Black Dog Syndrome is a very real problem in animal shelters. It seems like the more common or plain looking a pet is, the less likely they will find a home. Trying to give a voice to those who have none isn’t always easy to do, and it can be frustrating when it seems like no one is listening. But it’s important to keep speaking out because one voice can make a difference, if it’s persistent and comes from the heart. A young girl in Kansas is proof that one person can create change; she is speaking up for black dogs and cats in shelters.
A dark colored shelter dog already has one strike against him. If he is large with even a hint of bully breed in his DNA, he automatically has three strikes against him. Many shelters try to help a dark colored pet get noticed by adding a colorful bandanna or collar around their neck, but many potential adopters simply look past them anyway. The ASPCA has found that a dog or cat with more than 65 percent of a black or dark coloring in his coat is less likely to be adopted.
Why people walk right by a dark colored dog or cat is a mystery, but there are some theories. Black cats are often associated with witches and black magic. Some people believe the darker color makes a pet unlucky. Black dogs appear more aggressive to some, and their roles in movies too often portray them as mean and associated with the bad guys. Potential adopters have used phrases like “they’re spooky looking,” “you can’t see their eyes,” or “they don’t look trustworthy.”
It’s possible a black pet is harder to see among lighter colored coat colors that have a tendency to catch someone’s eye. I know from experience with my black dogs and cats how difficult it is to get a good photo of their face, especially if the light isn’t very good. It’s difficult for shelters to capture a cute facial expression when you can’t get a good picture of their eyes.
We’re all ardent animal lovers here at the CANIDAE RPO blog, and I know you are too or you wouldn’t be reading this. We all share a deep and abiding passion for pets, and we want nothing more than to see every animal treated with compassion, kindness and love. What better way to work towards that common goal than to instill those values in children at a young age?
Whether it’s with our own kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids or a friend’s child doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we help all children learn to form loving bonds with animals. We know from experience that pets enrich our lives in so many wonderful ways, and they teach us vital life lessons that make us better human beings. Sharing this knowledge with the young ones in our lives is a great way to pay it forward.
Kids learn by example, and it’s up to us as adults to show them not only the right way to treat animals, but how to develop a strong pet-human bond. The results are so worth it!
Adopt a Pet
Having a pet in your own home is the most obvious way to foster a child’s love of animals. They get to see firsthand just how special animals truly are, and each passing day is an opportunity for their relationship to blossom. If having a dog or cat in the family is not feasible, consider getting a smaller pet such as a hamster or gerbil which still provides a way for kids to bond with a living being.
Involve Kids in Pet Care
Learning how to care for their pets teaches kids about responsible pet ownership, but it also helps them build a lasting love for all animals. If you’re unsure which chores are appropriate for the age of your child or the type of pet you have, the ASPCA has a nice Pet Care Section with kid-friendly tips on caring for dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and other pets.
For many years, animal shelters have been a place where pet owners could take their dog or cat when they could no longer care for them. That’s still the case, but today’s shelters have expanded to become more than just a shelter by providing other pet related services in addition to finding new homes for pets.
Shelters are developing humane education programs to help teach kids how to respect animals and have compassion for all life. Children are taught how to handle a pet, the proper way to pet them, and when they may need to give a pet their space. Responsible pet ownership is the focus in each program, and some shelters include responsible stewardship for all animals, domesticated and wild. These programs help teach kids empathy and why it’s important to have compassion for the animals we share our environment with. Programs vary from shelter to shelter, with some offering classes on pet first aid and disaster preparedness for pets.
Since the downturn in the economy, some shelters have come up with a way to help struggling owners keep their pets. Instead of surrendering a pet to a shelter and adding to their population, safe haven programs are giving pet owners a better option and hope by boarding or fostering pets for people who are in a temporary situation. Home foreclosures or a loss of a job is already a stressful situation. Surrendering a pet to a shelter only adds to a family’s devastating economic loss. Safe haven programs also give military personnel preparing to deploy overseas a way to keep their pets while they’re away. Instead of worrying if a pet they had to surrender to a shelter has found a good home, soldiers can concentrate on their job knowing their pet is safe and waiting for them to return.
Training Classes and Behavior Evaluations
One reason many pets are surrendered to shelters is because their owner doesn’t know how to correct a behavior problem. However, most behavior issues can be easily resolved once you know how to help a pet. Even aggression can be corrected. Some bad behavior is due to medical reasons and some is simply a matter of the owner taking the lead role with a pet. Many shelters now have an animal behaviorist on staff to help with pet behavior issues. Training classes give pet owners the tools they need to teach basic commands and learn how to control their dog.
Whenever I read adoption tales, I marvel at the many different and circuitous ways people find a certain pet that turns out to be a perfect match for them. Many times, they were looking for a completely different pet than the one they ended up with, and sometimes they weren’t looking for a pet at all. Yet everything fell effortlessly into place, and another fortunate pet found his forever home.
Some people might say “Oh, what a coincidence that was, and now we have the best pet ever!” I don’t believe in coincidences, though, so I am not at all surprised when something completely unexpected brings a family and their beloved pet together. I believe it was meant to be.
Haven’t we all experienced a time when we felt we just had to adopt a certain pet but didn’t really know why? In every case, these pets become such an integral part of our life that we can’t imagine being without them. But did we find our pet, or did they find us?
I ask this after reading a touching tale about a troubled shelter dog who behaved very badly, and as a result no one wanted to adopt him. That is, until his true and forever family finally walked through the door.
A couple had gone to their local shelter with their adult daughter to help her pick out a pet. She had lost a cherished pet a few months earlier, so they were waiting until it felt like the right time for her to adopt again. The man and his wife were not looking for a pet for themselves, but this one plucky little dog caught their eye, and they asked about him.
When it comes to finding animal stars among the masses, Hollywood producers and animal trainers know talent when they see it. They understand the value of a good pet, and search the shelters to find the next pet star waiting to be discovered. Broadway producers also scour animal shelters when searching for the perfect pet to cast in a Broadway show. Just what kind of pets can you find in shelters? Some of the most talented, well behaved and smartest pets around.
I previously wrote an article on famous TV and movie pets adopted from shelters and trained for their specific roles. Many of the most recognized and loved pets on TV or in the movies did time in a shelter. Some of these famous pets were just hours away from being put down when they were discovered. I think it’s safe to say that the performance a Black Mouth Cur named Spike gave us in “Old Yeller” made us all a little teary eyed. Spike was found in a California animal shelter. Morris the orange Tabby was found in a shelter in the nick of time, and became famous as the finicky feline in TV commercials. Higgins, the lovable and talented mutt that starred on “Petticoat Junction” and known as “Dog” from 1963-1970, went on to delight children in one of his other famous roles as Benji. He was found at a shelter in Burbank, California.
A two year old Terrier mix named Sunny is one of Broadway’s newest stars. She will be playing the role of Sandy in a remake of the musical “Annie,” due to open later this fall. Sunny was rescued from a Houston, Texas kill shelter and was on their list to be put down when her picture was spotted online by animal trainer William Berloni. He prefers searching for animal talent in shelters because, “The most talented animals are right there under your nose. The message is: Animals in shelters are not damaged, just unfortunate,” Berloni said to the Associated Press in a July 2012 interview. He continued “I always say anybody could have gone into a shelter and adopted any one of the animals that I’ve turned into Broadway stars the day before I did. And they would have been great dogs in someone’s home.”
Many of us have loved a mutt at one time or another. A special mixed-breed dog was my beloved companion for 17 years. She was stunningly beautiful and incredibly well behaved, with a sweet yet mischievous personality. My friends and family adored her too; she was an exceptional pet and people often asked what breed she was. I suspected she was part yellow Labrador but the other parts were a mystery at that time.
During her lifetime, countless people commented that they’d like to have a dog just like her. Heck, I’d like to have another dog just like her! Of course, I had no idea of her true heritage; a Good Samaritan found her alone, weak and malnourished, in an abandoned warehouse. Through a circuitous route involving several shelters, she finally found a forever home with me.
Then, when I wrote a breed profile about the Expressive Norwegian Lundehund, I came to believe that my mystery dog was part yellow Lab and part Lundehund. At the time when I had this dog, there were no tests to determine a mixed breed dog’s ancestry.
Within the last several years, however, DNA tests have been developed to genetically determine a dog’s breed composition. And if you don’t want to get all technical, there are other, less scientific methods to identify a dog’s heritage. Linda Cole recommends a practical approach to breed determination in How to Tell Which Breeds are in Your Mutt.
Because I am an animal rescuer, I’ve had many dogs come in and out of my life. Out of the all of them, only two have been purebred dogs. That’s been my choice; I take in the dogs that are hard to place, which usually means mutts. (As an aside, shelters usually have plenty of purebred animals if that’s what you’re looking for.) Interestingly, more than half of the dogs in the U.S. are mutts.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.