This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 19, 1999

May 19, 1999 - adopting a dog

As a librarian, I should know better: You do your research BEFORE you make a big decision, not after.

In this case, the decision was a dog. Since being an adult, I'd had only cats. When Watson died (she was almost 20) it was very hard for me to think about any other kind of pet.

But in the past two years Maddy got to be 11. Perry is 5. My family buzzes around town a lot, but we're mostly homebodies. We've got a big, fenced yard. We were looking for a playful critter to hang out with us. Dogs are more interactive than cats, especially for kids.

A friend of ours volunteers for the Denver Dumb Friends League -- a rescue operation for all kinds of abandoned pets. He'd recently adopted a sweet-tempered and intelligent canine named Marlowe -- a poodle/Afghan, which is far more elegant-looking than you might imagine. (But what do you call them? Poofghans? Afghoodles?)

So we wandered in to the DDFL one day, looked at some fifty dogs, and visited with two of them. The second one was described as a "chow mix," although she looked exactly like a golden retriever. She had a dark blue tongue, though.

Perry was put off by the other dog we looked at. Too bouncy. But the chow mix was very submissive. Now I understand that she was TOO submissive.

To make a long story short, we soon discovered that Mimi (for so we named her) had some problems. Whenever a man walked into the house, she cowered. And to our great consternation, she turned out to be a "fear-biter." Just as someone turned AWAY from her, she'd dive and try to bite just above the ankle, at the back of the leg. She wound up biting two people, one of them a child.

I read widely about dog training. I talked to animal behaviorists, to shelter volunteers, and even to a Chow rescue society. In short, I did all of the research I SHOULD have done to begin with. It was a sad lesson.

Finally, we made the decision to put Mimi down. It was awful, especially since I insisted that I be there to hold her. She'd been abandoned often enough.

For awhile, we weren't sure we wanted to go through anything like that again. But all of us found that we'd liked having a dog around. Mimi learned to be very loving to us. The daily walks, the long weekend rambles were great, giving us all a chance not only to stretch our legs, but to talk to each other.

Too, the unreserved affection of dogs is a great gift.

So we decided to try again. But this time, we would be more thoughtful, more knowledgeable.

And guess what? We found that the Douglas Public Library District has a pretty good collection on the subject.

The single most effective tool I ran across was something "Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!" -- a video that showcased all the breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. You can do a lot of reading about temperaments and trainability, but until you see how they look and move, it's all a little theoretical. This video helped us narrow down the options.

I can also recommend "Saved! -- a guide to success with your shelter dog," by Myrna Papurt. I liked Bob Christiansen's "Choosing and caring for a shelter dog."

I finally got focused on the prospect of adopting a greyhound. (See our "Adopting the racing greyhound," by Cynthia Branigan.) The fellow we wound up taking into our home, by the name of Jaaz Cagney, is a sort of 80 pound cat. He's sweet, soulful, and most gentile. He was located through the good graces of the Colorado Greyhound Adoption agency. If you're in the market for a greyhound, call them at 303.471.0554 or 303.617.9870.

I've since learned Cagney can hit about 40 miles an hour in just three steps. Until you see it, it's hard to believe. But he ran into our hearts even faster.

Here's the bottom line. Hundreds of thousands of dogs are put down every year. Most of these animals can make lovely companions. Why not open your hearts and homes to one of them?

But trust me, BEGIN your search at your local library.

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