I recently spent two weeks visiting my parents in Ontario. I had not visited for many years, and I found the atmosphere...spooky. My parents would go outside leaving me alone in the house, and I was just that: completely alone. No noise, except the hum of appliances. No swish of movement when I moved. No sense of intelligent life monitoring my emotional state or tabulating the likelihood of an early lunch.
"How do you live like this?" I demanded.
They had toyed with the idea of getting another dog for a decade or so, and were ready to concede that they might be ready. I threw myself into the task of matchmaking. Many internet hours were spent searching through Petfinder listings.
They wanted a small dog. That limited the field significantly, but there were still dogs to choose from. "How about this Jack Russell? He's in foster care, and they're working on his issues."
It soon became clear that I was not going to convince them to rescue a dog. I'm the dog rescuer in the family; they just wanted their idea of the perfect pet. It had to be a puppy, it had to be in perfect health with no behavior problems in sight, and it had to be a Cairn or West Highland White Terrier. It's not easy to find this in a shelter.
I sighed in defeat. "Okay," I conceded. "Just PROMISE me you won't buy from a pet shop. All those puppies come from puppy mills. No ads from the Buy and Sell, either!" I saw doubt in their eyes, but they agreed.
I kept in touch by phone during the puppy hunt, talking my father down as he got on his high horse about the snotty attitudes he encountered from breeders. "They act as if they're doing me a favor! I want to BUY a dog they have for SALE, and they ask me a million questions to see if I'm good enough!"
I explained that that was a good sign, that it meant he had located breeders who cared about producing good puppies and finding the best homes for them. "Puppy mills don't screen their buyers. They want your money and they don't care about anything else." I advised him to answer the breeders' questions, ask his own regarding genetic screening and socialization, visit the breeder in person to meet the parents and assess the environment, and then put his name on a waiting list if no puppies were immediately available.
I think he meant to follow my advice, more or less. At least, I think he agreed it made sense. But going to look at cute puppies is fun, more fun than doing all the homework I'd suggested.
"We're calling him Casey. He's funny-looking," my mom admitted. "Definitely a Cairn... or at least, mostly. He's got an awfully big head. I don't think this woman who sold him to us breeds them; she said she took the puppies in exchange for a gambling debt."
By buying this puppy, they had encouraged people who considered Casey and his siblings as merchandise to be traded. They'll give Casey a good home, but what about the rest of the litter, and those to come?
On the other hand, perhaps this is a rescue story after all. It's pretty clear that Casey has rescued my parents from their quiet, orderly existence into a life filled with activity and surprises. Who needs a full night's sleep, a stain-free carpet, or matching shoes, anyway?
Shane Windatt, CTC, CPDT
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