Choosing the Perfect Pet: Not Just Any Dog or Cat Will Do

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by Sandra Murphy

The old line, “He followed me home, can we keep him?” used to get a kid a dog or cat of his own. In today’s homes, it’s not that easy. Choosing a pet is a personal choice not to be taken lightly nor made on another person’s behalf. A surprise pet is a bad idea.

Rather than gift a pet during the holidays or at any other time, give a coupon to be redeemed after extensive and careful consideration. Involve the whole family in listing pros and cons, deal breakers and must-haves. Lifestyle adjustments by everyone are to be expected, but pets shouldn’t make all the sacrifices. Available time and space, daily routines and costs all matter in determining the perfect pet.

Temperament

Account Coordinator for z11 Communications, public speaker and author Michael Holtz of Knoxville, Tennessee, admits he would’ve fallen in love with any dog. His wife, Sarah, searched to find the one that would work best for them. Based on past experience, Sarah knew that she didn’t want a herding, massive, shedding or miniature pet. She was drawn to Labrador types and found Marley, a golden/basset mix rescue that moved in as Michael was undergoing cancer treatment.

“She’s calm, playful and wants to be near, but doesn’t smother, is stubborn, yet trainable, and mostly obedient,” Sarah says. “Plus, she’s content to nap or go on three-mile walks. Walking Marley helped Michael’s recovery after surgery. She was good with just sniffing the green off of a blade of grass until he was ready to head home.”

Size

Small dogs and those that need extensive grooming were on Melinda Carver’s no-adopt list. “I read books, visited websites, shelters, adopt-a-thons and rescue groups,” she says. “As a single person with a full-time job, I wanted a dog that would fit with my work, volunteer and exercise schedules.” Riley, a bloodhound/ Lab mix, fit the bill.

Shelter workers can project how large a dog will get when fully grown, as well as their temperament and other breed traits. Carver was cautioned that Riley was an active animal, needed long walks and would ultimately top 100 pounds. Now age 11, he’s a companionable 135 pounds. “I was surprised at how easy it was to change my routine to accommodate playtime, mile-long walks and training. He’s laid back and gentle for his size,” comments Carver, a blog talk radio show host in Parma, Ohio.

Danielle Nay, an expat from the UK, researched for two years before choosing Freeway, her neighbor-friendly löwchen. He’s a mid-size dog, big enough to be a manly companion, but the right size for a high-rise apartment. “When his humans are busy, Freeway flings his own ball down the hall and then runs after it,” she says.

Not Quite Perfect

The perfect pet doesn’t have to be perfect in looks or health. Dorie Herman of Jersey City, New Jersey, a graphic designer for Martha Stewart Living, in New York City, is the human behind Chloe Kardoggian, a Chihuahua and puppy mill rescue, age 11, which she describes as “three pounds, two teeth, one giant tongue and an Instagram sensation.” Due to poor nutrition, mill dogs often lose their teeth as young adults, causing their tongues to hang out. She advocates for older dogs and an adopt/ don’t buy policy. “With senior animals, you know what you’re getting. They have personality,” says Herman. “With my work schedule, I wanted an older pet, small and piddle-pad trained.”

Take Two

Herbert Palmer of Morris Plains, New Jersey, now with Green the Grid Group, worked for a moving company when three kittens showed up near the loading dock. A co-worker took one. Not in the market for a cat, much less two, Palmer tried to find them good, safe homes. After five days, he realized, Lucky and Day had a home—with him. “Sometimes we adopt them. Many times they adopt us,” he confides.

Falling in love doesn’t depend solely on what looks good on paper. Everyone deserves to find their “heart” pet—when that first exchanged look proclaims, “He’s mine.”

Connect with Sandra Murphy at StLouisFreelanceWriter@mindspring.com.

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