Now, before you jump to a million conclusions, I should clear up a few things.
Deer is very much alive and turned 17 recently. It’s been an incredibly difficult to see her disintegrate physically in the last year, but as long as she is mentally and emotionally willing, we will keep her going. Not all of us come to this end with our four-legged loves, but for those that do, this is not usually a situation that has a win.
“The next dog” is not, and will NEVER be a replacement for Deer. By the time “the next dog” has a name and enters this home, Deer will be gone and the only thing that transfers from Deer to that dog are the resources and my time that Deer once needed. That dog will be just as loved as I much love both Deer and Jasper because I have enough to give them all space. Giving another dog a home is the win.
Wait, what next dog?
That being said, with impulsive puppy purchases and even impulsive adoptions as the norm, this essay (and impending follow up essays) is aimed to record and share a personal journey in looking for the next dog.
Although it took me years to find Deer, when I met her, I sort of fell in the “she needs help now” train of thought, and took her home in less than 30 minutes. I thought I “knew” what I was doing, but of course, Deer put me through trials again and again. I learned to be better very quickly, but, she was the only dog and things worked out perfectly. Not everybody’s impulsive adoption story works out.
Then, when it came to adopting Jasper, especially with Deer 15 years old at the time, I wanted to know for certain a new dog would not take away, but add to us. We tested and met with over 3 dozens dogs before going home with Jasper.
I’ll share their adoption stories another time, but my process this time around has evolved since. However, the premise is still the same and the first steps apply to everybody who wants a dog….
1. Why do I want a dog?
People want dogs for companionship and/or work usually – I’m no different. When I envision my ideal life with a dog, we keep each other company wherever we go, hopefully traveling many places. I like my dogs to be loyal, but not overbearing and I don’t need them to protect me or hunt or pull, but I would love to be able to do specific activities together, such as hiking, agility, or lure coursing.
2. Are we ready for a(nother) dog?
I would argue that you could never be REALLY ready for anything serious in life – going to college, having a child, starting a business, getting married, and yes…adopting a dog. Just like most of those things, we have a better chance of success with a dog when the timing is right, those affected are in agreement, the money is in the right place, emotions and thoughts are gathered, and we have a reason.
In my case, my “ready” has a lot to do with Deer – do I know how long I will need to heal after her passing? No. Instead of trying to predict the unpredictable, I can understand that at my essence, I am a dog person. I can’t imagine my life without dogs…let alone just one. Getting another dog is not a if, but a when, and although I’m not in a rush, the search starts now.
Sleeping with Deer is Jasper’s safe haven.
Then there’s Jasper. He adores Deer and in almost every way, they are a perfect pairing. He has been able to stabilize his emotions due to her confidence and aloofness, and he has helped her energy levels and resource aggression. Jasper may be dog reactive, but he genuinely likes and wants to like other dogs. When we meet with other dogs he’s comfortable with, he curiously follows them, tries to play, and sometimes wants to cuddle, too. And when I see him look to Deer for happiness and comfort, I just know, Jasper NEEDS a sibling.
2. What kind of dog should I get?
What’s beautiful is that there are different dogs for different people. What isn’t so pretty is when the wrong dog is matched with the wrong people.
As much as I love and can handle a northern breed, such as a West Siberian Laika or a Norwegian Elkhound, and have a “doggy crush” on the French Beauceron and Belgian Malinois, all four breeds are horrible matches because they require a lifestyle and energy level I cannot accommodate right now.
The accurate/horrendous results of a “breed quiz” I took.
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I LOVE taking breed quizzes for fun (like Purina’s or Dogtime’s), but the results are mostly unreliable, and sometimes, simply undesirable. Would you really let your next 5-20 years be dictated by a quiz you took online? Even if you find the breed you love and want, it only matters so much (see “Breed Matters“).
If I insisted on finding a Malinois or Elkhound that would work, I could after all. But they would have to be low drive and relatively mellow, and I would be better off looking at more dogs.
Just like dating, getting to know the ideal dog takes time. I like to call this exploration “doggy dating.” All it entails is engaging with dogs as much as possible, especially if you are interested in a breed. If you can foster, dogsit, go to dog events, or meet a breeder, do it! The more you know, the better you are equipped to choose your ideal companion. Every time I envision my ideal dog, I can remember all the dogs I have met and didn’t like. Don’t get me wrong, I “love” all dogs, but I don’t want to take them all home.
My preferences relate to why I want a dog, what I plan to do with them, and what dog would fit my lifestyle and Jasper best.
Not all dogs would enjoy this view.
After adopting Deer at 13, I know I would not be ready to adopt a much older senior so soon, and a puppy is out of the question due to their needs. 3-9 years old would be most ideal. Jasper would not be able to handle a dog with a lot of energy, but they would still need to be athletic and active enough to keep up with us. A female is preferred personally, but also less likely to have conflicts with an existing male.
I would also prefer non-breed-specific-legislation breeds (pits, dobies, etc.) due to my travel needs, no drooling and minimal grooming needs since I like being generally clean, and a size between 20 and 60 pounds because I just can’t handle more right now. While none of these things are dealbreakers to me, they can matter a lot to others.
In fact, it also helps to think about the “problems” I don’t mind. Escape artistry, digging, prey drive, and stubbornness are not only things I am familiar with with my current dogs, I almost enjoy handling those behaviours. The problems I don’t want to deal with help me avoid dogs and breeds I don’t want. For example, I prefer dogs that are less likely to yap nonstop, less likely to guard me unnecessarily, and less likely to nip and try to control other’s movement. No terriers, no working dogs, and no herding dogs.
Dogs that like chasing is OK, but nipping isn’t!
More than most people, I prefer my dogs to be more independent and less refined, or “domestic” (see “Why Primitive?“). I’m not interested in a dog that blindly follows me nor needs my company at all times. Dogs that need to press against you or need your constant attention are endearing for a short period of time, but not for me. No gun dogs, no companion or lap dogs.
So, what’s left? Breeds like Ibizan Hounds, Podencos, Greyhounds, Pharaoh Hounds, Portuguese Podengos, Cirneco dell’Etnas, and Basenjis are ideal for me – independent, clean, loyal, athletic, affectionate, with just the right balance of energetic and lazy. Luckily for me, I love how they look, too! Although they are all considered rare breeds, living in NYC has allowed me to meet them at the park and at events.
What is NOT negotiable is this next dog’s temperament and history. I want healthy dogs – dogs that will live into their late teens happily without crooked hips, wobbly knees, breathing issues, or organ failure. And with Jasper’s dog reactivity, I cannot have another dog that has issues with other dogs, too. Aloofness or shyness with others is OK, and even preferred, but aggression is unacceptable.
Jasper’s profile containing everything I wanted to know about him besides his temperament and socialization!
3. So, where should I get my next dog?
There are three main ways to attain dogs – a rescue/shelter, a breeder, or a store.
I won’t get into the details and the debate between adoption and purchase in this essay, but all the things I mentioned above means my ideal dog is an adult purebred, well socialized with proper health testing.
Simply because I don’t want a puppy (without getting into the controversies), a store is not an option. If I cared less about a dog’s health and socialization history, I would adopt a mutt. Not just from any shelter, but probably after extensive research with dozens of rescues, but also meet-and-greet-ing dozens and dozens of dogs. I would also foster first to make sure the potential dog was the right fit.
But, I care about history, and I unabashedly want specific breeds. And that means only two places to find my next dog – a breeder or a breed-specific rescue. A GOOD ONE.
Emails to send, phone calls to make, applications to fill, events to attend, meetings to arrange, and contracts to sign…this is where the real fun begins.
(part two coming soon – I have already received responses!)