The Norman Transcript

October 25, 2012

Adopting a companion from a shelter is not always easy

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: I find myself in search of a 1- or 2-year-old dog to adopt and bring into my heart. I have always had purebreds, so I thought this would be the time to help. Well, so far it’s for naught. I found a dog on a rescue website and he was a thousand miles away, so I had him driven up, only to find out he had been misrepresented. He had severe separation anxiety and acted like he had never been in a house. He kept trying to get out a window, so I made the decision to send him back and lose the transport fee.

That is my problem: All the dogs advertised locally seem to be in Texas or elsewhere. Is that what it’s come to — having to choose a companion from a photo and phone call? Then the rescue groups expect you to deal with all the animal’s issues, and it’s your fault if it fails. Dogs in local pounds have not been tested like those in foster homes, so I don’t really want to bring in a dog I cannot trust.

Please help. Is there a better solution to my wanting a mutt? This cannot be good for the poor dogs.

— L.W., Pawcatuck, Conn.

Dear L.W: First of all, I appreciate your dedication to rescuing a dog. It sounds like your first experience was with a puppy-mill breeder’s dog who spent all his or her life in a cage or pen and was never properly socialized. As I document in my book “Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals,” these commercial puppy breeding operations are an abomination and should be outlawed. But money rules in this culture of mammon, so I advise all prospective dog owners to adopt from the shelter or visit a local, in-home breeder to see the facilities and the pups’ parents. Never buy online or from a pet store.

That poor dog needed a professional behavioral therapist and a veterinary specialist who could have worked in concert and prescribed psychotropic medications such as a light dose of Valium or Xanax while gradually taking the dog out and about. A body wrap that is fairly tight around the dog might also have helped make him feel more secure.

Good luck in your search!

Dear Dr. Fox: A few years ago, I adopted a senior cat and was amazed by the number of sounds she had in her vocabulary — about 10 or 12. Sombra looked like a petite, miniature Maine coon (she was only 5 pounds), and I have been told they can be quite vocal — trust me, she was.

The funniest sound: She would stroll into the kitchen and grumble at me. We would then hold a conversation as follows: “What?” More grumbling. “What?” More grumbling. We’d do this several times, at which point she would turn and stroll back out of the kitchen.

The eeriest sound: In the middle of the night, she would jump off the bed, go downstairs and start howling for all she was worth. It scared me to no end the first time she did it, and she kept it up until I went to see what was wrong. Well, nothing was wrong: She was standing at the foot of the stairs, looking up. As soon as she saw me, she shut up, came back upstairs and was good the rest of the night. She would do this sporadically, and I never found out why.

When she saw birds, she had a mean growling sound. For getting me out of bed, she would sit right by my ear and scream “meow” (just once, but it was effective). She also had a deep purr when she was content.

I no longer have Sombra, but those few years with her were wonderful. I would definitely recommend senior animals to anyone.

— R.G., Weldon Spring, Mo.

Dear R.G.: Many people with cats will enjoy your vivid account of Sombra’s vocal repertoire. The loud yowling (which old cats suffering from dementia will often do) was probably to call you out for a night prowl. My friend the late professor Paul Leyhausen, a German animal behaviorist, described this calling-out vocalization and many other remarkable sounds domestic cats can make. My e-book “Understanding Your Cat” details some of his and other scientists’ studies of the complex feline psyche.

One of our formerly feral cats gives a chirp-meow whenever I pass by — his way of saying “hi.” He gives a similar call every time he jumps off a chair or cat condo. Our other ex-feral cat has a loud purr when content, which is often coupled with a high note that sounds like a bird trilling — his song of secure happiness, no doubt.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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