sold.

At home, she was calm. She was already two years old. She crawled into laps instantly. She seemed exhausted. She slept all day and her most energetic accomplishment was plopping over sideways for vigorous tummy rubs.

We called her an “old-lady dog,” one that was already accustomed to being hand-fed bon bons and content to wait quietly until they arrived.

She didn’t ignite until she’d been in her new home about four days.

She needs all her cuteness, it turns out, because her bladder is on a hair trigger. Once rested, she began running everywhere. She hasn’t stopped yet. She loathes socks, and destroys them most utterly — along with slippers, ties, clothing and anything else she comes across on the floor.

She has no off switch; I’ve run her as far as four miles and she looked at me when it was done as if to say, “That was cute; what’s next?”

The only old lady who could have handled her was marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medal winner in the ’84 Olympics.

And she joined Biscuit in sleeping on our bed. A lot. Day and night. It is their domain — my wife and I just borrow it at night. They huddle together, snout to rump, and store up energy. Then Lucy explodes, Biscuit lumbers frantically after her. Barking ensues.

As we prepared this week’s package about the plight of Clark County’s castaway dogs, I thought a lot about my own hounds. Fortunately, their lot in life is similar to that of many of our dogs locally. There are many good owners who care for and love their dogs. But not enough.

We thought about not running this series close to Christmas. We did not mean to spur holiday-season adoptions only to drive a high number of January returns. But the point of the series is to try to curb behaviors that lead to dogs being abandoned in the first place.

People need to go slowly when bringing a pet into their home. Whatever time and money they think a new dog will take, they should double it, then decide whether it’s time to bring a dog home.

But in the meantime, remember the faces you’ve seen on our pages this week. Keep them in mind when you see abandoned dogs in our community. Their lot is not a happy one. Support any effort to curtail the number of dogs being abandoned in our community.

It is the right thing to do.

Jim Bebbington is the managing editor of the News-Sun.


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