Don’t judge a book by its cover…or a pet by its color!

Today is a special day for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s my parent’s 62nd wedding anniversary, which is pretty amazing. And second, it’s National Black Dog Day. And believe it or not, there is a tie-in!

I grew up in a household where there was always a dog or cat, sometimes both, sometimes multiples. Pet hair was expected, dog slobber accepted, and the occasional accident in the house pardoned. I learned to love dogs and cats from an early age, from my parents’ example.

One day, a big black stray dog appeared during a snowstorm. My mother coaxed him close enough to feed him, then fell in love. When he was taken for vaccinations, the vet announced she knew the real owners, who promptly came and got him. (He’d been missing for two weeks, but they didn’t know.) My mother wept. And when I called the owners, explained my mother adored the dog, and that he’d have a loving home that didn’t involve living outside, they brought him back the same day and all but dumped him on their doorstep.

“Pete” was an amazing dog. But had he ended up in the animal shelter, chances are good that you would have never known his remarkable character.

Black dogs are the hardest to adopt, according to the founder of the National Black Dog Day. Some people think that since they are black, they are evil (if that’s not medieval thinking, I’m not sure what is); they don’t photograph as well as their lighter-coated cohorts, so don’t show up as well on adoption websites; and their expressions can be more “difficult” to see. Pete had added disadvantages: he was an adult, and he was big – close to 80 lbs. He literally had three strikes against him in the adoption department: color, size and age.

Pete was an adored pet. He was an adept stalker and killer of pesky moles; he never met a guest he didn’t like; and he always…ALWAYS…brought visitors a “gift” to admire. It might be a large stick, a leaf he grabbed from the ground, a rock, or a toy. You were not to take it or play with it, but if you praised him and admired it, his plumed tail “helicoptered” in joy. He loved sliding in the snow, snoozing in the sun on the porch, and teasing the burro in the pasture. My mother was never sorry she felt compassion on that snow-covered stray, and he loved her unconditionally.

After his death, they shifted back to smaller dogs. Then, just over a year ago, a scruffy black terrier showed up on adoption website in the small town where we live. Small, shaggy, adult and…black. But underneath all that ungroomed fur there were alert brown eyes, a huge heart and another loving dog.

Petfinder.com notes that some shelters report that less-adoptable animals can wait up to four times longer to be adopted. That includes black animals (dogs and cats), special needs animals or senior pets.

My parents taught me not to judge people by their skin color, or shelter animals by their coat color! It’s all about what’s inside that counts!

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