A Friend Of The Family

If you're looking for a pet, chances are there's a pet at a shelter who's looking for you

November 11, 2006|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,Sun reporter

Another Saturday, another chance.

Saturday is the big day here at the SPCA, temporary home to mutts like me.

At 11 a.m., they open the doors and let the humans in - big ones, little ones, some alone, some in packs. They stare at us, talk to us in high-pitched voices, stick their fingers in our cages and, if we're lucky, take us home with them.

I've heard about 7 million of us - including cats - pass through U.S. shelters in the course of a year. About half of us get adopted. The other half? You don't want to know.

Suffice to say, I really want to get adopted.

They call me Sage.

How did I get here? It's a long story. Let's just say once I had a home, and then I didn't, and after spending some time roaming the streets, someone picked me up and dropped me off at the city animal shelter. After almost three weeks there - unadopted, despite my considerable charms - I was brought here.

This is my 10th day at the SPCA and, nice as the accommodations are, I think I'm ready to leave.

The first weekend I was here, there were no takers, at least not when it came to me. Maybe it was my own fault. I barked - a lot. I figured that was the best way to get noticed. Maybe I overdid it. Since then, the staff here has been giving me treats for being quiet and, being an intelligent sort, I've caught on.

This Saturday, I will try a different approach. I will be quiet. I will be still. Demure even. I won't drool. I won't shed. I will behave in a manner befitting a 1 1/2 -year-old female Labrador-shepherd mix.

When those doors open, all you other mutts can bark away. Go ahead: Yelp, whimper and howl as if there's no tomorrow.

Me? I'm just going to sit here and look cute.

Between them, Les Farish and Miranda Williams have a house in Essex, two cars, four children and a cat named Dixie.

But, sufficient as that may seem, they've been thinking for a good year now that their blended family might need one more ingredient.

So when Williams and the four children arrived at the Maryland SPCA on Falls Road on a recent Saturday morning - a few minutes before the doors opened - the biggest decision was already behind them.

Adopting a pet can change your life, and animal advocates and shelter officials encourage people to think it through before they become smitten by an animal's cuteness. One shouldn't adopt a pet on impulse, they say.

Keep in mind that adorable bundle of fur is going to pee and poop and shed and drool and bark and eat and cost you money - probably about $1,000 a year, probably for the next 10 to 15 years. He or she will need grooming and medical care and exercise, lots of exercise.

Your life is going to be a little less spontaneous, with a few more responsibilities. In exchange, you get true love. Assuming you and the pet bond - because of the unknowns, there's always a slight risk involved when adopting a pet - you will have a loyal companion who is always happy to see you.

Having had dogs before, Williams and her family knew all that. They had weighed the pros and cons and spent a year talking about adoption, putting it off until they were settled into their new house. Now, they were ready, and they were the first ones through when an SPCA staff member opened the doors into the kennel.

They didn't have a breed in mind - just a dog that was not too big, not too small, good with children and, most important to Williams, not too loud.

They wandered up and down the rows, peeking into the cages. They checked out Cinnamon, Buddy, Frankie and a host of others. Then daughter Emily Farish, 8, paused in front of a cage.

"Sage is cute," she said, sticking her hand through the cage and getting it licked.

"She's really quiet," Williams said. "That's good."

Sage sat still and quiet. But after about a minute, the family moved on.

Hold on. Where ya goin'?

That looked like a nice family.

Lots of kids, but that's OK - more people to play with, maybe more people to feed me. I think it's doable. I wish they'd come back.

Maybe I should bark, after all.

Wait a minute. Somebody's opening my door and putting a leash on me. Is it time for my walk?

Hey, there's that family again. Maybe it picked me.

"There's our doggie," Emily said as an SPCA staff member walked Sage over to the family.

One at a time, the children approached to pet her. She licked each.

"She's very sweet," said daughter Cerena Williams.

Dylan Williams, the youngest, pulled her tail. Sage didn't seem to mind.

"I like her," said Travis Farish, the oldest.

The staff member took Sage and the family to the fenced-in "Fun Run" behind the building and let her off her leash. She ran with the children and briefly chased a ball, but soon found herself more interested in the adjoining run, where another dog, Frankie, had been brought out to meet another family.

For five minutes, the two dogs ran back and forth along the fence that separated them, like mirror images of each other.

After about 15 minutes, a staff member put Sage back on her leash and returned her to her kennel.

I blew it.

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