2006-03-29 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Clyde, leopard dog mix Clyde, leopard dog mix Last week did you see the news story about the guy holding his toddler as a decoy, caught on security camera, while stealing a Chihuahua puppy from a Sunrise Hwy. pet store? Two days later the cops acting on a "tip," recovered the pint size pup at 3 a.m., swaddled in a blanket, lying in a basket on a ball field. Actually there were 2 highway robberies: the theft of the dog and the West Islip store's $1,600 price tag on this pooch.

Teacup puppies have a tricky metabolism. Hypoglycemia is a problem. Police may have found the pup in time, but are still pursuing the thief. To tell you the truthI worry more about the future of the thief's babythat poor apprentice. Thirty plus years ago when I taught on the same Deer Park street where the puppy was found, the mother of one of my first graders lost custody for supposedly teaching her kids how to shop lift. I worry about what became of her son too.

However, the second "highway robbery"charging a small fortune for a pet store dogis the focus here. The media gave more publicity to the re-opened, transplanted BTJs, the same store that burned to the ground in the '04 Christmas fire, the same store where hundreds of animals perished, the same store that humane groups have gotten complaints about for dogs, cats, Easter pets, and a menagerie of exoticslion cubs, an alligator and even a macaque allegedly liberated by the ALF. Before "Pets, Pets, Pets" began in '83, even my BEACON predecessorBarbara Van Bartholdtook issue with BTJs. I go a bit further and boycott all stores that sell puppies. No one who has researched a breed, no one who is aware of the horrors of puppy mills should buy a dog from a pet store.

of the Week  Bonnie, Shepherd'Schippeihe of the Week Bonnie, Shepherd'Schippeihe Unfortunately, the news coverage brought a curious crowd to the store to see this Chihuahua. Some were as impulsive to buy as the crook was to steal. On 3/27 the Newsday headline announced the pup's sale: "From dognapping victim to adoptee". I'm a stickler for semantics. Nope, when someone pays that amount he is a "customer". You ADOPT dogs from shelters, rescue groups, and Good Samaritans; you BUY dogs from pet stores.

Long Island town shelters have plenty of small dogs; usually adults, but some puppies too. You just have to go there and look. Often it's the classic case of being in the right place at the right time. Be vigilant. Put yourself on request lists at shelters, humane groups, and purebred rescues. Call, make a pest of yourself. The Petfinder website is wonderful, but incomplete. Keep in mind, that municipal shelters do not list dogs on the Internet until they are up for adoption. Strays must be held 7 days to give an owner a chance to reclaim them. Meanwhile interested parties who see them in the shelter can put a "hold" on them. Lost dogs aren't on Petfinder during that first week. Many of the "desirable" dogs are snatched up before they ever need to be online.

Here's a shopping list of tiny dogs you may have missed out on this week at the 3 local pounds: Islip had a Shihtzu and 2 mini Poodles; Oyster Bay had a young Boston Terrier; Babylon had a 6 month old Min Pin, a leggy Lhasa, a senior Pomeranian; a Beagle and a trio of 12 week old Dachshund/Shihtzus puppies. The Chihuahua "pup"arazzi could have adopted one of these adorable "Dox-tzus" for $20.50 (after neutering), if they went to Babylon Shelter instead.

Got "Puggle"? Don't dip into the trust fund or to search the Net or strip malls for these faux, invented breeds. No matter how you spell them"Cockapoo"or "Labradoodle doo", they're not breeds; they're not hybrids; they are mixes. Despite the sales pitch, there's no consistency to their appearance, size or temperament. They are the same lovable mutts that have been forever filling the cages in shelters because folks don't spay or neuter. Each mix is unique. Over the years town shelters have had every permutation of Toy size dog, even blue eyed Maltese mix puppies. Right before Patrick Halpin was elected Suffolk County Executive, he adopted my Babylon Shelter "Schnoodle." This Schnauzer/ Poodle became his family's cherished pet for the next 15 years or so.

Caveat emptor. There's nothing new to this silly, expensive fad. Take the "designer breed test" at: gi" http:// www.grumpybumpers.com/dogs/ index.cgi to see if you can distinguish the shelter stray from the pricey designer dog. I got 5 out of 7 wrong.

Pedigree, you say? If you have your heart set buying on a purebred puppy, do your homework first. Make sure the breed fits your lifestyle. Research genetic defects and efforts to curtail them. Visit shows. Go to obedience and agility trials to see the breed's Mensa candidates. Talk to breeders; collect many business cards. Consult the AKC for referrals. Find out if the breeder advocates a spay/neuter contract or has a lifetime return policy. (Pet stores don't.) The best breeders do.

Correspond on the Internet with purebred rescue groups. They are experts on their breed's problems. They know which breeders to stay away from because many of their rescues come from them. Meanwhile, responsible breeders will answer your inquiry emails because they love their breed and will do anything to protect their babies from falling into the wrong hands. If you go to the breeder's home, ask to see both parents, if possible, since nowadays many ideal pairings are a bicoastal date or frozen semen. Make sure the eyes, hips, blood of the parents are certified clear of hereditary flaws. Insist on a shot/ worming record and a detailed tutorial in how to care for your new pup. (A Massapequa Bernese Mountain Dog breeder used to make prospective owners watch a video.) Proper dog breeding isn't about making money. It's striving for a standard while improving the health and temperament of a beloved manifestation of the canine species.

A high price doesn't guarantee quality either. Purebred rescue contacts may have a listing of the dog of your dreams (like the Afghan Beauty Queen I have now). Your donation covers the rescue's veterinary expenses and helps future dogs. At times breeders and handlers place show dogs in good pet homes. I was given the 9 month old son of the top Afghan. He turned out to be as fantastic as his brotherthe $12.50 Afghan I adopted from Oyster Bay Shelter. Incredible dogs are out there. Seek and you shall find. $1600 for a Chihuahua...I don't buy it, and neither should you.

For Adoption: "Bonnie" and "Clyde" at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (6775784) 150 Miller Pl., Syosset are not partners in crime. They are 2 sweet dogs that were the innocent victims of an eviction. Both need a new family to love them, but do not have to be adopted together. "Bonnie" (#060176), in between the size of a small Shepherd and a Schipperke, is calm and well-mannered. "Clyde" (#060175) looks like a Catahoula Leopard Dog with an extra splash of Dalmatian spots. He has those gorgeous, blue-brown eyes of a real Hound dog. Shelter is open 8 to 4 everyday, but Sunday.

Females: last week's poster dogs"Kelly" (#060161) the great smooth Collie mix and "Squirt" (#060156)the cute Sheltie/ Shepherd; "Gussie" (#051102)a 3 yr. Chow mix; "Dakota" (#060097)a Border Collie mix.

Male" "Delta" (#060190) a 1 yr. purebred German shepherdvery handsome.

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