Story last updated at 4/29/2009 - 10:43 am
As I write this column early Sunday morning, the "star" comes over and lies his head on my chair. I reach down to pet him and his tail wags like it must be powering a small village. As I smile and return to my typing, he tries once more to engage me, bringing over one of his toys and dropping it next to me. He cocks his head to one side, looking very adorable with his big brown eyes, and waits. He's certain that I will get a clue. "Play with me," his desperate look conveys. Honestly, those eyes are so convincing I have to stop and play a short game of "tug."
Marconi is our only "child," a hybrid pooch whose arrival into this world was unexpected. His mother, a registered golden retriever, and his father, a spirited registered black Labrador, were star-crossed lovers. It was fate one cold brisk Juneau day. It's a great "tail," but that story will have to wait for another time. The focus today is how Marconi came into our lives, not into the world.
Our furry blessing's birthday is May 1, when he turns two. This is perfect timing, because this week we also celebrate "Be Kind To Animals Week." This celebration started in 1915, according to the American Humane Society, "to commemorate the role animals play in our lives, promote ways to continue to treat them humanely, and encourage others, especially children, to do the same."
I believe that being kind to our pets should start long before we bring them into our homes. Whether it is a dog, cat, snake or hamster, everyone must first do their homework.
It may come as a surprise to many that, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cat households outrank dog households in America by almost 10 million. (Our friend Irene is probably saying "Yes!" as she reads this.) However, over the years households with both cats and dogs have sharply risen.
No matter your choice of species, the kind thing to do is to make sure it is a good match for everyone. Truthfully, if my husband and I had been honest with ourselves after doing our homework, I would be writing about our english bulldog today, not our lab mix or "Glab" as we call him (short for golden lab).
If a canine is your choice of pet, there are so many things to consider before selecting a dog. Each breed offers a different personality, temperament, skill set and hair considerations. Most dogs shed their coat at least two times a year. This can really stir up any allergy issues you may have. There are a number of breeds that can be better for someone with allergies.
I grew up in East Texas. Our dogs were affectionally termed "mutts." Let me tell you, I'm a huge fan of mixed-breed dogs. We had some of the healthiest and smartest canines in the county. They were not competing in those fancy dog shows but they were winners to us kids just the same.
Most people, whether they want to be or not, are aware of how long President Obama's family took in searching for the perfect dog. I realize heading up the free world can be a very busy job, and I'm glad that they set an example of looking at various breeds to make sure it was a good match. Apparently so did the news media. The networks certainly got some mileage out of this story.
One of the largest considerations for the First Family was allergies. "Bo" is a Portuguese water dog that does not shed. He is also a high-energy working breed. I'm certain that this dog will accompany the President on his morning runs. According to reports, the family is planning to share the responsibilities of walking the dog.
My husband and I work long hours. Since we took on the responsibility of a high-energy breed, we have to plan and budget accordingly. Since he was about 10 months old, Marconi has attended the Gastineau Humane Society's Doggie Day Care Program, or DDC, as us doggie "parents" call it.
Three days a week Marconi joins a large pack on great adventures, hiking miles of trails and up mountains. It is an extra special day when swimming is involved. Dogs seem to expend extra intense energy when they run in a pack all day. On these days Marconi comes home, eats and is content, becoming an 80-pound lap dog. A tired puppy is a good puppy!
You can see a gallery of "Marconi" photos at www.capitalcityweekly.com by going to Spotted. We welcome you to upload your special family member photos to share with the world too.
We are fortunate to live in a beautiful place, which we share with many animals. It's important that we instill in our children and ourselves that we should treat all creatures with respect.
If you're considering an addition to your family, I highly recommend contacting the folks at the Gastineau Humane Society. They certainly have cats and dogs for adoption, but at times they may have chicks, lizards, guinea pigs or hamsters. I've seen a number of creatures up for adoption over the years. Visit them at ghspets.org. They offer a variety of services.
This week, take a few moments to think of all the animals of the world. Remember, being kind to your pet starts long before they become a member of your family.
Laura L. Newsom is the general manager of the Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.