Chasing your tail


James Schloeffel


It's late on a Friday night, there's nothing on TV and once again I find myself - at 32 years of age - sitting on the couch scanning online profiles in the vague hope I might find that "perfect match". I'm no oil painting, but I've got standards.

They all seem too tall, too old, too demanding, too hairy or too prone to flatulence. Finding a pre-loved, second-hand dog wasn't meant to be this hard.

It had seemed simple enough to begin with. My partner, son and I would go down to the local dog shelter, pick out a lovable, down-and-out little hound who just needed a second chance, and take him home to his new life on the ladder of opportunity. He'd adore us unreservedly, grateful that he'd been saved from a destitute existence on the streets and had been catapulted into a life of privilege, long walks and chewy pigs' ears.

We'd get that warm glow of knowing we'd saved a living, breathing animal, and significantly up our karmic account in the process. All this would take less than an hour.


It took months. Turns out we weren't as virtuous as we'd expected. "Let's just wait another week to see what else comes in" became our politically correct code for "All the dogs here are unsophisticated runts who probably don't even ask to be excused once they've finished dinner."

Sure, I was picky, but my partner took things to a new level when she started judging prospective dogs on Gumtree based on the grammatical ability of their owners. Granted, Gumtree would do well to install a compulsory spelling and grammar check on its listings, but it did seem that the unwanted mutts might have more important things to worry about than a misplaced gerund.

The dog shelters were rather more professional than Gumtree. In fact, as we were to find, the shelters were just as picky in choosing owners as we were with choosing dogs. These days, applying for the privilege of paying $500 for a discarded dog warrants a full-scale inquisition. Fair enough, I guess - they don't want these dogs going to uncommitted or abusive owners a second time - but I now know why Madonna doesn't have any dogs; it's easier to adopt children.

In one case we were asked to fill out an "expression of interest" application. In others, there were reams of forms to complete before we could even view the dog, let alone take it home. As more and more of our applications were rejected (or, more often, just ignored), our answers on the forms became ever more desperate in an attempt to prove that we were the perfect prospective dog owners.  

"Where would the dog sleep?" On the ground? In the laundry? In the spare bedroom with the ensuite?

"What would you feed the dog?" Dog food ... I mean low-fat, organic, fair-trade tofu burgers. On Tuesdays. (See attached for full menu.)

"If you became ill, what would you do?" Take it to the vet? Oh, me! Go to the doctor?

"How long would each daily exercise session last?" Um, as long as his personal trainer recommends.

"Will you dedicate yourself to this dog for the rest of its life?" I do.

This particular form stopped short of asking us to commit under oath that we'd never chat up good-looking dogs we met in the street, but it did ask for two personal-character referees and the contact details of our family vet (it's been a while since I had my last worming treatment, but I eventually managed to rustle up some veterinary details).  

When we asked a few potential dogs to give us a written commitment in return (stating that they would be faithful, obedient and fun for the rest of their lives, for example), the requests generally fell on deaf, floppy ears.

Dogs came and went. Three months in, and we were desperate to be chosen. "Pick me!" we'd say as we wagged our tails vigorously and hoped no one noticed the hose in the backyard that we'd destroyed while bored last weekend. "We're nice!" we'd shout as we jumped up and down with our tongues hanging out, with our doggy breath. But nothing. Not a bite.

Until one night, while back searching on Gumtree, we came across Ted - a small, frog-faced little pup who had been caught in the middle of a messy breakup and needed a new home.

Things unfolded scandalously quickly. We met him on a Saturday morning, fell deeply in love within minutes and brought him home the same afternoon. No forms, no medicals, no working-with-children checks required - it all seemed so naughty. Perhaps most fortuitously, his owner could spell.

The first weekend was a whirlwind of introductions: a new garden to explore, new people to meet and new smells to smell - for all of us. It was all so exciting that there were 12 wees inside on the first night alone (most of them from Ted).

And now? Well, how life has changed for everyone. I spend Friday nights developing meal plans and organising an extracurricular schedule for the coming week. Ted spends them asleep in front of the TV. Sure, Ted has a penchant for farting and is so clingy he sits on the bath mat while I have a shower, but no one's perfect. Life is all about compromise.

From: Sunday Life