Saturday, April 23, 2011

a child's first pet

Years before I was born, my parents had a pony. I've always wanted a pony. Instead, I've had goldfish and then there was a bunny when I was six. Until the age of seven, my family had German Shepherds. They are beautiful and smart and protective and even though I was a child, I remember they shed a lot.

That about sums up my childhood pet experience.

Before we were married, Charlie and I had a Labrador Retriever. And then we had two. We loved our dogs, but a Labrador Retriever for at least the first five years of it's life creates the same amount of work as two children. In retrospect, the fact that we had two probably did something to prepare us for the life we would have as the parents of four...

(As I write this, the kids are taking turns walking each other around the house on "leashes" aka: exercise bands.)

Charlie and I also had two cats. I'm really not a cat person, but our cats were awesome. Even though they would sometimes poop in our plants and shed everywhere and contract tapeworm, despite our best intentions to keep fleas away - they were a constant sense of entertainment.

By and large, though, I think that we're dog people. I don't know if I'd want to have another cat, because the act of keeping a cat in the house with children who always leave a door open would be virtually impossible. And there are foxes in the woods...

Although we've owned purebred (AKC) dogs before, if we were going to add a pet to our family, we'd like to check out the animal shelter first. Not just because we think it's a good humanitarian thing to do, but because all the dogs that I've ever known from a shelter are smart. Those Heinz 57 animals, which have derived from a more diversified genetic base, usually have a bit more branches in their family tree.

For example, we had a neighbor in northern California that bred Rottweilers. They were beautiful dogs, but after our neighbor told us that he was dabbling in genetic engineering by breeding the stud with pups from the litter the stud had sired, in order to accentuate certain features, I had second thoughts about purchasing one of his pups. Soon thereafter, I felt like we had made the right decision when one of the dogs viciously attacked our tomato plant. I'm no expert, but I'd wager that kind of behavior might be common if an animal's genetic pool lacks a deep end.

Our neighbors have a Standard Poodle which doesn't shed. Carolyn's best friend from school has a Labradoodle and another friend has a Jackadoodle. While I haven't seen one yet, apparently they are also breeding Poodles with Pugs for a Pugadoodle. From what I understand, if there is at least 75% Poodle in the mix, the dogs are hypoallergenic.

People from whom I gather such wisdom, please bring forth your advice.

What type of animal do you think is a good first pet for children? Sans ferrets and rats, I'm interested to hear. This website has been helpful, but I always appreciate first hand experience.

Do you have a favorite dog breed? Or, predominant dog breed within a mutt that you adore? Drawing upon your experience, what do you think is a good dog breed with children? Keep in mind, if that breed is also low maintenance, all the better. Wait ... is that an oxymoron?

Is there such a thing as a low maintenance dog?

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