Marietta Pritchard: One household, under dog
AMHERST — At one point last year, someone asked me whether we would be getting a “crossover” dog — a young dog to be heir apparent to our aged corgi. We didn’t do that. I thought it hardly seemed fair to the old dog who was blind and deaf, although still managing to be a lesser version of herself.
But after she died at age 16 in January, I was clear that I wanted another dog — not another corgi, much as I loved ours and much as I like the breed. I thought we’d always be looking at that not-quite-mirror image and seeing imperfection.
We wanted another adult dog, so I began to look into adopting a rescue animal. I checked our wonderful Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society shelter regularly, but had no luck finding a smallish — no, not tiny — adult dog that appealed to me.
But with the help of Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet, amazing online sites that list adoptable dogs all over the country, we found Sadie, a miniature schnauzer/poodle mix. We picked her up from her foster parent last weekend, and we are all now getting to know each other. She is a sweet dog, housebroken, perfectly agreeable inside with my husband and me, but very wary and over-excitable in the presence of strangers, both the ones entering the house and the ones on the street. We’re going to see if a professional trainer can help us bring her down to earth.
I’ve learned a lot as I went through the process of adopting this dog: quite a bit about dog breeds, something about my own preferences among smallish dogs — no chihuahuas, no pekingeses, no yorkies. But mainly, I’ve discovered the amazing world of animal rescue organizations. Some of them are specific to a single breed, with some operating more efficiently than others. (The scottie rescue organization, for instance, never even replied to my query.)
The one we worked with, PAWS New England, is a terrific all-volunteer outfit that began six years ago, when one woman, Traci Wood, decided to do something to save the dogs in a high-kill shelter in Tipton, Tenn. High-kill meant that 99 percent of the dogs there were being euthanized. According to her co-founder, the Boston-based Joanne Hutchinson, the rescue organization now saves about 700 dogs a year, bringing most of them from rural Tennessee and Missouri to New England, where they can be fostered and eventually adopted. An HBO documentary, “One Nation Under Dog,” was made about this group.
I discovered that the adoption process was surprisingly elaborate and impressively thorough. There is an application that asks not only about our history as dog-owners, but our employment history, our work schedules and whether our yard, if any, is fenced. PAWS asked for a reference from our vet and from two people who could vouch for us personally and as dog-owners.
This is no doubt necessary to screen out people who might not be appropriate for dealing with dogs that have been abandoned, neglected or mistreated, but at times it felt like we were applying for a human adoption. Would we have to go to China to meet our new family member?
No, actually it was Connecticut. After we met Sadie and her foster parent, Jo-Ann Dooley, at the John Gagnon Pet Resort in Colchester, where Jo-Ann works, I was interviewed by phone by another volunteer, and finally, we were visited at home by yet another volunteer. This is a big and big-hearted network, and evidently we passed all of their tests.
Now we are the owners — or perhaps the housemates — of another canine presence. Foster mom Jo-Ann has offered to answer any of our questions and has already given us some good advice. Sadie is settling in. She’s black and gray, a little scruffy, with a taste for just about anything edible, but no evidence of interest in anything like a toy. In those biases, she reminds us of our old corgi.
Marietta Pritchard can be reached at email@example.com.