Is it the function of an advice columnist to be witty instead of helpful? I confess I was disappointed by your response to "Sour Kraut," who was thinking about getting a dog for her boys but was turned off by the image of German shepherds. The first paragraph of your response focused on the Third Reich. The second approached the issue with a sort of analysis of the German shepherd personality, although it was more a witty riff on the Boy Scout manual than on American Kennel Club standards. Not until the third and final paragraph did you actually come to the meat of the issue, which is the family's opportunity to select a dog that has the best chance of meshing with their lives. The question Sour Kraut should be asking is "What role do we want this dog to play in our household?"
Sour Kraut, while not too "snobby" to get a dog from the Humane Society, seems to be making her decision based on size. (Really, Mr. Right, I'm disappointed in you. You could have made a number of jokes about how size doesn't matter.) What they really need to look at are things like where they live, how much time they have for a dog, their previous experience with dogs, their willingness to commit to training, their ability to exercise the dog, how much money they want to spend on a dog and how young their children are. People who want to run in the morning with their dogs will be looking for something quite different from a couch potato who'd rather watch TV with her dog on her lap. The advantage of getting dogs from rescues and humane societies is that there's often some degree of personality assessment. As in dating, you're more likely to find a happy match. The AKC promotes "purebred" dogs with a similar justification: You're more likely to get a particular package.
Sour Kraut's family should think less about size and snobbery and more about what they want and what a certain dog might need. I was concerned when she wrote, "Our boys may be into dogs for slightly inappropriate reasons." I volunteer for dog rescues, and I have two re-homed dogs myself. I can't tell you the number of dogs I've seen who were left behind because of a "bad match" or the family moved or there was no time for the dog or there were house-training issues, etc. I have no doubt that countless more dogs languish inside crates for the majority of the day simply because no one has the time to exercise them or train them appropriately.
Really, I appreciate wittiness as much as the next person, but after years of seeing dogs mistreated I've lost my sense of humor on the topic. Please tell Sour Kraut to think less about the Nazis and more about the changes she and her family are willing to make for a dog.
Thank you most sincerely.
Dog Lover: I took the liberty of correcting your spelling of "German shepherd." It isn't "German Shepard" - an honest mistake, but if you're going to rake somebody over the coals, namely me, you're going to want to get your facts straight. And while the coals are still hot, I'd just like to point out that Sour Kraut was chiefly concerned with the German shepherd's image problems, particularly its association with the Nazis. Call me Eva Braun, but that seemed like a proper justification for talking about the German shepherd's association with, well, you know, the Nazis. Still, I appreciate your letter and the spirit behind it - i.e., your great love for dogs. Hitler loved them too, of course, but we shouldn't hold that against him.
To send me to the doghouse, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.