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Monday, March 10, 2008

Critically Ill Child Wants an Uno

Dear Jan,

I have some friends whose teenage daughter in California is critically ill. Her future, to be frank, is looking rather bleak. She is hospitalized a great deal for treatment, and when she is home she is usually recovering from the effects of the treatments. She saw Uno, the beagle who won Westminster last month on TV. She has her heart set on getting a beagle puppy who can cuddle up with her. Do you think this would be a good dog for her? If so, where would her family find a good breeder?


Dear Emily,

Personally, I think a dog is the best therapy for just about any ailment, physical or mental. But it's a question of getting the right dog. The wrong one will just make life more difficult than it already is.

Uno, the beagle who won Best In Show at Westminster last month, is an adorable dog and a beautiful specimen of the breed. He is the physical model of what a beagle is supposed to be: a tenacious tracker/hunter with tunnel vision once he finds a rabbit trail. But Uno is not your typical beagle in this way. He's a well traveled, elite show dog whose life is undoubtedly so full that he's pretty easy to live with at home too. He gets plenty of exercise to help him maintain his "buff" shape. He probably even gets to chase rabbits once in a while. These acitivities help him be mentally well balanced and manageable all the rest of the time.

Uno's win at Westminster hasn't done the breed any favors. The beagle will sore in popularity now, with throngs of people wanting their own "Uno." Many will be frustrated when they find their own beagle doesn't meet their expectations. Next year, shelters will be full of beagles, either because of overbreeding to meet the current demand, or because new owners couldn't handle them so they surrendered them instead.
This is generally not a breed that enjoys snuggling or cuddling unless it's on their terms. They would much rather be sniffing than snuggling. They'll sniff the floor, your clothes, the grass, the sidewalk, your guests' shoes. A puppy (under two years of age) is certainly not going to be a quiet snuggler. There are too many other things for a puppy to do!

I would suggest your friends look for an older dog (three years or older) from a shelter or rescue group. You'll want something small enough to fit on a bed or lap without discomfort to the lappee, but something large enough to jump up there without needing assistance. (Thirty pounds or less is a good ballpark figure.) You'll want something that doesn't shed excessively. You need a non-yappy housetrained dog who can go anywhere with this girl. You want one whose main job in life is to love and be loved...not to chase rabbits, herd cows, or point birds.

The perfect dog for her--the one put on earth to serve this very specific purpose--is waiting for her at a shelter.


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