It is one thing to be thoughtful about the kind of pet - if any - that suits one’s lifestyle. Considering temperament, home environment, family and financial means (among a host of other factors) is the most responsible, honorable and loving thing one can do before adopting a pet.
However, it is quite another thing to summarily dismiss scores of pet breeds because they are not the physical “type” that one imagined sharing life with.
In my bachelor days - when I was way too free-spirited to parent a pet - I imagined that I might someday scoop up a squat and scrappy short-haired bull terrier; an unfailing pal who could ward off potential assailants with a De Niro-esque scowl. I also imagined that one day I would run into Leslie Ann Warren in the supermarket and she’d fall madly in love with me.
Not that there’s anything at all wrong with bull terriers or Leslie Ann Warren. But, unwittingly, I was severely narrowing my field of contenders for animal companion and life partner.
“Daisy” taught me to have an open mind.
Long before my speech pathology days, I worked as a location scout. One summer day twenty years ago found me at the sprawling, terraced property of a wealthy oilman in Malibu. He’d given me his keys and carte blanche to “shoot” his estate.
It wasn’t long before I found a particularly arresting scene of sloping lawns with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. I quickly set up and began shooting.
Moments later I felt a low rumble which I thought was a small quake. Nothing new to Californians. There was another rumble a minute later followed by rustling from random patches of tall brush.
I peered over the camera lens to see a frothing Rottweiler at 10 o’clock and doberman bearing teeth at two-o’clock. I slowly turned around to find a German shepherd at six o’clock. I was surrounded! Gulp!
Careful to avoid direct eye contact, I held still and tried to make nice. “Good doggies,” I said in the most pleasing voice I could summon. This only intensified their growling.
More rustling from the feathery fern ahead. Surely another combatant.
Yep, I was a dead man.
The tall grass directly ahead of me tossed wildly and out popped. . . a Yorkshire terrier no bigger than my right hand.
She scampered past her now silent and stoic brethren toward me - a furry hors d’oeuvre balanced on four cocktail toothpicks - then flopped down and offered me her belly. Her metallic pink, dog-bone name tag read: “Daisy.” I knelt down, cooed her name and rubbed her belly. Her eyes rolled back.
Just then, Daisy’s hulking canine guardians rushed me, knocked me over and showered me with licks that had me giggling like Anderson Cooper.
I had passed muster.
Daisy was my constant companion for the rest of the afternoon, following me from room to cavernous room, the clinking of her name tag revealing her hiding place during our cat-and-mouse game.
When it came time to pack up and say goodbye, a trembling Daisy leapt into my car. I reluctantly handed her back to the smiling oilman and drove off.
Years later a TV commercial for a high-end car line broke through as I was studying for my comprehensive exams in grad school. There was the oilman’s driveway ablaze with chrome and painted steel shot at precisely the same angle I used during my scout.
Behind my fleeting glory was the memory of Daisy, the fur-baby who came wrapped in a package I did not expect; the precious being who taught me that my “type” is the one who saves my butt from the unthinkable.