Occasionally I find a piece of writing that's too good not to share and today is one of the those days. Here is a guest post from Mark Steinberg, one of our recently Embraced pet parents, where he writes about his experience bringing his new dog, Dayton, into his life, and opines on the endless adopt vs. buy from breeder question. Thank you Mark for sharing!
As a counterpoint to the unremitting scenes of sadness and despair emanating last week from tornado-ravaged Missouri, CNN offered the image of a young boy and his sister smiling ear to ear in front of their decimated house, cuddling the family dog that they had found after a three day search.
I understood that moment. I like dogs. OK, I love dogs. And I’ve loved eight or ten of them over the past forty years.
Mind you, I’m not a nut. I don’t anthropomorphisize; I know they’re not people. And though over the years, when it was just me and my dog in the room, I may have sometimes raised concerns over the direction of the stock market or my despair over writer’s block, I almost never waited for an answer.
The dog that belongs to the two kids in Missouri is definitely not a talker, and even if he were you couldn’t understand what he has to say. That’s because he’s a mutt—definitely a dog, but after that you’re on your own.
All but one of our dogs was not a mutt. They were pure-bred whatevers, reflections of my belief that anything worth doing had to be done first cabin. And so each of our dogs came with “papers,” proof that they descended from an ancestor who had circumnavigated the globe with Magellan in search of a place to pee.
Late last year we lost two impeccably-papered border collies. People who didn’t understand that dogs aren’t fungible asked even before our late friends’ noses had dried when we’d go shopping for replacements. Our answer was that we didn’t know.
My spouse came to terms with the question before I did. After eight or ten weeks of mourning, she missed having a dog in our lives more than she missed the particular dogs that were no longer in our lives. I heard her, but I couldn’t join her.
A few weeks ago I began to feel that I again needed something below my knees that liked and listened to me. My wife, unfortunately, is of average height and, in addition, is not wholly tuned in to what I have to say. And so began the hunt.
I started searching for my new friend by Googling for breeds that might be compatible with our lifestyle and temperament. As I cruised alphabetically through the list, somewhere between the Beauceron and Bouvier des Flandres I tumbled down an electronic hole to a website where I was confronted with the pictures and abbreviated life stories of 179,774 dogs, all of whom were available for adoption in the Los Angeles area.
It was tough reading.
“Tossed out of a car window, abandoned and left for dead on the freeway, Bosco [a Jack Russell Terrier/Chihuahua Mix] has overcome his abusive past and is now medically sound and looking for his forever home.
”[Slade, a Labrador Retriver/Rhodesian Ridgeback Mix, was] “… rescued from a hoarding situation in the desert along with 70+ other dogs. He's an optimistic boy, who was making the best of his situation! The ‘owners’ provided all the dogs with feed buckets & when volunteers found him, he was proudly prancing around with his Bucket... earning him the nickname, Bucket Boy!”
“My name is Nova [a Labrador Retriever/German Shepherd mix] and I'm 13 yrs old. My owner has terminal cancer and doesn't have much longer to live and can no longer take care of me. She found me on the street over 11 yrs ago and I've been her faithful guardian and friend for all these years and it breaks her heart to have to find her a home now. My guardian was even homeless a few years ago and we lived inside her car and we held onto each other and won't give me up. So it's very hard for her to have to give me up at this time and I think just my company has given her the strength to keep going.”
And then there were the many who had no names, for whom advocacy would soon be futile, like the baby female German Sheperd/Appenzell Mountain Dog, # A4280174, whose picture was posted with the note: “URGENT URGENT [AT LANCASTER ANIMAL SERVICES] OH! PLZ GIVE THIS PRECIOUS SOUL A CHANCE”
After ten minutes, I’d had enough. But before leaving the site I returned to the home page. The number of dogs needing homes had increased by 80.
While I continue to believe that there is a place for the impeccably credentialed, I’m now a little less certain that elitism is a victimless offense. Sure, it’s nice to entertain the fantasy that if you and your genetically exquisite Mary Queen of Scotties cared to exert the effort, she could win “Best in Show” at Westminster. But if the price for maintaining one’s proximity to greatness is the risk that the Bosco’s, Slade’s, Nova’s and # A4280174’s of the world will never again have the chance to make someone happy, perhaps we should look to our own breeding for guidance.
Since retiring, Mark has been an occasional op-ed contributor to various national newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and USA Today and is a columnist for a well-known news website.