Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Black is black.

I read in the International Herald Tribune that big, black dogs are rarely adopted from animal shelters.
There is the story of Aaron Jones who experiences people crossing the street to avoid him when he walks Gozer, his Rottweiler-hound mix. Mothers scoop up their children and flee. A lost motorist rolls up the windows and drives off after spotting the dog. Women scream. "He's the nicest dog I know," said Jones, 33, of Oakland, California. "It's hard to understand all the fear."
According to animal shelter officials, big, black dogs like Gozer have more trouble finding a happy home than do other dogs. Some shelters even have coined a name for it: "Big black dog syndrome."
At the city animal shelter in Rogers, Arkansas, big, black dogs almost always make up the bulk of the animals put to sleep each month. Recently, 13 of the 14 dogs killed by the city were large and black, mostly Labs, shepherd mixes, pit bull mixes and Rottweillers.
It's not just that large dogs can be frightening. Animal shelters say black dogs of all sizes are difficult to photograph for online listings and are hard to spot against the shadows of their crates and cages in dimly lit kennels. Older black dogs with a little white in their muzzles can look elderly. Bigger breeds like German shepherds aren't as fashionable as small, cuddly lap dogs.
Then there's the reputation. The idea of a big, black dog unleashing destruction is a common theme in books, movies and folklore as diverse as "The Hound of the Baskervilles," the "Harry Potter" series and "The Omen."
Even the common sign "Beware of Dog" depicts a big, black dog, teeth bared and gums dripping and encourages the notion that these animals are menacing. The reports goes on to say that it's difficult to read a dark dog’s expressions. "There isn't a lot of contrast between black eyes and a black face, so people can't get a handle on how the dog is feeling," Nicosi, a NY behaviour specialist said.
Furthermore, it would seem people may subconsciously snub big black dogs because they aren't comfortable with what the pet may say about the owner.
One website devoted to increasing public awareness of the "big black dog phenomenon," offers some light hearted reasons to adopt a big, black dog. It argues that black doesn't clash with furniture or clothing, hides dirt well and is easy to “accessorize”.
However black dogs do appeal to those who want protection on walks late at night or to men who seek a canine boost of machismo, a spokesman for the Humane Society of New York.
It would also seem that there's a certain contingent of dog lovers on the east coast of the US who specifically seek out black dogs because of their connection to the trendy Black Dog bakery on Martha's Vineyard.
Well, how about that? What is the world coming to? I love my black dog. She clashes with the furniture. She dirties the house and the car. She is not a fashion accessory. She looks good on the web. I can read her expressions. I do not need her to protect me; in fact it’s the other way round. I do not care two hoots about her enhancing or not enhancing my image or about Martha’s Vineyard, for that matter.


Winchester whisperer said...

I'm surprised they haven't introduced fur dye

jmb said...

Well isn't this interesting? I have had two black dogs out of four, none especially large however.
All that black hair on the furniture is a big pain. Belle is beautiful, who could not want her if she was available?

Flowerpot said...

I read something similar in dogs Today last year some time. Sounds strange to me. And I agree wtih JMB - Belle is so wonderful who could not want her?

Mopsa said...

You know what I think of big black dogs...they rule! (My heart, my home, my life, my shopping basket). Naturally enhanced if at all possible by a white blaze and bib and ginger eyebrows and paws.

Rebecca Taunton said...

We had two black dogs, their fur was a nightmare for sticking to the furniture & carpets (especially during moulting season).
I once stayed at a place that had a Deer Hound. It was huge! Standing on it's hind legs, it was taller than me. When it first ran towards me, I couldn't help but feel a shiver of fear. I then discovered that she was just a big softy and I felt foolish.
People who treat dogs (or any animal, for that matter) as fashion accessories, shouldn't keep them at all.

VioletsVintage said...

Hi Eurodog,
Thank you for missing me! I have been at the Sf shelter working for days on end! we are very short handed and crowded with animals.
At our shelter, big dogs of all colors are harder to adopt. Many people living in Sf want little dogs and they get adopted very fast. big black dogs do get adopted fairly quickly...if they are not Pitt bulls. Poor pitt bulls stay and wait a long time before they are adopted.
We have more of a 'black cat syndrome' at our shelter. Black cats and kittens stay for a much longer period of time in the shelter than non-black cats and kittens. Little snow shoes and siamese looking kittens get adopted very fast. I notice that average people are visually guided by their adoption choices rather than looking at the animals personality.
I don't know why this is.

VioletsVintage said...

Another interesting fact: White rabbits do not get adopted very quickly! People prefer smaller rabbits and the big white ones stay and stay, while the two-tone (black and white) and brown dwarfs and rex's get adopted much faster!

Eurodog said...

Thank you all for commenting.
VV, that's really intersting about the white rabbits. Poor things.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, in the Uk, too, even small black dogs are rarely adopted. I so loved my "Gil Blas" black Scottie-cross, adopted from Cardiff animal shelter and almost as awkward as me!

shuck said...

Hi - I love this post about 'BBU' (Big Black and Unwanted, as they are also known). I would be really interested to know the website that you mention that addresses this issue, and also, if you have any reference for the shelters comments on difficulty of photographing. Traer Scott did a lovely book called Shelter dogs, which has inspired me to try taking sympathetic characterful portraits of dogs.