STEVE BOUSER: Urgent Plea to Obamas: Choose a Black Dog
I don't want to add to the many burdens facing our president-elect and his family, but they have an opportunity to strike a blow for a persecuted minority in our midst.
Barack and Michelle Obama, as everyone knows by now, are in the market for a dog. I have an urgent suggestion for them: Do me a favor. Do yourselves and your daughters a favor. Do a favor to some otherwise doomed creature out there.
Get a black dog.
Now, I'm not one of those animal nuts. But, as I wrote some time ago on this subject, we do have two beloved dogs at our house. Both were originally strays from shelters. And both, though we didn't plan it that way, happen to be black as a moonless midnight. I mean, they soak up the entire light spectrum like a black hole. When they look at you at night through a glass door, all you see is the whites of their eyes.
Kelci, the sleek little one, is so black that she looks almost blue -- though she's getting gray around the muzzle these days. Emma, the bigger and shaggier one, has a slight brownish cast if you look at her in a certain light. We chose both of them, at different times, because they seemed sweet and intelligent. Well, sweet, anyway. We didn't give much thought to the color in either case.
But we've since learned that we're an exception. For whatever sad reason, it seems most people don't want black dogs. When looking for potential pets, most of us tend to pass over the black dog sitting back in the corner of the pen, lost in the shadows, and go instead for the cute brown one with white feet.
Black dogs can be the nicest, smartest and potentially most loyal ones in the bunch, but they just don't have curb appeal. So black dogs end up taking one-way trips to the landfill in disproportionate numbers. It's even worse for black cats -- which, let's face it, have a special image problem.
The bias against canine and feline melanism is so pronounced that a coalition of animal groups here is gearing up for its second annual Top Hats and Tails event, a special holiday party that showcases black pets -- with a few white ones thrown in for a tuxedo effect. During the gala event, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at Homewood Suites in Olmsted Village, they'll arrive in a limo and parade down a red carpet. As a result of last year's event, 29 dogs and cats found homes.
A friend of mine who volunteers at a local shelter told me, "Black just does not catch people's eye. Any shelter across the country will tell you that. Even black Labs. We're overrun with them. We were worried the other day when someone brought in a pregnant black Lab female. Usually they will have mostly black puppies, with maybe a couple brown or whatever. But this time, only two of the litter were black. And we were like, 'Yes!'"
Emma, our big, shaggy dog, was actually on the euthanasia table a few years ago when the attendant saw something in that face of hers and just couldn't go through with it. I don't know about you. But I think of all those sweet Emmas and Kelcis sitting in cages, shunted aside because of an accident of genetics, and I picture their big brown eyes looking up at me hopefully, and it just about breaks my heart.
I'm happy to say that after I wrote that first piece on this subject a couple of years ago, several local shelters called to report a regular run on black dogs. For a while there, at least, the last were first. That really made my day. Think how many more black dogs across the nation might be rescued from a terrible fate if our popular new president made them the "in" pet to have.
So. Mr. and Mrs. Obama, I know you've got a lot on your mind. And when it comes to a dog, I know your daughter Malia has allergies, so you're looking for a hypoallergenic one. But if possible, please remember that you have an opportunity here to set an example for the nation and help right a wrong.
Get a black dog.
I'll thank you. All the unwanted and overlooked black dogs of the world will thank you.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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