Monday, September 20, 2010

Ordinary people and their extraordinary pets

I've been reading the want ads lately for a bargain on a good dog. I've got the house, and a big, fenced yard. Time to get another dog. And stingily, I hope. I've been thinking about it.

My younger son has a Welsh Corgi I love to death. He is smart, beautiful, and just about the perfect middle-size dog I want. But he sheds incredibly, and I am not a woman given to mopping the wood floors every day (now there's an understatement). So probably not a Corgi. I still get all excited when I see Scotties, but I haven't seen ads for any. They aren't very smart, but they are fiesty, and you can't hurt their feelings and they are affectionate and very, very cute. But. Not another dachsund--I've got stairs. I'm looking. I'm looking.

Today I ran across another pet choice. To quote, "Hand tamed fancy rats. $8 adoption fee.3mos. old. Black/grey. For pets only, not snake food,pls. Very sweet/great pets.(Number followed.)"

I snickered. With all the universities around, a proscription on using them for lab testing might also be wise.

When I was a sophomore, I took an introductory psychology class, and we were required to do a lab experiment using rats. The professor brought in his daughter's brown rat named Friar Tuck. Friar Tuck was indeed a calm, nice-mannered rat, who ran up my professor's arm and kind of cuddled next to his neck. He insisted we all come up and practice lifting the amazingly patient rat up by the tail and set him on our hands, then lift him back. This was to prepare us for doing the same thing with much less attractive, much less socialized lab rats we would be using in a maze experiment that semester.

Desensitization, I think we call it.

I had no trouble performing the chore, setting him or her in the maze and recording the results. The problem was, to me one grey lab rat looked like another. Halfway through the experiment, I somehow started using the wrong rat. My error wasn't discovered until the testing period ended. To say my professor was not pleased would be to state the patently obvious. He didn't rip me to shreds, but for a few minutes he looked like he wanted to. My mistake had basically flawed the entire experiment for everyone. I had made all my lab sessions. I had written up my results. I had done well on all my tests. So with extreme restraint, he gave me a C for the semester instead of the F he probably wanted to award.

The next semester I took abnormal psychology. I really enjoyed it. No rats.
I have played with someone else's rat on a few occasions. I have never wanted to own one.

So I wish this rat owner well in providing happy homes for the rat babies. At least they smell better than ferrets. (Do pet snakes --isn't that an oxymoron?--eat ferrets, too? I thought folks mostly bought crickets and mice.)

I look for biases in my makeup and realize I am highly skewed as a pet owner towards dogs, then fish, then cats. I knew a family with an adorable pet chicken once, and the folks across the street have bunnies, and my niece once owned a corn snake for awhile. I've seen enough ferrets to know I wouldn't want one. Gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs? We had the guinea pig when my sons were young, and I'm still convinced I killed it by feeding it some banana. Pot bellied pigs? Parrots?

So. Did I say I was getting a dog? I'll stick with that.


Squeaky Wheel said...

If my husband's Scottie is any indication, they're very smart, and can certainly get their feelings hurt. However, the vet still expresses surprise when no one's injured during a visit, so perhaps we have a "special" dog.

You sound like you'd do well with a short-haired shepherd, like a border collie. They don't shed too terribly, and love large yards.

Good luck finding a new companion!

clairz said...

Oh, I hope that you will consider a shelter dog. There are so many being put to death for want of a loving home. I had never considered a small dog until I saw our Bertie cowering and shaking at the back of his cage in the Clovis kill shelter. He has added so much fun and laughter to our lives and even to the lives of others. He was recently featured in the local newspaper's Pet of the Week. In the photo he is rolled over on his back and you would swear that he is laughing.

He even stars in his own series, The Adventures of Bertie Pierre. I hope that you will think about my suggestion. (I have other rescue dogs, too, but I won't talk about them now, having put you on the spot already).

Lyn in NEPA said...

I second the suggestion for a shelter dog. Many are mixes, but at least 1/3 are purebred so you get a wide selection. Having lost their first home (or sadly, 2 or more like my Rosie), I find them to be so much more loving and giving -- they know when they have it good.

You can even start your shelter pet search online at

Good luck finding your new friend!

Fay Akers said...

thanks for sharing that was a great story.
At our house we have a cat and a guinea pig. I chose the cat over the other any day, but it's not my pet.

Good luck on your dog search.

Deb said...

Somehow, through dogs, squirrels, raccoons, a monkey, ducks, chickens, flying squirrels, and hamsters as childhood pets...I grew to be an adult who has no passion to own a pet. We had a sweet little shitzu-poodle mix (no shedding, small, and bug-eyed cute)...given to my daughter by her uncle. For fifteen years, everytime I touched the dog, I immediately went to the sink to wash my hands. Never got past it. I love to watch animals, other's pets...I just have no desire to own one.

People seem to be drawn to the right pet for're doggie is out there somewhere, waiting for you! Good luck in the search!

charlotte g said...

My two Scotties NEVER bit, thank you Squeaky Wheel. My son's Corgi came from a no-kill shelter. Going to a shelter where they have death sentences is beyond me now; I would come up with something out of sheer rescue mode. Funny. I worked for 13 years in Child Protective Services. I came up close and personal with pain and neglect and sometimes abuse. I dealt with it. I think I did some good. But give me a dumb animal that cannot speak, and I am helpless. I AM looking at rescue sites and the no-kill shelter, and also the want ads, which often offer rescued pets from folks that abandoned them. Unfortunately, so far they are mostly very large or very small. Squeaky, border collies require a lot of exercise, not my forte these days. They are great dogs. I would not be a good owner for them currently. I need someone not so work oriented, in tune with me. Thanks for the thought.

charlotte g said...

All the comments are such fun. Squeaky Wheel, you do like your cats. I have friends who have kept cats into their early 20s, so be hopeful.
A border collie is too active for my lifestyle, I think, but the personalities are good.
My son's Corgi came from a no-kill shelter, and that's probably where I would have to go, other than rescue homes.
Somehow, I could work with neglected and abused children and their parents, but I can't face seeing a roomful of doomed dogs and taking only one--or even deciding that day not to take any.
In the meantime, my granddaughter sometimes brings T.C. (Top Cat) in to visit. The visits have gone well since we started closing the bathroom door so he can't play with the rolls of toilet paper on their shelf.

charlotte g said...

ok. I am revealed as a dinosaur again. I wrote a comment late last night and thought it hadn't saved so wrote another just now--then found both. (sigh). There's got to be some catchy slogan I can come up with about dinosaurs among us.

Meanwhile, Deb, while many of us seem to have children, and/or pets, many don't. Matter of fact, most renters can't have pets, at least in North Texas. What I like about you so far is that you seem to be a warm woman who knows her own mind. I appreciate your comments.

Anonymous said...

Its a fact that having a Pet of some kind can add years to your life. So get you one of some kind..:)