Dogs in the Country
At any given time growing up, I had several dogs. I use 'several' because honestly, it could be anywhere from three to five on any given day; people who dog-dump really need to stop that shit. The result: really sweet half-grown dogs kind of showing up, and once my dad checked them out, we'd feed them and they'd stay.
We always had one we bought, however: a registered golden retriever (pet quality) because no matter what, Dad wanted at least one dog at all times with guaranteed health and temperament from a local breeder who understood this dog would be subject to rural life and children. AKA a dog that would follow his kids through fields and behind barns and over dale forever and be ridiculously happy constantly and also Dad could find us easily by yelling for the dog and seeing what direction it came from. Yes, that worked.
Then there was the perfect storm of Zack and Frieda. Zack was a golden retriever who could do backflips. Frieda was a random stray that appeared and was breathtakingly intelligent (Zack...less so), ungodly good with kids, and utterly ruthless with predators. And apparently--much to all our surprise--Zack wasn't fixed. You see where this is going.
(I am one hundred percent sure that was one of those weird conflations of random events and not deliberate, as the breeder wasn't that kind of person and had an excellent reputation.)
This pairing begat fifteen--FIF-FUCKING-TEEN--puppies in one litter. Fortunately, they were surprisingly hot commodities among rural family friends since they knew both our dogs and their temperament and Frieda, like Zack, was an excellent stalker. We kept one, Blackie, which you can guess the color by the name. Golden Retriever body, solid black, as smart as Frieda, and also could do backflips. He seriously would do backflips, it was incredible.
Again, the dog choice was practical; if you live out where rattlesnakes and water moccasins and feral dog packs (and the occasional loose horse or really bitter cow) ran around, you got a goddamn dog, and one suited to running through cotton fields, sunflower fields, over hills, down gulleys, and into streams, tanks, and lakes as well as chasing children and being harnessed to a wagon when one of them, no names, was super into Little House on the Prairie and wore a bonnet. In other words: no small dogs. When we moved to Austin (now an adult), I lucked into a German Shepherd at the shelter when I was looking for a dog for my dad.
My mother, all this time unbeknownst to me, has always wanted a small dog: a teacup poodle or--much much more--a Maltese. When we lived in the country, it wasn't practical; when we moved and kids still lived with her (multiple kids), it wasn't a good idea; now, however, she only lives with one child over the age of ten and my youngest sister. She is ready for her Maltese lap dreams to come true.
(The first time she showed interest a few years ago, things interfered, so this is technically Try Two At Maltese Dreams)
Mild digression: despite the fact she is not actually a cat person, Mom has four cats.
You're asking how. Fine.
The Four Cat Saga
1.) Child mind-whammied her and they adopted one when Child was in his early teens. I"m not kidding, her utterly baffled expression when they brought it home still haunts me. That cat, however, she likes and it does an excellent job of scaring the fuck out of mice, rats, and sometimes, raccoons. IT's also friendly.
2.) My eldest niece's cat moved in with my Mom even though niece lived elsewhere (for reasons unclear to anyone) then the cat vanished and niece was super upset. My sister got my niece a second cat to make up for it, which also lives with Mom even though my niece does not live with Mom and worse, niece really doesn't like it.
To be fair, I can't blame her: it's a very aloof cat, and when the synonym of 'cat' is 'aloof', that's saying something. It isn't hostile or mean or a scratcher or a biter, but it doesn't really like anyone. It will allow you to pet it if you find it but does not come for cuddles or rubbing or petting or anything and generally avoids everyone in a very snobby-cat way. I honestly think my sister just walked into the shelter and picked the first cat that looked vaguely like the lost one without so much as touching it first.
3.) Because my niece hated the above cat, my sister got her another cat--yes, that happened--which she also doesn't like for reasons I'm not sure of but may be my sister needs to stop buying random ass cats. It's a normal cat of normal aloofness.
4.) Random neighbor cat that they just don't come to get it anymore. One block away. Won't come get their goddamn cat. It currently exists in that nebulous space of 'not really ours so sort of a guest cat?' but also 'won't fucking leave, stay away, or anyone come and get it and don't want it to starve so we feed it so maybe sort of ours?'. However, it's super affectionate and playful--like, opposite of two--so there's that.
My mission: to get my mom a tiny dog. An impractical dog. An overbred dog, even. A dog that sits on laps like animate fur and barks at a painfully high pitch and you can brush and groom and literally could fit in a purse. An adult, not puppy. I'll take a maltipoo or yorkipoo or maltiyork (not sure of name????) or shi-maltz or basically any single breed or crossbreed from a reputable breeder OR that shows up in a rescue or shelter and has been evaluated for temperament et al that involves a Maltese and/or Yorkie; it must be tiny and useless as other that adorableness. Pretty easy, you'd think.
I want to do this without having to take out a loan: not easy.
Here is what I learned about shelters: they almost never have tiny dogs except chihuahuas and vaguely impossible/unholy/wtf chihuahua crossbreeds, because rescues get them before they go public.
(Note: It's not that chihuahuas aren't awesome, I've been around them/played with them my entire life, but if you've met one, you understand that's a dog you have to want specifically for what it is, be ready for, and commit to. It's made of nothing but energy and barking, and unless you can be damn sure of the temperament, not one to be around anyone under ten at best as they get cranky. Like, yeah, there are exceptions--I've seen some zen Chihuahuas--but you really can't count on that.
Exception: one of the random dogs that appeared in my life when I lived in the country was a dachshund-chihuahua mix and broke all the laws of both breeds by being what you might consider a particularly lazy sausage-shaped, chihuahua-headed sloth of good humor who preferred to be supine above all things. People who met it were utterly baffled by its existence, and I doubt I shall ever see it's like again.)
So far, I have learned this about rescues from Mom (and from contacting them or reading their literature): it takes less effort to get a goddamn passport (and possibly, security clearance at the Pentagon) than to secure a tiny dog.
One required an application, home visit/home assessment, family assessment, and then you could meet the dog (FOR THE FIRST TIME) under controlled conditions and perhaps at some point may actually get it no promises. One also had a background check. One had super strict rules about having other pets in the home across the board, not just relative to a dog's evaluation of temperament. All required some genuinely unsettling contracts you had to sign. Some had waiting lists that apparently can take decades. Fee ranged from $300-$600. This is only the stuff I remember, by the way, and that doesn't take into account how they make you feel really super judged when no, you're not really interested in the dog with some problems with children/other animals/existence and has a speckled history when it comes to using his teeth or bladder.
So reputable breeders and possibly taking out a loan for a pet-quality dog or retired show dog: oh God and I have no idea. See, that would require them answering inquiries about their dogs (as their sites have a tendency not to want to put up prices or even vague price ranges), which seems to be something of a problem since it can take a month after I ask about the ones I saw on the site for them to tell me all their dogs are gone like months ago (so why didn't you update your goddamn site already?) or the site says 'they could have dogs please inquire' but same problem as above.
Which means I'm on craigslist, even though it makes me nervous for various reasons including but not limited to:
1.) unless they're a reputable breeder, I could be hitting a goddamn puppy mill or backyard breeder and no. Fortunately, I am not in the market for puppies of any kind so not much of a worry.
2.) if it's a rehoming of an adult (and I assume 'one' isn't true), I have no idea about individual temperament or judge the probability using the dog's parents and generally you need more than a few minutes to judge how a dog reacts to cats, children, yards, et al. Yes, the seller said it's great with pets and kids, but don't they all? Who the hell says 'dog is hostile to the Achilles tendon and eats baby toes' or 'likes to pee in snoring mouths' or 'tried to kill me in my sleep with its tiny teeth, picture of scars available on request' and expects a response, much less anyone to pay $750 for their little psychopath?
3.) fee is $300 to $900 and are you fucking kidding me?? For your used, potentially demon-spawned luxuriously furred monster??????
It's so frustrating because yes, I get this isn't serious or a huge issue, but growing up, we were working class to poor most of the time. My mom didn't get to buy new clothes for years, she didn't get to have nice things or do nice things (she had to worry about paying bills and if the phone would get turned off and how much my dad would spend whether he was employed or not), she worked full time to make ends meet while clinically depressed, with anxiety, and subject to panic attacks sometimes on a daily basis (all this while on medication), and honestly, I don't think she actually liked living in the country and that doesn't include what little but very unpleasant knowledge I have of her childhood. Yes, now she's doing wonderfully financially, she can pay all her bills and even has a stock account, is in a better place and everything, but that kind of history lingers.
So by God, I want her to get her luxury dream dog. An impractical dog. A tiny dog whose only duties are to be goddamn adorable and sit in her lap and let her brush it's fur or whatever. And for less than two semesters at a community college, please.
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