It’s Blog the Change for Animals day! This post is for everyone who’s considering adopting — or has adopted — one of your local shelter’s “crazy dogs.” These are the dogs who come with the behavior consultations or the free obedience classes. If you fall in love with one of these dogs, do not fear. You can handle it. And remember the active dog owner’s mantra: A tired dog is a good dog.
When we adopted Danny last year from the Oregon Humane Society, I was a pretty savvy shelter volunteer. I’d seen — and walked — hundreds of dogs who had come through on their way to their forever homes. Some stayed longer than others, but they all found a person or family who totally got them.
Even the crazies who pulled so hard on their leashes that I thought my arms would pop out of my shoulders. Even the bouncers who bounced right over six-foot fences. Even the barkers, the mouthers, the droolers, and the completely socially inept.
When I met Danny during my Friday morning walking shift, I liked him. He seemed independent but friendly, and he walked pretty well on a leash. He was beautiful, and the right size. A Kelpie mix, his card said. That meant zero to me.
So I looked him up on the Internets, and I showed his profile to Doug. Kelpies are an Australian herding breed — very smart, very active. They’re bred to be able to cover up to 40 miles a day with a herd of sheep. You have to teach them, and exercise them, and love them like crazy to make them good pets. After meeting him and playing a little ball, we were up for the challenge.
We were warned by everyone — trainers in our behavior classes, fellow dog walkers, random owners of equally active breeds — that if we weren’t careful, we’d create a super dog. If we walked him too much, ran him too often, hiked with him more than a few feet up a hill, or let him play fetch as long as he wanted, he’d become so strong and so aerobically conditioned that we’d never keep up with him. The horror!
So I was very careful for nearly nine months to not create this mythical super Kelpie. Then we went on vacation, and we hiked every morning up real mountains. It was fantastic. Danny enjoyed it as much as we did, and would have gone on forever if we hadn’t made him turn back. I realized on the trails in the Eagle Cap wilderness that I wanted a super dog. I was not afraid of a super dog. Those others may be wary of a dog that can do anything and go anywhere, but that was exactly what I wanted. I love my super dog.
So I ignored the warnings and did everything Danny and I wanted to do all summer long. Hikes three times a week, long walks through the neighborhood, fetch at maximum speed until he was wiped out and ready for a long, blissful nap. We had a blast.
Now that winter is coming, and the damnable rain, I’ll taper Danny’s exercise back a bit. Well, some. Okay, not much at all, if I can help it. We’re working on upping our running distance these days so we can get just as much exercise as we do on a long walk but spend half as much time in the rain. Now we just need some kind of super dog theme song …