We’ve always had dogs in our life, but we haven’t had a puppy for 15 years. That’s the age our Australian Shepherd, Maggie. She was our last puppy. Because Maggie is getting on in years, we started thinking about getting another dog.
We thought a little about what characteristics we wanted in a new dog and decided it needed to be:
—small to medium in size
—good with kids (grandkids)
—not require much exercise
—able to train itself
One day we visited the shelter and after ruling out a dozen Chihuahuas and pit bulls (you’ll see pit bulls later as a Pet Peeve topic), we came across Sam. Nine weeks old and the only fawn tan and white dog in a litter of black pups. The shelter had him listed as a Newfoundland/Collie mix. May be the two black and white litter mates were that particular cross, but Sam looks nothing like a Newfoundlander and everything like an Anatolian Shepherd. With no other evidence than this ( I don’t see us getting a $100 DNA test) we have a shepherd mix.
When you look up an Anatolian Shepherd, you find that they originated in Turkey as herding dogs. Apparently the Turkish definition of a good herd dog is one that can literally pick up a sheep by the scruff of the neck and move it wherever you want it. They should also be able to defend the herd from anything from chipmunks to grizzly bears.
Long story short, Sam was the absolute antithesis of the above wish list:
—a humongous dog that can eventually weigh more than 150 pounds and appears in an internet photo where with his paws on the shoulders of a man as he looks the man directly in the eye.
—with kids, he is the bowling ball and they are the pins.
—he’s full to the brim with energy and if you don’t walk him, he’ll walk you.
—he’s smart, stubborn, and independent with a focus on food and sees little need to pay any attention to anything we might want.
But boy, he was cute (still is), and smart (in his own way), and stole our hearts. When you pick him up he just lays his head on your chest and melts against your body—his love for us and our love for him was instantaneous and is now absolute. Sam is now 8 months old and already weighs 65 pounds. He is a joy to have around and has made our lives so much more interesting. Nothing about Sam is boring—but more on him in a later blog.
Before deciding to get a dog, you need to consider the pros and cons. As we see it:
Reasons not to get a dog—
- Dogs are a huge responsibility requiring constant attention and a huge commitment of your time and energy.
- Dogs are costly. Food and vet bills are expensive.
- Most dogs need daily exercise.
- If you travel, you need to have the dog taken care of or accept the hassle of traveling with a pet.
- If you get a puppy, you have to go through the torture of house training and teething.
- Dogs shed. Some a lot.
- Grandkids and dogs can be a bad mix for both.
- A dog acquired late in life may outlive you and be difficult to make arrangements for after you are gone.
Reasons to get a dog—
- You never come home to an empty house.
- Dogs inject a new energy into your home and life.
- Costs can be kept under control by buying food at one of the large discount stores and purchasing veterinary care insurance (Good coverage is available for less than $30 a month).
- Dogs require exercise. Good for them and good for you and a lot more interesting than solitary walks.
- Dogs shed but this can be controlled if you brush your dog regularly and get one of the new “pet hair” vacuum cleaners.
- Your options for taking care of a pet when you travel are many; there’s family, neighbors, the neighbor’s kid, kennels, and home doggy care. Or just plan ahead a bit and take them with you. In all cases, the better trained your dog is the less chance any of these options will be a problem.
- House breaking a dog is not that difficult. We trained Sam in just three days. If you have a yard and put in a dog door, bathroom breaks are no problem at all. As for teething, give him plenty of things to chew on (not the things made of leather or ears as they can cause digestive problems) and keep everything else out of reach.
- Grandkids think a dog is either a toy or a new friend. Either way, they keep the child occupied for hours.
- You may be able to guarantee the dog will be taken care of when you check out by writing him into your will. No kidding, if the dog comes with his own inheritance, he’s instantly much more attractive to family members or other potential owners.
- Dogs do offer a degree of home protection. Although Sam is good-natured and loves people, you’d have to be an idiot to break into a house that was the home of a dog that big. Also, Sam, and even the smallest dogs tend to bark when strangers come to the house—most burglars don’t really want their arrival announced.
- Finally, and maybe most importantly, a dog’s love for you is absolute and everlasting. They also provide constant attention and companionship. People can let you down, a dog won’t–they may drive you crazy but that’s a pretty short drive these days.
After considering all of this, it is readily apparent that dogs are not for everyone. It’s also obvious that I’m rather biased and a dog person (or a dog’s person). If you can’t make a dog happy by providing for his care, insuring exercise, or if a dog is just not for you ( I would never have a snake, a monkey, or a hedgehog for a pet), then certainly don’t get one. But while Sam has thrown a few small monkey wrenches (more on that later) into our well-regulated lives, he brings a joy to our home we feel is worth any inconvenience or hassle.