All Dogs Deserve Love

Rescue dogs are a noble cause. But I have the right to want the dog I want.

Posted Nov 12, 2019

Frances Kuffel
Source: Frances Kuffel

I had, to put it mildly, trepidations about taking on this client’s book to publicize. We had worked together in the past and she’d fired me. When a mutual friend suggested a new venture, I believe my exact words were, “No, no, no. Nope. No way, no how.”

“She’s changed.”

I didn’t believe it but the money was too tempting. I was not unhappily impoverished at the time but I bit. “If she comes to me, I’ll do it.”

That evening the repeat client called me. We chatted amicably until my then-8-month-old puppy started barking at the evil shrubbery or the wicked impenetrability under the couches.

“What kind of dog?” she asked.

“A black Lab.”

“Did you rescue it?”

“No. I bought her from a very nice family in Livingston, Montana. She’s good huntin’ stock. Certified hips, dew claws clipped at birth. We’re hoping to go after some birds with her.”

“You know, if you were any other person, I’d hang up on you now.”

I wish she had.

She’s a passionate advocate for adopting rescue dogs, as well as spay and neuter programs. I admire this work but I’m tired of being shamed by the ASPCA on every website I visit and bragging bumper stickers on every other car for not getting an abandoned dog.

My never-again-client (I was fired, natch) has one rescue, some kind of doodle, an invention I abhor (as do all the vets, trainers, and dog-walkers I know; even its inventor calls the original doodle, a Labradoodle, a “Frankenstein monster.”) God bless her for taking on an abomination of nature, but the funny thing is, she knows what kind of dog she has and is proud of its poodle-whatever mixture.

My response to her was, “I walked dogs for years. Rescues have issues.”

“So do bred dogs.”

Of course, they do. There’s always a handful of papered dogs who are rebels without causes (or a cool red jacket), and some breeds are just plain nuts. Go have a meet-and-greet with an Irish setter if you don’t believe me.

Labs are reliable. They’re rockets of mass destruction until they’re two years old and an informed owner knows that everything in the house, including the couch, should be put on top of the refrigerator for the duration. 

At two, you can bring furniture back into the house, and at three, they’re “lively” friends.  Unless they were my mother’s Labs. She had them filing around like the von Trapp children by six months.

“Umm…” I stalled. My last dog, Daisy, had issues but they were benign if scary or loud.  And I could walk her through the scary one by patting the person she had decided was the anti-Christ.

“So what if XXX doesn’t like UPS men?” my ex-client said.

That can be a problem I thought, with a vision of the doodle breaking the leash to bring the hapless carrier of our Amazon treasures into the gutter. Daisy was in love with a man in uniform. She once humped a fireman. She was the most difficult Lab I’ve ever known but it was a New Yorker’s suspiciousness and she also had multitudes of friends. Lismore, my puppy, is the friendliest dog I’ve ever met. She wants to be a Walmart greeter when she grows up.

“Or children,” she added.

Oh, dear.

The Dog I Love Most is a Chihuahua-Rottweiler mix (I so hope mom was the Rotty) who lived for two years on the streets of Los Angeles before coming to Missoula in a plane-full of rescue dogs. I board him four days a week because he rips shower curtains if he’s left alone too long. From behind, Moose’s head looks like Batman. He has the thickest, smoothest fur. Aside from separation anxiety, he's dubious about 99 percent of other dogs and humans, possessive to the point of attack about food, doesn’t like being moved or picked up, and, we joke, just isn’t any use if he doesn’t get his 22 hours of sleep. Moose doesn’t play with toys and only condescended to play with Lismore when she was about six months old. Before that, she Did Not Exist.

But I love my Moosetefer, my Moussaka, my Mooseberry, my Mooser. He trusts me and it’s an honor. He also terrifies me. I wouldn’t let a kid within five feet of him (more because of the kid’s unpredictability than his). I’m glad that I don’t spend the other 136 hours of the week trying to train him out of howling at being alone and growling meaningfully at an aged Affenpinscher. 

I live in a county with 100,000 people. Today there are 22 dogs for adoption on the local ASPCA and Animal Control sites. One of them is a Lab. I’m quite sure they’re going to find their forever homes.

I wonder what the no-way-no-how client would do if she wanted to have a baby. If getting pregnant was proving difficult, would she try everything to have her own? Would she hire a surrogate?  Would she adopt? What kind of baby would she adopt – a white baby or a brown baby? Where would she look for a baby to adopt? Maine? Belarus? China? Ghana?

I have the right to want the dog I want. The ex-client hadn’t adopted a Tibetan spaniel mix or an abandoned, sickly Treeing Tennessee Brindle. She chose her doodle. It was a decision based on as much prejudice — aesthetics, age, whatever — as I have for Labs. And anyone who buys a puppy pays their dues in taming a wild animal.

I was raised with Labs. My mother raised Labs. I grew up with footless Barbie dolls and no Ken.  Those dogs made us laugh, feel loved, and watched out for. Their loyalty was only surpassed by their hunting skills.

Perhaps my Labbiness comes from nostalgia, but I have found my own Labs to be the dogs I need. Lismore came to me at seven weeks, the day before the second coldest February on record – in Montana. Summer, finally, came, and I was put in a cast for eight weeks because of a badly strained tendon. It was a hard year. I never got to take her swimming.

Housebreaking didn’t happen until late in the summer. As soon as she finished her first (and last) heat, I had the carpet cleaned. (And why hadn’t I spayed her, as all adopted dogs would be?  Because, in agreement with her veterinarian, I want her to have a full course of hormones. If you neutered a 6-year-old girl, her bones would be paper and she’d be stunted. My vet said that the reason given for puppy spaying is that the chance of breast cancer becomes zero. “I’ve never seen a case of breast cancer, he told me. “But I’ve got at least one ACL injury in here a week. Ligaments are stronger in a dog who’s had a heat.”)

The cleaner looked at it and said, “This should be replaced.” We couldn’t go to the dog run because of the cold and because we were waiting for her four-month shots. She bloodied my arms and legs with her little Flyssa milk teeth; she dug up parts of the sofa and four areas of carpet are bald. There were times I sat and cried at her gay destructiveness and as the winter barely moved along, I got more and more depressed. Somewhere after six months, she began to understand I have bad days and now she crawls into bed with me and sleeps hugged up against me, always forgiving about not getting to the dog run.

I’m beginning to love her as much as Moose. She definitely makes me laugh more. I'm prouder of her than Moose, who is taught by his own Humans.

Would I get that intuitive understanding of my moods from a shelter dog? Quite possibly. But Labs are also the leading aid dogs. Daisy understood the lift of an eyebrow.

My best friend has bulldogs after a long run of Pekingese. I have two other friends who will only have spinones. One of my sane clients has German shepherds imported from a former USSR country that probably longs for the good old days. They have their reasons — the jolliness of the breed, the protection, the nobility. 

I have enough love for dogs to include any except doodles, Chows, and Akitas. I have been in love with rescue dogs I’ve walked or boarded. But I need a Lab. If you can be persnickety about coffee or what kind of yoga class you take, I think wanting a papered purebred is neither outrageous nor immoral.