Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Pointer-ish sort of guy

It's always a dangerous thing to let my partner Stew wander unsupervised around the Sociedad Protectora de Animales, San Miguel's animal shelter. Sooner or later one mutt will make goo-goo eyes at him and Stew will be ready to put it in the back seat of the truck.

This time around a beagle named Jack caught his eye, but once the dog let out a beagle-type howl it set off bad memories of our late beagle J.D. Named after Jerry Donald, someone we knew at the time, what J.D. lacked in brains he made up in stubbornness. He was never housebroken and as if to spite us, lived to the ripe old age of 17. We didn't hate him, but J.D. was a tough guy to love.

After Jack, Stew zeroed in on another smallish S.P.A. dog named Chino. It was friendly enough, a short-legged guy vaguely reminiscent of a corgi, with a thick mane of black curly fur. Chino and I didn't hit it off. It looked to me like a nursing home lap dog.

Undeterred Stew began working his way up a row of cages at the shelter, with the encouragement of Lynn Weisberg, a friend who volunteers at the S.P.A. Then Stew met the guy above, named Domino. Lynn came up with the odd name because its black spots reminded her of a domino tile.

Domino is about 18 months old and had spent a year at the S.P.A. As far as shelters go, dogs there have it pretty good: They get a couple of meals a day, three hours of romping with the other dogs, and the rest of the time they sit in a clean cage. Some dogs sit and sit waiting to be adopted for as long as five years. The S.P.A. won't euthanize any dog unless it is terminally ill or dangerous.

Disturbances--visitors, a stray cat walking across a nearby rooftop, or another dog walking around loose--inevitable sets off an eruption of howls, barks and whimpering from the 50-odd canine population. By the time Stew had finished his tour every dog seemed to be clamoring: Take me! Over here! Look at me!

I'm not sure why Stew picked Domino, a pointer-type mutt, but off he went into our pickup, to join our other two dogs and three cats at the ranch. He's about forty pounds, with a splatter of spots on his white fur and an enormously long tail.

The first day was not a good opener. Domino refused to come in or let either one of us come near him, so he spent the whole night outside in a pouring rain. The next day we asked Lynn to come by and see if he could get a hold of him.

She did, and counseled patience. Domino had spent most of his life in a cage. The sight of two complete strangers trying to approach him and seven-and-a-half acres of open space was bound to jangle Domino's nerves.

It worked. Domino has settled down considerably over the past four days though housebreaking is still a work in progress. If initially he didn't want to come in the house or have anything to do with us, now he likes to stay close by and we have to shove him out the door to go play with the other dogs.

Best of all, Domino doesn't care about our cats, which return his indifference. Our last attempt at an adoption, a Doberman we named Desi, almost killed one of our dogs and at one point had the head of one of our cats in his mouth. Desi went back to the woman we adopted him from. It was not a happy experience.

Whenever we adopt an animal Stew says they must feel as if they've won the lottery. I don't know how Domino feels but I do feel good about adopting him. I'll feel even better when we come up with a different name.

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