Saturday, March 22, 2008

Babbling About Black Pets

Hubby found this article at MSN on "black dog syndrome" a supposed phenomenon in which black dogs are often the last to be adopted from animal shelters. Surprisingly, having spent years of my life working animal rescue (both pet and wildlife), I'd never heard of it.

I concede that photographs of all black animals are less impressive or moving due to lack of detail and, especially, contrast & exposure of their eyes -- a most imploring neotonous feature. But as most of my rescue work was before the use of the Internet for animal placement and adoption, there was little use of animal photography to place animals.

I won't dispute the evidence of what other animal workers say, but "black dog syndrome" was surprising to me.

However, I do have a story about black animals in pet rescue.

Every Halloween the folks who ran and worked with cat rescue were loathe to let black cats be adopted for fear they'd be used for satanic rituals. Being somewhat 'pagan' myself, I found the fear most irrational; I'd yet to see any evidence of any animal killings, ritual or not, around Halloween, let alone black cats. But for many cat shelters, black cats were kept away from public viewing from September to November based on fearful rumor or old stories.

One lady I worked with was so terrified of such things that any black cats which came into the shelter were adopted by her -- and only her. She was the only one to be trusted. (And I'll admit after a few years of her out-spoken fear and numerous -- over 30 -- black cats made me feel a bit suspicious of her myself; doth she protest too much?)

In truth, I saw many who desired black cats for their 'additional' mystic qualities; a solid black cat is rather special and rare, even if you aren't into any 'dark arts' or have no icky ideas.

Does animal lore does have its affects on people looking for animals? The MSN article spoke of some of those regarding black dogs:
In British folklore, such as stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, the black dog is a creepy, spectral figure that haunts cemeteries and is an omen of death. (Non-lit geeks who've never heard of those stories have at least seen "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," in which a big black dog called the Grim stalks Harry.) Another Englishman, Winston Churchill, battled serious bouts of depression which he called "the black dog."
Personally, like the black cats 'mystic' appeal, most animal lovers I've known wouldn't believe such stories mean the cute puppy or dog before them was evil -- but they might be tempted to find such 'mystic lore' appealing.

My guess would be that animal lore adds to the relationship with the animal. Like a secret shared. And what pet owner doesn't already create or 'see' more in their pet and their special relationship? Such stories only tend to make people feel more bonded, more spiritual in connection, than just having a 'fur baby'.

I wonder, just a bit, if there isn't something about this smaller adoption rate of black dogs which has to do with those working with the animals themselves...

Are they at all guilty of somehow feeling the need to protect these animals from the ones most drawn to them because they fear the desire for a black pet is akin to belief in 'bad' animal lore? Do they, however unconsciously, fear a black dog is destined to be harmed?
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