The young man at the feed store was chatting with me about chickens when he offered to carry my bag out to the car for me. As I opened the back of my station wagon, he froze and asked, “Is that your dog?” I looked at Lill, my cropped-ear American Staffordshire Terrier co-pilot, sleeping in the back seat, laughed, and said, “Oh yes, but she won’t jump out. She’s so lazy, she doesn’t even like to go for walks.”
He still stood there, mouth slightly open. I figured he was afraid of dogs, so I helped him load the food into the car and thanked him for his help.
“Wait, so that dog is yours?” he asked before I turned away. I nodded and smiled thinking there must be some catch, but before I could say anything else, he said, “I just never saw a dog like that, with…a lady like you.” I thanked him again, and got into my car before laughing out loud. What was he expecting? A Lhasa Apso? A standard Poodle? I bristled at the idea of some fluffball riding around with me, unruly hair and floppy ears blowing everywhere, and it wasn’t more than a minute before I realized my thoughts were no different than the clerk’s at the feed store.
I realized, painfully, that I am a dog-ist.
I work in an animal shelter and I love all the dogs who come our way (don’t even get me started on the kittens), but I just find some dogs more relatable than others, and often, I too, was expecting a certain “type” of person, to want a certain “type” of dog.
That day, what the feed store clerk said changed my work direction forever.
When I look at my own three dogs, they’re all completely different — in breed, temperament, appearance, and personality — but something about each one of them makes me love them as individuals. What did I see in them that made me adopt them and how could I use that to help others from being dog-ists?
These days, I try to play matchmaker a lot more than I used to. When someone comes to me to adopt, I ask what kind of personality they are looking for, how active they are, and what size they had in mind, and then I ask them to let me make some recommendations. People are often surprised by this method, and some folks just want to see the dogs for themselves. Yet with increasing frequency, I hear people say, “I never would have looked at this dog, but I am really glad you brought her out to meet us.”
Anyone who works in shelters or rescue will say the adoptions make all the heartache worthwhile. But I think it’s more than just adoptions: it’s showing people love comes in unexpected packages.
If you are in the market for a new pet, try telling the folks who know the pets best what you are looking for and just be prepared to fall in love. Someone might be surprised to see “a dog like that, with a lady (or gentleman) like you,” but a “dog like that” might be your soul mate in disguise.