A dog without politics in Seattle?
November 15, 2012 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to adopt a dog, but first I want more information. I live in Seattle. I'd love to find a dog group/dog place where I can go, ask questions, maybe even get to know some different dogs, but I've lived in Seattle for more than 20 years and I've seen how ridiculous, make-PETA-look-sane, over the top animal people here can be. Is there a dog place/group in Seattle that is kind to people?

The last time I had a dog was in the 70's. I've had cats since then. I think I want a dog when my currently elderly cat goes to kitty heaven. Between now and then, I'd like to find out about owning a dog - a smallish dog - probably not a puppy - in a downtown condo. None of my close friends own dogs so I need to go find some dog friends. I'm retired. I have the time. I think it might be fun to even volunteer at a dog place. But I am so wary of radical dog people. Anyone have any suggestions of where I might find some people friendly place in Seattle to dog it?
posted by susandennis to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
But I am so wary of radical dog people.

If you can pinpoint what makes them "radical" to you people will be able to advise you better.
posted by crankylex at 9:46 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't answer your question specifically. Don't worry so much about radical dog people. Personally, I think that fixed female mutts make the very best pets. You are wise to not want a puppy though. Puppies. Are. A. Pain. Their cuteness wares out in about 10 minutes and then you have to constantly watch them. A 2-3 year old dog will probably be best for you since you are new to dogs.

Honestly, I've never come across anyone I would describe as "radical" at an animal shelter. They are all just happy to find homes for the animals and not have to put them down. I also think there is something very satisfying about rescuing an animal in need as oppose to buying an expensive breed that has half the life span of a mutt and tends to have medical issues (brought on by inbreeding). I think that knowing about dog breeds is good (because those traits will come out in any mutt), but I don't really like pure breeds. It is all personal opinion though.
posted by nickerbocker at 9:59 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't live in Seattle, so I'm not sure at all how hardcore various groups are. But out here in Madison (where people are kinda like Seattleites sometimes), I'd probably suggest starting with the Humane Society or its equivalents. They have volunteer opportunities where you can do everything from walking dogs to cleaning out their garage and organizing the donated toys. There are tons of other nonprofit and more individual shelters around, too.

The key here is to be around a lot of dogs, regardless of breed, and see what YOU notice about them. Even hanging out at a dog park sometime could help. You really won't know what suits you until you see dogs in action. Sure, a shelter or park won't be the same as your home, but you'll see how some dogs interact with others and other dogs are content to just sit and be placid. You'll see how German Shorthair Pointers tend to corner labradoodles as if the latter were a roosting quail, and you'll see how giant American Bulldogs can actually be some of the calmest, most unflappable creatures despite their size.

While you should almost certainly NOT go with a purebred dog, the AKC has a fair number of resources on picking a dog to fit your lifestyle. Maybe the Seattle group might have some sort of "meet the breed" event like they have in New York.

When my husband picked out his late and much-lamented Bubbers from the pound, all of the dogs were scooting around and yapping at each other, their barks echoing off of the metal enclosure. Bubbers just sat in the corner, doin' his thang. My husband just knew.

P.S. Bubbers, like many dogs, had hip dysplasia. That really didn't seem to matter, to him or to his owners. Working with a Humane Society or similar can help you learn more about some common "imperfections" or conditions -- some of which may have led to a previous owner giving up a dog, but which might not matter one whit to you.
posted by Madamina at 10:02 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, watch some episodes of the Dog Whisperer if you haven't already. I think his overall advice to small dog owners is to treat their dog as if it were a big pit bull and you will have a better dog. What you project onto the dog is what it will become. If you project helplessness onto a small dog (which is very common), what you will get is an insecure small dog that doesn't feel comfortable around strangers and will be extremely barky and bitey to anyone who is not you. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Larger dogs tend to behave better because their owners acknowledge that they are a large dog and if not handled properly they can really hurt someone.

Just pretend (fool yourself into thinking) that your small dog can be vicious killer if not handled properly and you end up with a good dog. Coddle it and act like your dog is a poor helpless being that you need to protect and you will lose your friends because they don't like your barkey/bitey rodent-dog.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:06 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wow, nickerbocker, I never thought of that before but I know examples of that very thing and never knew how those poor dogs got that way. Wow. Excellent tip. Thank you!

And the dog park hanging out is another great suggestion. Will do!
posted by susandennis at 10:12 AM on November 15, 2012

Marymoor Park in redmond has a huge off-leash dog area that is full of all sorts of dogs. Dog walkers, breed-group meet-ups, random people just walking their dogs, etc. Before we got our dogs we used to go there and just watch all the dogs, and talk about what we liked and what we were looking for in a dog. Most people there are fairly normal and love to tell you about their dogs. Just stop by on a weekend and have a walk around. Your local bookstore will also have tons of books on dog breeds you can peruse.

One thing to keep in mind; the size of the dog does not necessarily indicate its suitability for apartment / condo living. For example, I'd stay away from herding breeds, but if you want a Great Dane, that would be fine. Chihuahua (and Chihuahua mixes) are what you're going to find the most of at a shelter, and they make really great pets and their poop is small, but they can be vicious, as others have pointed out. Whatever you get, you need to make sure you can provide the exercise it needs.

Whatever you get, please take some obedience classes or work with a trainer. It will improve your experience quite a bit.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:12 AM on November 15, 2012

Your best bet will be with the individual dog breed meetup groups. When we lived in Everett, we enjoyed the Greater Seattle English Bulldog Meetup. They were always putting on events, and members knew the best dog parks and vets and so on. If you haven't owned a dog since the 70s, I would ask you to remember a few things-- if you live in an apartment, look for a dog that can easily adjust to condo living. In other words, no German Shepherds or Border Collies-- both dogs need more space and in the case of the Border Collie needs a ton a physical activity and meaningful (to a dog) work to do every day or they literally go crazy. Look for a dog with lower energy levels, one that is friendly with people in hallways and communal areas, can adjust to being on a leash at all times when not in the apartment. You will see from the above that we are partial to English Bulldogs, so I will use them as an example of what is good and bad for this particular breed-- you should do a similar analysis on any breed or mix that you are thinking about adopting. English Bulldog advantages--- 1) Low energy levels, sleep 22 hours a day-- great for an apartment dweller-- when you do walk them they are tired after 500 yards. 2) Low intelligence (bear with me) so they can be left alone while you are at work, and it will take them all eight hours to realize you have even left the house, so they won't be as lonely. 3) Pleasant disposition and friendly with people and particularly children. 3) Super cute-- get ready to constantly be talking to strangers who want to ask you about the dogs and pet them. Our two dogs have actually stopped traffic they are so cute. English Bulldog disadvantages: 1) Really bad gas (farts) 2) Don't have fur, they have hair like a human, and it sheds a small amount every day, instead of seasonally like other dogs, which means you have to stay on top of the cleanliness in your house 3) Real smart animal activists will know that bulldogs are overbred freaks of nature with several chronic health problems (restricted airway, face wrinkle allergies, can't give birth naturally (all bulldogs are born C-Section now) and so on. 4) Stubborn 5) Low intelligence (appears on both lists, I know). Finally, I would encourage you to look to see if you can rescue an older dog (just not one that is about to die. Did you see that episode of Louie? Hilarious) Our last three dogs have been rescues, and we love them dearly. Finally, from experience in Seattle, I think you may be overestimating the prevalence of radical and confrontational animal activists. Most people in the Emerald City are polite to strangers, and I predict for every one rude comment, you will probably receive three hundred compliments. Of course, different neighborhoods may have different characters-- ther are probably more activists in the U District and Queen Anne, for instance. If it really bothers you, see if you can volunteer to have your animals used as therapy dogs. Then you have a good answer for anyone who challenges you. But again, I don't think that many people will. This really shouldn't be a big problem at all. Good luck with whatever breed or mix you choose!
posted by seasparrow at 10:15 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're happy with your cat's veterinarian, you could ask her/him for advice on finding a group you're comfortable with. Many vets (but not all) are very tuned in to what the rescue environment is like in their areas. They'll know who the flakes and "radicals" are and hopefully have some ideas of where you could start your search.

Another thought is to start liking a few rescue groups on Facebook, and see what kinds of stuff they post, and what they link to. You might be able to get a sense of what their priorities are just through your online observation, without having to really interact in any meaningful way until you're more comfortable with who you're getting involved with.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My best friend is a longtime volunteer on the adoption team at the Seattle Animal Shelter in Interbay. The attitude at the shelter is not "radical" in any ideological way but they do encourage responsible pet ownership and want to make sure that they place animals with people who can actually take care of them and give them what they need. They are always looking for new volunteers if you are interested, or you can just go down and talk with the adoption team to get information on what type of dog might be compatible with your lifestyle.

Great Dog Daycare in Northgate is another place that longtime friends of mine have long experience with - they have a regular playgroup there that attracts many different breeds.
posted by matildaben at 11:03 AM on November 15, 2012

Also, watch some episodes of the Dog Whisperer if you haven't already.

Actually, I would strongly suggest you don't -- at least, not for educational (versus entertainment) purposes. Cesar Milan seems to have real empathy for dogs, but his theories and techniques have been widely debunked. Instead, check out the vast and excellent literature and the many You Tube videos on positive reinforcement, which works for almost all living creatures, including dogs. Karen Pryor, a leader in this area, also has a great website.

I am a fellow Seattle-lite and lifelong dog owner, and I understand what you mean about some of the local People on a Mission, who I also try to avoid. (Sadly, I include our local PETA in that group.) But that is really not the majority of local dog owners or organizations, who are by and large very sensible people.

In terms of meeting up with other dog people, there are a lot of options. I really like Ahimsa, and there is a nice group of people that regularly take their dogs to Magnuson Park's huge off leash area -- which also includes an area for little dogs. Almost every doggy day care or vet's office is linked to groups of dog owners. And all the pet rescue groups have ties to groups of people who own their rescued pets. Also, if you are interested in agility, herding, showing, obedience, or whatever, there are groups doing those things around here.

When you are ready to look for a dog, I'd suggest checking out the Seattle shelter and the King County shelter in Kent, both of which are staffed by very sensible people. Also, check Pet Finder, a great place to make contact with the dog rescue groups. Here's a current list of small dogs up for adoption.
posted by bearwife at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is a recommendation from across the country but I have several friends that are (or have been) involved with Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue (http://www.spdrdogs.org/). I have had great interactions with them as someone who does breed specific (ACD) rescue myself and who runs a website devoted to my breed.

If you are looking at a specific breed (or mix thereof) please feel free to email me and I will, in turn, get recommendations for you from my cowdog pals. Good Luck!
posted by labwench at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2012

Just one person's experience, and I'm sure labwench's group is very nice, but if you're in the Seattle area with a strong aversion to radical dog people, I would aim more for shelters and less for purebred dog rescue groups. We had a woman steal our puppy from our yard and take it to another state because in her opinion we were mistreating it (justification unknown). We had gotten the dog from her purebred dog rescue group, and she had formed an attachment to it. Eventually we pleaded with her and she gave our dog back, but it was a very sad, stressful time for all involved. We've adopted from shelters, and mixed breed rescues and there were no such problems, and we've even become friends with some of the volunteers. Anyway, this is very unlikely to happen to you! Good luck finding your new dog.
posted by Concordia at 1:05 PM on November 15, 2012

Fabulous suggestions, everyone, thank you!!!

Some of the info I had figured out on my own but it is soooo nice to get confirmation from people who know. Some of the other information, I'd never thought of and is great.

I'm quite excited to get started and now know how.
posted by susandennis at 2:37 PM on November 15, 2012

Variety is astounding. For research purposes at any time of any day I would suggest wandering thru the off-leash area at Magnuson Park for example and just look at the people and dogs they're associated with. Off-leash is pretty social in my experience and I honestly can't think of one dog owner that isn't delighted to talk about their experiences.
posted by ptm at 8:13 PM on November 15, 2012

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