My local humane society runs a no-kill shelter, which is the most compassionate way to treat the poor, helpless volunteers. Otherwise, someone would jailbreak every death row inmate in direct violation of my lease and my shoe collection.
Volunteering with the shelter dogs seemed like a selfless way to fill my unconditional-love quota without any of the actual responsibilities of ownership. You play with them, get them all wound up, then return them to their cages. Just like unclehood!
The first thing I noticed at the humane society—and the awe still lingers—is that the kennel does not smell, pardon my Finnish Lapphund, like dog poop. These guys do a stellar job of keeping the place clean.
I was promptly volunteer-oriented, and then I was handed a plastic shopping bag and a dog on a leash. Zarya would make a sweet family companion, if any dearest reader is looking, cough cough. She doesn’t attack other walkers on the river trail, and she is fully housetrained. She’s so well trained, in fact, that she will not stop’n’squat until she reaches a reasonable distance from the last trash can on the route.
Zarya grinned at me as she plied her craft. She believed she was a Good Girl. Apparently, the secret to kennel cleanliness is sucker volunteers taking dogs for long walks.
I glanced around like I was about to tell a racist joke. Leaving this deposit on the side of the trail would reflect poorly on the shelter and on the honor of my volunteer badge. Picking it up would mean carrying a Fukushima time bomb for the last twenty-four minutes of our half-hour walk with nothing but a veneer of Walmart plastic keeping me sanitary.
What I chose is not important. What is important is that, after volunteering at least two times now, I still don’t know how the shelter staff determine the breeds of the dogs.
This is especially true of the mutts (note: they are all mutts), and ESPECIALLY true of the puppies. I suspect the staff skim the “List of dog breeds most desired by suckers” Wikipedia page, and they pick one or two of these, and they add the word “mix” as a catch-all butt-cover.
Incidentally, this is why most dogs, even Chihuahuas, are lab/shepherd mixes. My mother adopted a lab/shepherd mix two years ago, and she (the dog) is now a Great Dane.
Anyway, when I got tired of carrying warm hand grenades on walks, I took a look at a puppy who was remarkably not a lab/shepherd mix. She was a border collie. You know, just to switch things up.
The puppy—let’s call her Moore, because the shelter did—was ten weeks old. Her siblings, Mary and Tyler, had found homes during the shelter’s Black Friday adoption special, an event for people who want to have to feed their gifts for a full month until Christmas. (I hope these people poke holes in the boxes.)
Somehow this little sweetums, whose paws were still just the size of Oreos and who barked only when she didn’t have a human’s fullest attention, had not been adopted the entire holiday weekend. So I asked to play with her in the socialize-with-puppies room.
(This—playing with puppies—is an actual thing you can volunteer to do FOR FREE. People pay a ton of money to do this at home! At the peril of their carpet!)
Granted, “play” is a relative term. At ten weeks, Moore had already started grasping the nuances of fetch. But tug o’ war was out, and she was oblivious to the subtleties of I spy. “Play” largely meant “ignore the human and interact with the broom instead.”
There’s absolutely no accounting for taste.
Such a strange puppy. Yet after the first hour together, my perspective melted. Moore was not choosing the broom in lieu of me—she was merely independent. And how many games had I mastered by ten weeks of age? Nothing more complex than Uno!
Was… was I falling for Moore? Could I even consider taking her home? I had chosen volunteering over adoption in no small part because my yard is unenclosed ever since a bear sat on the fence. (Literally.)
When Moore tuckered out, she flopped on my leg, all cute and manipulative. The shelter staff kept asking me heavily if I loved her yet.
Once more, what I chose is not important. What is important is that Moore found a home before I made my decision. And she inspired me to start stockpiling plastic bags for any future canine companions. Because you cannot ever trust that no one is watching.
This Fool’s Gold originally appeared on The KC Post.