Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy
Browsing Dog Truths

People Who Love Shelter Dogs


There is something I have noticed over the years about the way people choose a dog to join their family. There are some who prefer pedigreed animals, those who come with a long line of traits characteristic of their breed. The new owner is promised the dog’s behavior will be similar to those who have gone before, within certain limitations. They usually pay quite a lot of money for those expectations, and may be extremely disappointed if they are not fulfilled as the dog grows up.

Then there are those of us who take our kids, or ourselves, to the nearest humane shelter for abandoned animals. We may go back more than once, knowing that when we see the one that is right for us we will just know it. Having had dogs before, we may prefer a certain breed, as two good friends of mine do, and then we go to a rescue for that particular breed. At least then, we are assured of some of the characteristics we are fond of, even though the one we bring home may have been a little off the pedigree charts or even abused in some way.

For the rest of us, though, we are pretty much open to the ‘love at first sight’ philosophy. It may be a matter of the purse, as these animals have usually had their shots and even been neutered. Often I find it is a matter of conscience. These dogs are not bred for our enjoyment, but rather the products of two other dogs not very closely watched by their owners, perhaps let loose to roam the neighborhood at large. They come with a bit of a stigma as to their “parentage’ and their lineage?…well, you can pretty much forget about tracing their family tree!

On the other hand, they teach those of us who have them a great deal about keen observation, and learning to read body language. I have noticed that Gypsy, for instance, has a much greater aversion to my taking a white kitchen trash liner in or out of its container, than he ever does to the vacuum cleaner being turned on. I assume there was a very bad price to pay from a run in with some kitchen garbage in his past, one that he will never forget.

I also notice how he behaves around certain people, trying to pick up on the signals that make him feel safe, rather than nervous and fearful.I notice how he does stupid things when he is uncomfortable and trying to fit in….even though his antics usually bring him the exact opposite results and get him temporarily removed from the party. I often wonder if I do the same thing around people with whom I don’t feel I fit in? Do I tell jokes, act too loud, call attention to myself?

I believe that people who love shelter dogs can become pretty adept at reading humans as well. Perhaps because of our own wounded backgrounds, we feel an instant affinity for animals who did nothing wrong except be different than expected. I often notice that the single moms I have known almost always have a shelter dog in their family. We are often people who seem to be able to accept what  life handed us, even though it might not have been exactly what we expected. What I have noticed is that most of us have a natural tendency to love God fervently, perhaps because we feel He accepts us exactly the way we are at this moment, band-aids and all. We know He still sees the original as His pedigree and will continue to love us unconditionally and protect us until we come to  see it too…. and that’s exactly the way I feel about my Gypsy.

I may have said it before, but dog is God spelled backward,  and for some of us a constant reminder of His comforting presence in our daily lives.

P.S. Cat lovers please read comment below. It is excellent and makes the same point for those who rescue cats!

What’s The Big Deal About A Pedigree?


I was thinking today about my dog, Gypsy. I know many people prefer to get a dog from a breeder, someone they know who can assure them their new little fur ball will soon exhibit all the fine traits characteristic of the lineage from which he descends. There is almost a guarantee of that, by the AKC registration of his name and his birth certificate.

I wonder how many of those dogs turn out to be the black sheep (a little out of control or feisty perhaps, or a little more laid back than expected?). Do they get returned if they are somewhat of a disappointment to the breed?

Personally, perhaps partly due to cost, I have always gone to the Humane Society for my dogs, unless perchance they showed up on my doorstep (think Gus, a wonderful Shepherd/Doberman mix, as best we could tell) with a kind of “you’re meant to be my family” look in their big brown eyes.This has always brought a kind of fascinating mix into the life of my family, or just now, into my midst.

Those of us willing to take a chance on the unknown often reap the rewards of the best of several breeds, randomly combined by nature and the crossing of eight feet during heat. Gypsy’s background certainly had some very interesting characters. There must have been a hound, perhaps a greyhound, with the long and very swift legs he uses to reach the base of the tree where Mr. Squirrel is counting his days at this juncture.

A shepherd may have stopped in briefly along the way, because his markings and black/caramel coloring are certainly obvious. The scrunched up wrinkly forehead could have been a Basengi,  his curled tail and somewhat different speech patterns are also leading me in that direction.

A lab of some sort may have been a party to this transaction some where way back, because he retrieves beautifully, much unlike Jet, our black Lab mix who could never be taught to come back with the ball. There is a softness to his fur which might match the beagle mentioned in his veterinary paperwork, but besides his wistful expression, I don’t see so much of that.

He has the deep bark of a large breed, the weight of a medium breed and the lightness of a small breed, all wrapped up in one completely undefinable package that suits me…I can spend hours just observing him and watching him reveal who he is, and who he is not. I guess that makes him a kind of muse, and so much more interesting because I do not expect him to live up to any expectations of his breed. I got what I wanted, a dog delighted to be rescued and determined to find a way to become a permanent part of my heart.

Makes me question, do I really want a man who comes with papers? How about one who is just grateful to be appreciated for the mix he already is? I think that is all I want, too. After all, if you love a dog, you learn to deal with the dog hair.

Like Kind…or Like Mind?


I was walking Gypsy the other day and noticed how, even though he loves his morning and afternoon walk and sniff’s more than just about anything except food, there is a significant excitement when we happen to run into another dog walking a human.

Is it that after days of living with someone who is clearly nice to him and takes good care of his needs, that he has just gotten a glimpse of something that offers the potential for more than that? Some other being who validates his shape, size, furriness, and communication skills? Is this perhaps why, no matter the outcome, every few years I try out a new singles site in the vague hope that someone of the male persuasion just might happen to be searching for someone exactly like me this week?

There is something about like kind, definitely. We do like to know that we are not the only ones inhabiting a similar body, and it helps to cross paths with others who look the same, are perhaps even from the same gene pool. I find that for me, connecting with others of like mind is also of amazing importance to pique both my ability and desire to want to fully participate in life and to be excited about my future.

There are blogs of people like me that I now read on an almost daily basis. They are out there in the world, and thanks to the internet, I can connect to them and feel instantly at home. My odd duck feeling dissipates immediately when I read something that sounds familiar to the voice in my head who has not yet given it words.

I also love to read blogs of similarly minded thinkers who are throwing a curve ball into my path. They make me turn my brain around like a kaleidoscope until I find a new picture that challenges or comforts me. At the very least they urge me, without criticizing, to change the channel for a moment and see if I might enjoy something different than I had previously thought.

That’s why I love these blogs. A chance to put our thoughts out there; sometimes others tune in and add to the music, sometimes it’s a solo, but it sounds good to me either way.