I had two cats die this spring and summer, and after they were gone, I really had no interest in replacing them. They had been with me for seventeen years, since they were kittens, and I'd always thought of myself as a cat person; yet, with their passing, I felt like that part of my life was now done.
In contrast, a few days after Christopher died, after I'd cleared out his dog bed and packed away his food and toys-- indeed, the afternoon I got his ashes back from the crematorium-- I realized: I want another dog. After my wife and I talked it over, we agreed that it would be good to get another dog.
We decided to get a rescue, mainly because there are so many dogs in the Bay Area who need homes. Christopher, so far as anyone could guess, was a Carolina or American Dingo, and that's a pretty distinctive breed; you don't see many of them. There's a Carolina breeder here in California, and a couple places in the Rockies that specialize in Carolina rescues, but they're not a breed that shows up on Petfinder or the adoption Web sites; so I quickly gave up the idea of getting another one. (I also wasn't 100% sure getting the same breed was the smart thing for me.)
The Bay Area dog adoption market, it turns out, has a couple weird quirks. First of all, there are tons of chihuahuas and pit bulls, or mixes involving one of those breeds. Second, we import unwanted dogs, from as far away as Taiwan (which has several native breeds, but where it's very tough to survive as a stray). Apparently the Bay Area can't produce enough unwanted dogs, and has to import them. Who knew. I filled out a long form, had a phone interview, and got set up to see a couple dogs.
So on Sunday we went to a pet store deep in Campbell to meet two dogs: a five year-old border collie-husky mix, and a two year-old lab. The scene was crazy: a pen full of adorable puppies, crates with adult dogs in back, and people everywhere. If the wedding dresses in Filenes Basement could bark… you get the idea. We tried out both dogs, and were really split: collie-husky was great, calm, and watchful without being too eager, but she could jump tall fences. The two year-old was more compact and energetic, but also more kid oriented, so naturally the children gravitated to him.
Eventually, we went with the two year-old, took care of the paperwork, bought an inordinately large amount of hardware, toys, etc., and brought him home. We renamed him Davis: my wife and I met there, and while he had been called Dallas by his foster family, he didn't recognize the name.
We're not really sure what breed he is, and probably never will be. I decided that he's a "labramuddle," because he's smaller than a traditional yellow lab and his face is a bit squarer, but friends suggest he could be an English Labrador.
It's been less than a week, and Davis is settling in nicely. He has a crate that he sleeps in at night, and we're still working on how to manage him during the day.
He's very much of the "I'll follow whichever human is doing something" model, but he's more into following the children than Christopher was: I think he likes my son's manic energy, and certainly enjoys the attention the kids lavish on him.
We've taken him to the dog park a couple times, and fortunately he enjoys spending time there.
In the last couple days I've discovered that he's an absolute fiend for chasing balls, which is hardly surprising in a dog that's bred to be a retriever. For me, though, knowing as little about dogs as I do, everything is still a revelation. (It also means exploring the world of dog toys.)
However, for all his crazed energy, he's also good at just hanging out under the desk while I work.
We're quite happy with him, but frankly, we got lucky. Choosing a dog after less than an hour, in a crowded exciting and slightly frantic environment, hardly guarantees good results. if I had to do it again, I'd go to one of these adoption fairs first, with absolutely no plans to get a dog, so I wouldn't be overwhelmed by the energy and emotionalism of the event; then I'd go back a second time, and start looking at the dogs.
After all, a dog could be with you for years (if he's a lab, Davis should live 10-12 years), and while we made a great choice, I've spent more time researching which movie to go to on the weekend.
But we've got him now, and he's been great.