9 05 2011

This is not a post about Mother’s Day, about reflections on Ethiopia one year later or about my recent Selam attempts.

This is a post about a woman who lives in my neighborhood, owns a dog and probably shouldn’t.

Last week when my parents were here for 43 hours (this is not a post about their visit – just a reminder to keep myself on track) we were all down in the playground at the end of our block.  By playground I mean, grass field filled with ticks and home to a piece of backyard playground equipment that the landlord moved there after someone deserted it when they moved out.  Why did they desert it? Because it is falling apart.


We were down there and the kids were risking their lives swinging on the falling apart swing-set when an older woman started down the block with her dog (probably a chihuahua, beagle, dachshund mix).  As she rounded the corner the neighbors’ fairly well-behaved Lhasa Apsos, contained in their yard, came to the fence and barked at her.  Her dog hit the end of the leash and barked back – did I mention the chihuahua?  Yes, well those genes were showing.  And for some reason it took her a couple minutes to walk the 20 feet that stretches across their backyard.  So the dogs enjoyed a good fence-fight, face-off.

“I may look little but I am really HUGE!”

“Oh yeah, well there are two of us, two, two, two and we will kill you.”

“No, I will kill you, bite you, maim you, if only it weren’t for this damn leash.”

“I don’t think so, if it were not for this fence you would be dead – dead I say.”

“Once you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way.  From your first cigarette to your last dying day.”

From time to time my dad or my husband would look over and comment on the show.  Clearly the woman was unnerved by what was happening but she was making NO progress moving past the yard.

When we (my family including our dog) left the “park” we walked past the same two Lhasa’s.  They ran to the fence shouting, “Hey you little mutt, don’t you know we own this street?”  And my rat dog yelled back, “I may be small but…..”  And that was all he got out because we just kept walking and in a matter of seconds we had turned the corner and the dogs could not see each other anymore.  Then I heard, “Hmmm, we got past that yard much faster than she did.”  (That was my husband, not a dog talking.)

Today my kids and I were in the backyard using our new blow-up pool with the sprinkler attachment.  And I was so relaxed I didn’t care that it was in the 90’s and humid.  Of course my little dog kept leaving our yard.  Our fence is not built to contain an 8 lbs rat and no matter how many rocks, boards and rubbermaid containers we put in front of the the places where the boards don’t reach the ground, he always finds another way through.

So, anybody want to guess who came walking down our alley?  And she was on the phone.  And my dog was on the other side of the fence.  And I tried to say, “My dog is about to run at you but he is harmless.”  But, she was ON THE PHONE.

So my dog ran at her and her dog and shouted, “What the hell do you think you are doing on MY BLOCK.”

And her dog shouted back, “I will kill you, kill you, kill you.  If only it weren’t for this damn leash.”

As quick as I could, I got out of my gate, walked towards the scene and told my dog to knock it off.  He continued to bark and I am pretty sure at that point he said, “Screw you.”  Honestly, he might have been talking to me, not the other dog, but who knows?

The woman quickly got off the phone and was clearly having a hard time.  She did not just keep walking… ahh, I am sensing a pattern here.

I apologized to her – my dog and I were definitely the ones in the wrong – and calmly reached down and picked up my dog.

I said again, “I am really sorry.”

And she said, “I’m sorry.  He is from a shelter.”

Ah, friends who know me in real life just sucked in their breath.  Yes, fighting words.

So I said, “Oh, so is he,” indicating my designer, mixed-breed, arm-pit dog who happened to come from a large-scale, puppy-mill bust I was involved in four years ago.  And, because, you know me, I followed up with…

“I think the best dogs come from shelters.  In fact I worked at animal shelters for more than 10 years.”

She said something else.  I think it was another apology for her dog’s behavior and a statement of some type of relief that I was being understanding.

But, I was not listening.  Just like the Lhasa Apsos at the end of the block I was defending my territory.

So, I added what I am sure was some very helpful education, “It really isn’t his fault, he is on a leash and can’t escape.”

And, of course, repeated myself…

“I think shelter dogs are THE BEST DOGS.”

And I walked back into my yard pissed off.

There probably is no bigger message to this post other than, shelter dogs are not necessarily flawed.

I can think of lots more tangential things to say about mistakes I have made with my own dogs.  I can probably even try to make a connection to human-adoption.  Also, I can see parallels with child-rearing – the labeling of kids and how it makes us freeze in our tracks rather than moving forward and trying to solve problems.

Yes, I could make up lots of crap and probably even sound profound with my conclusions.  But the truth is I only have one thing to say about this…

Shelter dogs are not necessarily flawed.  And dogs from breeders, well, some of them like to fence-fight too.

Also, I apologize for the course language, but, you know, those dogs came from shelters.




15 responses

9 05 2011

you’re right. i sucked in my breath. gggrrrrrrr

9 05 2011

Just when I thought the walking slowly was the worst of it… Sheesh. I would have loved to have been there to see the smirk I know you had on your face.

10 05 2011

You are absolutely right that being from a shelter does not mean a dog is flawed, I completely agree. I do think that one of the problems with shelters, however, is that the pups that are there are often labeled as being this breed or that breed when they are actually not. Our dog, a rat terrier, we believe, was labled as a boxer/shepard mix. There is a big difference here. Our dog had also been spayed at 8 weeks old and she was the only dog there in that shelter from the litter. While all the other pups had litter mates with them, she had no one, had undergone a surgery, and had been mislabled as the wrong breed. I guess my only point here is that shelters should not put labels on the dogs at all, including breed. Our rat terrier would be better suited with a family with a huge fenced yard, but she’s our girl, and we just exercise the crap out of her in different ways. So did not mean to hijack this post, but I wondered what your thoughts might be.

10 05 2011
Semi-Feral Mama

Breed labeling is definitely a problem in shelters. And it is probably only going to get worse because now most of the “kennel cards” are computer generated, so shelters have more limited choices based on software. Of course a boxer/Sheppard would also need LOTS of exercise – a terrier is a whole different thing. I think it is interesting to know whether the previous owners (possibly the mother dog’s owners) said that was the breeds or if the shelter staff had to guess based on looks and temperament. I have told people if you really, really want to know what the dog will be like as an adult – get an adult dog…. it is the only way to know for sure.
I once met a dog that I would have laid money down was a boxer. Turns out if was a rottweiler and beagle mix.
I am fine with spays/neuters at 8 weeks – it is a critical step in stopping pet overpopulation and therefore saving lives. The babies actually recover really fast from the surgery and there is almost no bleeding, etc… that we see with older dogs.
There is at least one interesting study that talks about “singletons” – puppies that end up in shelters by themselves rather than with litter-mates. They tend to have more challenges. (Sorry, don’t want to label your dog.) No matter what – if you are walking her and she starts fence fighting with other dogs – KEEP WALKING!

10 05 2011

My dog definitely has challenges, but she has taken up residence in my heart. Even my mother who is not mooshy about animals at all has so much empathy for her. I know what you mean about the getting spayed early, and I agree, but I just know that for some dogs it is so so so much. I love your passion on this subject.

11 05 2011

yep – that’s why we got an adult cat! Best. Cat. Ever.

10 05 2011

Love this one! It reminds me how lucky I was to have the opportunity to work with you back at MHS! YOU GO GIRL!

10 05 2011

My most favorite dog growing up was a mixed breed (dachshund/ cocker spaniel) from the pound. ‘Course, he had a unhealthy fascination with the mail man and the UPS man…which ultimately led to his demise. Poor dog. Poor UPS man. He once jumped up and clamped onto the crotch of a bully’s pants. He didn’t actually hurt the kid–but it freaked him out. The kid had started pushing my older brother around, and throwing dirt clods at him while we were on a walk. We were so proud of our little defender. *sigh* best. dog. evah!

10 05 2011

A friend is an animal lover like I’ve never witnessed in another human being on earth. Her and her sister. One lives on a farmette with a million animals. The friend might had smacked that woman silly. She took in this precious soul of a bassett hound that went from puppy-mill (as forced to breed) to shelter.

10 05 2011

Aw, you worked at a shelter?! Way jealous. The mister is hesitant to let me volunteer at ours as he is fearful we will become the crazy dog family.

Our dogs get two labels – Shelter dog and Pit Bull. And did you know the Pittys get separated from all the other dogs at the shelter in Atlanta? Is that everywhere?

11 05 2011

I totally would have made the connections you wisely avoided.
LOVE the narration of the fence fighting!
We had a pure Akita who was a gentle, fantastic family pet. Her littermate was an assh*le. I’ve known great shelter mutts and crazy pound puppies. Breed gives us guidelines of expectation but we have to allow for ownership – legal and practical – and temperament.
We now have three very ill-behaved dogs across the street from us, and I wish to all that’s holy that more people would just KEEP WALKING. Even the ones without dogs get barked at so they bark back, and I get to live here and listen to it. The kids going to the kindergarten around the corner make their mothers carry them past that yard. So then there’s screaming and crying mixed in with barking and yelling. Adults are angry, kids are afraid, dogs are out of control and thus also angry and afraid… all because the owners don’t want to stifle the inherent dogginess of their pets. It’s fantastic.
We call them the Idiot Dog Neighbours. Interestingly, the lady of the house is mentally unstable; if her world lacks stability, it’s unsurprising that she recreates that around her.

11 05 2011

I would never consider a dog that didn’t come from a shelter. Well, unless I found him or her as a stray or something like that. I think they’re the best!

11 05 2011

I’m so proud of you. If there is one thing I CANNOT STAND is when people are shitty about shelter dogs. All our dogs have been from shelters. I would never, ever, never get a bred dog unless it was a rescue situation. I have very strong feelings and opinions about this. When I see male dogs that are unaltered I want to stab their owners in the face. I will accept no excuses for not spaying or neutering your pet. Ditto for people that get bred dogs or buy from pet stores. I have gotten into fights about this. I hate dog breeders. HATE HATE HATE. I’m getting angry just writing this.

16 05 2011

My dog is a shelter dog. And he is deeply, deeply flawed, but that has nothing to do with him being a shelter dog. Interesting about the breed labeling too, he was “sold” to me as a boxer/lab mix. “Great!” I thought, “I don’t like little dogs, especially Chihuahuas!” Six years later, If I were hard pressed to admit to what I think his actual bloodline is, I’d bet money on Chi/Italian Greyhound. You can see a pic of my beloved at the bottom of this post:

And of course, I have since acquired (through picking up on the side of the road), a little terrier mix and a full blooded Chi.

BTW, I don’t know who Melanie is, but I share her increasing blood pressure at the thought of breeders, unaltered dogs, and pet stores.

16 05 2011
Semi-Feral Mama

Melanie is a fellow adoptive Mom. She blogs at Loveisaquatic (but doesn’t post nearly as much as I would like her too.)
Funny that you and Vicarious both adopted boxer mixes that turned out to be smaller dogs. If I see boxer mixed with anything at a shelter, I am always sure it will grow up to be a pitbull. And I love pitbulls, but so many people are afraid of them that shelter staff frequently say, “Well it COULD be a boxer mix,” and label it that way.
On the other hand I have owned TWO pure boxers (for whatever that is worth) and both came from shelters I worked at (one was six months when I adopted him and one was nine years when I adopted him.) I really, really miss having a boxer!
I had a side-of-the-road dog as well. From the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Most challenging (and in someways interesting) dog I have ever spent time with.

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