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It occurs to me that we’ve had Bowpi now for about as long as her previous owner kept her — nine months. If fate is on our side, we’ll have at least nine more years with this little Basenji gal we’ve come to love.

Super Girl
Photo taken 27 November 2010

It took us about a year and a half to find her. Around the summer of 2008 was when the Doggy Daddy and I started to talk in earnest about adding another dog to the family. We started with local Shiba rescue listings, but since we weren’t set on another Shiba, we fanned out searching Craigslist, Petfinder, purebred rescues for a short list of breeds we liked, and so forth. I bookmarked local rescue groups that had regularly updated listings and a track record of good communication with their adopters. We didn’t take any action until encountering a dog that really moved both my partner and me. So in the end, we only had a couple face-to-face meetings with potential adoptees, though I do feel that I got a good impression of the active rescues in my area.

We had standing applications on file with a few rescues, but we were warned that it might take some time to find a dog that fit our list of “desired” traits to match our finicky Shiba.

Then around this time last year, I started fixating on Craigslist, checking every day for our perfect second dog and watching aghast at the parade of backyard breeders and casual pet owners who were looking to dump their summer and Christmas puppies with the flimsiest of excuses. During this time, I formulated some strong opinions about the role of Craigslist and, more generally, free online classifieds, in rehoming pets. I’ll detail my thoughts about that some other time.

This entry is about Bowpi.

She was not the first Basenji I saw on Craigslist, but they certainly didn’t come up often. We held firm to our policy of mature adults only, so we didn’t consider any dog that was less than four years old. I saw a couple “teenaged” Basenjis being rehomed, with descriptions that caused me to flash back to the horrors of Bowdu’s rebellious adolescence. I watched a local backyard breeder drop the price of his Basenji puppies from $675 to $475 to $275 over the course of a month when they weren’t selling quickly enough. It helped that the ads got flagged off each time he reposted, in accordance with Craigslist policies.

And then in March of 2010, Bowpi’s listing appeared. It was a simple, two sentence, pictureless post. I e-mailed about 20 minutes after the posting went up, and didn’t receive a response until the next day.

According to my experiences with Craigslist, responses that take longer than two hours are atypical. The answer I finally received was terse, almost cagey. I regarded this optimistically; the owner was in no hurry to “get rid” of her dog, and was going to take the time to ask questions and allow questions to be asked.

One of the first pictures we received by e-mail.

We established that her Basenji was about five years old, already spayed, of mellow/more submissive temperament, and got along well with other dogs. Her previous owner, B–, was at least the second owner, not including the original breeder, of whom no records were available. I offered a few paragraphs about the Doggy Daddy and myself, and how we lived with Bowdu. Further details could await until we met in person and established that the two dogs wouldn’t hate each other right off the bat.

It was much easier to communicate when we met up, a week later. B– seemed a different person from the neutral tones conveyed in her brief e-mails. The circumstances that compelled her to rehome her Basenji seemed more sympathetic when there was a face behind the words. She told us how she was working late shifts, crating Bowpi for about 10 hours at night. Because B– worked at night, she slept during the day; daily dog park runs were out of the question with that kind of lifestyle. There had been another dog to keep her company, but then that dog died of old age, so there wasn’t much to keep her occupied around the house. B–‘s steady boyfriend was of the opinion that dogs should be kept off all furniture and sleep outdoors — clearly not the best option for an already-neglected Basenji. I don’t know whether or not B– lived with her boyfriend, and it was not my business to ask, though his dislike for dogs still had an impact on Bowpi’s quality of life. And in the queue of frequent family visitors was a young nephew with ADD, whose hyperactivity and boisterousness we witnessed for ourselves, as he came along for the first meeting. His effusive displays of affection towards dogs was, unfortunately, not reciprocated.

Clearly, there was a lot going on in B–‘s life, such that rehoming Bowpi was the best thing she could do for all involved. I wouldn’t say we rushed the decision, but meeting that one day basically sealed the deal. After seeing how well they got along on neutral territory, we invited them all back to our house, where the two dogs were allowed their first visit together on Bowdu’s turf. When an hour or so passed without major snarking or bloodshed, we were satisfied that we could make it work.

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Photo taken 24 March 2010. Her second day.

B– did ask for a rehoming fee, a standard and necessary precaution particularly with Craigslist. It was not a figure that suggested she was making money off the back of her dog ($100). We also got a plastic crate, a Flexi-leash, a coupler, a bag of dog food, and recent veterinary records (we ended up having no use for any of that except the last). B– also insisted that she would take her back if for any reason it didn’t work out. This all went to demonstrate that she truly cared about finding the best home. If we hadn’t taken Bowpi, she would have kept her longer to find the right home, or possibly surrendered her to a rescue (though she had never heard of BRAT). Thus, I am confident that we were not supporting someone’s irresponsible decision to rehome a dog because they didn’t like her personality or didn’t have the time to train her or were moving and made a bone-headed decision to rent an apartment that didn’t allow pets, like so many lame excuses I’ve seen on Craigslist.

And so I think it’s possible to use Craigslist productively when rehoming pets, though its very nature as free online classifieds makes pets vulnerable to exploitation. Craigslist can be a complement to regular rescues, but the burden of responsibility is compounded, in a sense. I would hate to make things easy and guilt-free for backyard breeders or anyone who regards pet rehoming as lightly as reselling a bookshelf or couch. So the onus was on us, as adopters, to screen the previous owner just as much as it was her right to screen us, to ask us dozens of questions, and to enter our home and make sure we could provide a good home for Bowpi.

In this case, I think we all got lucky.

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Photo taken 26 November 2010

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