For a warm, fuzzy pal, pick the right pup


Every dog isn't a match for every dog-lover. The person who would be perfect with a Pomeranian isn't a good candidate for a pointer, and vice versa.

And yet right now someone is buying a pup that's a potentially disastrous fit. And someone else is dumping just such a dog at the shelter.

Samantha Cannon of Sacramento, Calif., wants to help them all -- people and dogs -- and maybe make a little money doing it.

Long active in volunteer breed-rescue work, Ms. Cannon believes it's better to stop someone from getting a dog they'll one day get rid of than to find a home for that animal down the line. "I like looking at the breeds and figuring what each are good for and which ones work best with what people," she said. "I've been involved with dogs in one way or another for years, showing, training and doing rescue work. I wanted to alleviate some of the problems of unwanted dogs by helping people make the best choice."

A few months ago she got the idea to turn her hobby into a business, Your Best Friend, that analyzes a prospective dog owner's lifestyle and recommends appropriate breeds.

The process starts with a three-page lifestyle questionnaire and ends with a recommendation of three or more breeds, along with carefully researched and well-written sheets detailing the characteristics of the dogs and tips on finding the right breeder.

"I talked with breeders and read all kinds of reference materials when setting this thing up," she said. "A lot of my own experience is factored in, too. Eventually, I developed a system of arranging the breeds by characteristics and broken into six size groups."

A breed's size is important, but Ms. Cannon said other factors are sometimes more crucial to making the match.

"The essence of the thing is not so much the size and weight, but how well a breed matches with the answers on the personal profile sheet," she said.

"Take someone who lives in an apartment. A small dog might seem to be the right choice. But a lot of small dogs are yappy, and that can be a problem in an apartment. So maybe I'd recommend a larger, quieter dog from a breed that needs little exercise."

Ms. Cannon said that too often people make their decision solely on the look of the dog, or on the breed's current popularity.

"Choosing a dog is a very emotional issue," she said. "It's often not a conscious or analytical choice. When someone chooses a dog, it's because it gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling. Maybe they grew up with the breed, or a friend or relative has one, and they like it. But they need to stop and think.

"The funny thing is that when I recommend a breed, often people will say they had that dog in the back of their mind, that they were curious about it," she said. "After I recommend it, they start to read about it, maybe go to a dog show and see it. The more they learn about it, the more they like it."

So far, Your Best Friend hasn't been successful enough for Ms. Cannon to leave her regular job as a management consultant for the California state government. She isn't really sure it ever will be. Right now, she says, the $20 she charges covers her expenses and little more.

But $20 might seem like a bargain to one person I talked with last week, whose active Siberian husky had just torn an $800 couch to pieces while the man was at work. The dog was banished to an outdoor run, and the owner was feeling guilt as well as anger. How much better -- and cheaper -- for all concerned if he had realized beforehand that his long working hours and sedentary lifestyle called for a less energetic dog -- or maybe none at all.

Samantha Cannon can be reached at (916) 682-3880, or by dropping a line to Your Best Friend, P.O. Box 188966, Sacramento, Calif. 95818.


A little patience, please: In April I mentioned some fabulous posters from the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. My favorites are "Digital Dog" and "Computa-Cat," the clever creations of SF SPCA staffer Paul Glassner. Each features an animal surrounded by descriptions of the amazing "technology" each boasts. They're perfect for pet lovers who are also keen on computers.

All well and good, but one reader complained that she'd ordered a poster in May and hadn't received it by early July.

I called Mr. Glassner, who admitted order processing is sometimes a little slow because it's handled by volunteers. He confirmed that the reader's poster had gone out a little before she complained to me.

Still, "Computa-Cat and "Digital Dog" ($8 each) are worth the wait. Include $3 shipping, and order from the SF SPCA, 2500 16th St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103. Allow a minimum of six weeks for delivery.

Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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