Since I’m not watching television, one task that has kept me busy over the past week is my quest to get a dog.  It turns out though, that getting a dog in this country is tricky business.  For starters, we’ve been conditioned to believe that you might as well throw yourself into oncoming traffic if you don’t “rescue” your pet.  Breeders and pet stores seem to have become public enemies one and two, and the phrase, “how much is that doggy in the window” now comes with the implication that you’re a self-centered prick, totally unconcerned with the plight of the homeless in America.

Naturally, as they say, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” and I’ve wholeheartedly bought into this phenomenon – a mindset that I find interesting for two reasons.  The first being that my childhood Cairn Terrier, Mikey, came from a breeder.  Although Mikey put up a valiant effort to chew through our entire house like a termite during his first two years, he eventually settled in to become a calm and faithful companion – you know, the kind of dog that you could take on a walk around the neighborhood without the fear that he would tear away from his leash and literally kill the UPS delivery man.  Which brings me to my second point, our other dog, Winnie.  Winnie was a Black Lab mix, a “rescue.”  Although I loved her very much, and she did learn the difference between “shake left” and “shake right,” Winnie also displayed a few problem behaviors.  For instance, on one occasion she was so desperate to get to an electrician that she broke the windows in my parents’ bedroom, showering the unsuspecting repairman with a waterfall of glass that rained down upon him.  “Welcome to our home, sir!  Can I get you a spot of tea?” … And trust me, after ten years of life with Winnie, I have roughly 2,683 other stories nearly identical to this one.

Although I’d like to believe that I’m exactly the kind of moral and selfless individual who feels that there is no other choice but to bring my new pet in out of the rain, the subject of money has also weighed in on my thought process.  Money and time.  Finding a breeder and securing one of the puppies sounds like a long and expensive journey, and anyway, to quote Veruca Salt, “I want it now!”  I figured that “rescuing” my pet would not only be quick and cheap but would also evoke the warm and fuzzy feelings that I’ve done my part for dogkind.  Besides, purebred Mikey became sickly over his lifespan, and his expenses only grew with his age.  Naturally, as a family member, it was worth it to care for him – yada yada yada – but it seems to me that there might be a reason that in America, thirty-one states have a law against marrying your first cousin.  (Yep! Only thirty-one states.  And no, Tennessee isn’t one of them).

After a week of searching though, I’m here to report that as far as the time factor goes, all my “figuring” was dead wrong.  I’ve learned that the only quick way to rescue a dog is to pull one off the streets yourself.  Or take the one roaming around your neighbor’s backyard.  Otherwise, there are all kinds of adoption forms to fill out and references to provide.  That’s right.  References to provide.  When I showed up at my first pet adoption event, I momentarily chuckled when the man in charge told me to go ahead and fill out an application.  He didn’t wink back.  “Oh, you’re serious?”  I wondered. “It’s all good,” I tried to assure him of my qualifications, “I’m a human, and I want a dog.”  He continued to point to the application, and as I read through it, I wondered if I had inadvertently grabbed the form for adopting a child.  The ten pages were riddled with questions such as, “are you willing to submit to a home visit?” and, “why do you want a dog?”  It took nearly everything inside me to keep from responding, “just got the recipe for a new Korean stew.”

After I filled out my first round of applications, I was told that I’d been “pre-approved.”  By this point, nothing could shock me, and I assumed that my official approval would come as soon as my references had been thoroughly checked.  I quickly lunged for the phone and called everyone on the list, imploring them not to mention the time in 1995 when I forgot, for a day or so, that I was dogsitting for a neighbor.  I figured that any mention of that unfortunate incident and it’s off to the pet stores for me.

Another thing about the adoption process that’s caused a hiccup in the “happily ever after” tale of finding my long lost companion is that most of the dogs offered… well, let’s just say… aren’t exactly what I had in mind.  If you ever feel the need to be the biggest jerk in a room, go into a pet adoption event or a shelter and tell them that you’re looking for a cute fluffy dog that weighs less than twenty pounds.  Better yet, get real specific and ask them if they might have any Cockapoos or perhaps a Schnoodle available.  Yeah, that will land you in the popular circle in a jiff.

So, as you might have gathered, I’m still in search of my furry companion.  My free, small, curly dog that doesn’t shed, bark, or chew my things.  Or run away from me.  It’s just occurred to me that I’ve described Mattel’s GoGo Your Walking Pup, and I realize that I probably should’ve started my own dog search by rummaging around in my parents’ garage.

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