Adoption Reviews

How to read between the lines when considering a new four-legged family member

By Leslie Phelan

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Photo credit: Kelly Bolinger / CC

I have a friend who regularly fosters dogs. Periodically, the rescue club asks him to submit a bit of a review on the pup du jour, wherein he tells them all about the dog’s temperament and any special needs, and describes the sort of forever home that would be a good fit.

These write-ups are an opportunity to be very honest in either warning about a dog’s less-redeeming qualities, or recommending a dog based on its best features. My friend often asks me to help him compose these little reviews because I always come to know his dogs well enough to write on them, but am never so close that my impartiality might be compromised. Here is one we did last week:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 4.08.36 PMLibby the dog is a spirited girl who loves to stretch her legs frequently on good strolls. A keen and swift walker, Libby likes to come along anywhere you go, and behaves very well on-leash and around other dogs, making her the ideal pet for a physically active household. There is nothing Libby enjoys more than a good game of fetch, so if you’re looking to work on your throwing arm, Libby is the dog for you. This ginger-spotted beagle cross is a tidy eater, comes completely house-trained, and is always glad to greet familiar faces at the door with a pawing and a tail wag. She even makes a great guard dog, warning of visitors with a bark that is uncharacteristically powerful for a dog of her size.
Noteworthy: she has been known to get snippy when teased, so a mature household would suit Libby best.

If one were to read between the lines, they might see that there’s a bit more to the story. Where we wrote that Libby is a high-energy pet who needs many walks all the time, what we meant was, she will drive a lazy person insane. Likewise, the casual mention that there is nothing Libby enjoys more than a good game of fetch, should be read as if you suck at throwing but have no desire to improve, Libby will taunt you endlessly with her squeaking ball. Also Libby’s tendency to greet familiar faces at the door really means that she barks any time there is someone on the other side of the door and would make a terribly annoying condo dog–although on the plus side, no one would ever be able to sneak up on you.
And finally, please note: Libby has totally bitten before so if you have mischievous kids or drunken jerks around on a regular basis, God bless everyone’s appendages.

Every time we sit down to write on the motley mutts that roll through my friend’s hacienda, I start wondering what a report on me and my set of offerings might say, were it to be written in the spirit of ‘selling’ me to a good home. I should think it might go something like:

Leslie is a nice girl, and is generous with her friends and loved ones when it comes to her time, food, effort, tools, and clothes. While a bit of a picky eater, Leslie is still being trained out of her once-acute case of hunger-anger (‘hanger’) that makes her bark (and in extreme cases, bite) when mealtimes are well past due. A consistent feeding schedule helps to curb incidences, and maintaining a stock of both healthy AND sinful snack options eliminates the risk (almost) entirely.

Often bright and usually energetic, Leslie is house-trained, classically domesticated, and gregariously affectionate. She would most definitely do best with an owner who is active enough to tire her out with long runs, grueling gym sessions and aggressive physical activities of all kinds.

Read between those lines!