Ryan Slabaugh: A pet can tell a lot about a person | SierraSun.com

Ryan Slabaugh: A pet can tell a lot about a person

Published: Ryan Slabaugh

Like most everyone in the world, I appreciate a good dog. The ones that rarely bark, rarely shed and rarely squat in inappropriate places. The ones that take pride in defending home and master, and the ones that can tell good people from bad. Once, I had a dog named Kyra who nipped people I didn’t like in the buttocks. I loved that pup, despite her eagerness to break all the other “good dog” criteria.

Fully grown, my German Shepherd and husky mix weighed 60 pounds, spent most of her time watching television on the couch, and when she stood on her hind legs, we could do an awkward slow dance.

To me, she was the right size ” big enough to scare off a burglar, small enough to curl up like a fox.

For all of my life, I’ve never much considered the opposite end of the canine food chain ” you know the mini-pets I’m talking about ” Taco Bell used one. I don’t know if their squirrelish dimensions have really been the problem, or if it’s been the stereotype of being lap decorations for the Kathy Lee Gifford Fan Club. Either way, I never thought I could love an animal Darwin would heavily bet against.

So with a combination of stomach pain and laughter, I read an urgent e-mail I received last weekend from a wonderful lady named Lisa Epstein. Now, I’ve never met Lisa, but I can only surmise that with a subject line like, “Tiny Tiger reclaims America’s fastest Chihuahua title,” she might have a sense of humor.

Epstein detailed Tiger’s championship run with tidbits from the 14-inch pet’s proud parent, Cathy Smith, who explained her strategy: “I started to call him ‘kitty, kitty’ when we would practice,” she said. “It can get pretty confusing for them during the race and there sure was nobody else calling their dog this way at the finish line.”

Sigh. While I acknowledge Cathy’s coaching prowess ” she took home a year’s supply of dog food and $300 ” she also proved what’s different about small dogs is more than just cosmetic.

Tiger ran the 35 feet in 1.8 seconds (an average of 13.25 mph), while in the same 2 seconds, the average Greyhound could reach 40 mph and cover half a football field.

But who am I kidding? These are not things arguments to change a person’s mind; a person’s allegiance to their pet preference is just short of religion, and pet ownership, last time I checked, was not a freedom protected by the Constitution.

Like religion, the point is, whatever type and size you choose, it should be the right fit for you, and as I learned this week, the right fit might be different than you think. The Humane Society has championed this cause for years, publishing a slew of educational materials matching a person’s personality to a certain breed.

I took one of these tests this week, and after answering questions ranging from “What type of place do you live in?” to “Do you want a dog that can protect your home?” I was surprised at the recommendation: To summarize, they were all small dogs with a fierce bark and a medium bite, like corgis. No goldens. No shepherds. Not even a dalmation.

My initial disappointment brought me back to the fastest chihuahua in the world, to the site of a loaf of bread with fur and legs sprinting across the grass to the call of “Kitty.” At least little Tiger was not on the list, but would that have been that bad?

That’s when it dawned on me. Small dogs, big dogs, we might just all be different shades of the same color, but the better point is … at least we’re not cat people. I don’t think I could ever own something that sleeps by day and kills at night.

Just to be safe, I’ll avoid that survey.

Executive Editor Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (530) 550-2650, at rslabaugh@sierrasun.com, or comment on his column at http://www.sierrasun.com.

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