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I have loved pets all my life; I even got the nickname ‘Ellie Mae’ after the character in The Beverly Hillbillies who used to try to bring home all kinds of animals constantly:) I was always the person the neighbors would seek out when they found stray pets because they knew I would find them good homes.
When I was young I would check out the maximum 25 books at the library on dog and cat breeds, training, health and behavior. I had a beagle mix who was like my best friend. I read ‘How to Train Your Dog’ books from the library to learn how to train her, and spent hours teaching her cool tricks like jumping over milk crates or ‘counting’ jumps through the tire swing. Sometimes I even slept in the dog house when it rained; I hated having to leave her outside. I was heartbroken when she died. We had an American Eskimo after that, but I was still unable to really bond with another dog, so she became my brother’s dog.
One day years ago, a pregnant tabby that was obviously very hungry showed up on my porch, so I fed her. I told myself that if she was still there when I returned home the next day from work and the store, I would keep feeding her – of course she was still there:) She and I seemed to need each other at the time, as I was going through a heartbreak and in a new city by myself. It helped me to focus on her well-being instead of the pain I was feeling. That was the first opportunity I was able to witness a birth of kittens in person. She had 7 kittens (!) in the floor of my bedroom on a towel and I raised them all in my apartment until I could find homes for each one, including her. Every day I prayed the maintenance guy wouldn’t come in; I was afraid I would get busted for trying to protect them. Just so you know, by the time 7 kittens are about 8 weeks old in a one bedroom apartment, you are ready to find them good homes;)
When I worked at one of my previous jobs at a pet supply store, I regularly had people come in with an adorable puppy or kitten and tell me they got it ‘free’ from a friend or a person with an ad in the paper. The joke was, ‘We’ll see how much this ‘free’ puppy will cost you after you get what you need’ – it was always more than they had considered. They would laugh about it during checkout after they realized the cost of the food, training items, collars/leashes, toys, etc. they would need to properly take care of that puppy – not to mention training classes, pet deposits in rentals, vet bills, etc. later. Just because a pet is ‘free’ does not make it less important than a more expensive pet – they all have at least basic supplies that you will need and they still need training.
I have worked in veterinarian clinics and pet grooming salons, sold supplies in pet stores, and attended dog training courses and pet shows. I guess you could say I really think animals are cool. I have owned several breeds of dogs and cats too – purebred as well as mixed breeds. This brings me to the breed aspect of choosing your family’s ideal companion…
After all of those years of studying dog and cat breeds and working in pet-related industries, I have learned that dog and cat breeds do matter. There are some people who don’t believe that, but I disagree for many reasons. The biggest reason is that there IS a difference in temperament, size, etc. among different breeds, and the number ONE reason pets end up in shelters or abandoned is that the breed did not match the owner/family. It is heartbreaking when a family gets a high-strung breed that is not too great with kids because they knew someone who had a few for sale. It is heartbreaking when a cat that is not a lap cat is expected to behave as such and left behind because they were ‘too independent’. It is well worth the research before getting any pet to make sure you have as good of a fit lifestyle-wise as possible. Even if you have a high-energy farm dog, for example, and you are in a small home, at least you are aware of potential issues and can make changes to accommodate the dog’s needs as much as possible. I always recommend being honest with yourself on how much energy you can handle, how much grooming to expect, etc. from a pet FIRST before changing everyone’s life.
Dog breeds were historically created for a purpose – many times for a specific job, and sometimes simply for companionship. Cats may not have had a specific job besides being good mousers, but they can have drastically different energy levels too, so can be suited for different households.
Do the research on dog breeds (or cat breeds) you are interested in. Yes, there are exceptions in behavior and temperament in each breed, but generally the objective of a dog or cat breeder is to produce the best examples of type, health, and temperament that the breed has to offer. Even if you go with a mixed breed from a classified ad or shelter, sometimes just being aware of the mixes that might be present can really prepare you. For example, if you have a Beagle mix, since they are hounds, they might have issues with chasing the next squirrel down the street. If you have a Rottweiler mix, they generally will not lead a burglar to the fine china like a happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever might. Breeds are breeds for a reason.
There are SO many places online to check out dog and cat breeds. A really cool site (I have no affiliation with them) for dog breeds is: http://www.dogbreedinfo.com. They even have a really cool quiz (breed selector) that can help you get ideas here: http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/search.htm Several dog food manufacturers also have online quizzes, but DogBreedInfo.com has a LOT more breeds and I like it more for that reason to start a search.
Once you find a breed you like, make sure you check out photos of adults as well as puppies (or kittens). They only stay little for a short time, and you don’t want to fall in love with a tiny puppy who later turns into a 150 lb. dog if that is not what you want! Always look at the adult photos – you can go to Google and search for your breed (for example: ‘German Shepherd Adult’), then click on ‘Images’ at the top to get some examples. Another great thing to do is to check the dog and cat registry clubs – for example, AKC and UKC for dogs and CFA and TICA for cats. These registry club websites should have great examples of each breed’s standard, temperament, and even links to breeders for more information.
After you have settled on the best breed of dog or cat for you and your family, make sure to research the breeders out there as well if you go with a purebred. Whether you want a mixed breed or purebred, make sure they are as healthy as possible, well socialized, have good temperaments, etc. There are some people who will sell or give away sick animals, so be careful. Do your homework – not only on breeds, but on your source – whether a breeder, a shelter, a private home, whatever. Always do your homework – you will be SO glad you did later!
Just remember, ALL puppies and kittens are cute! Try to keep your focus on the best match in behavior and temperament for YOUR family and everyone should be happy.
Peace and love,