For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of dogs. Large dogs mostly. I don’t remember the dog I had as a child, I only recall stories told over and over again by my family, and the pictures. A puppy was bought for me, and in the pictures with her I am very small, too young to properly care for and train a dog. 

After befriending several dogs in my current neighborhood and noticing that seemingly everyone in this city had dogs, I began my research. I looked up breeds and temperaments, debated pet stores and breeders, and finally decided to adopt from a shelter. So for several weeks I drug my children around the city and even to neighboring towns looking for just the perfect dog. 

Many sad and wanting faces looked back at me from those kennels, tails wagging hopefully. Several I fell in love with, but here and there, something just wasn’t right. 

And then, at an Adoption Days hosted by our local PetSmart where I was informed that no, I could not have the Shiba Inu I wanted since I did not have a fenced yard, there was this fellow: 

Seen with my daughter where he calmly waited in his kennel, in 100F heat. 

I stood and waited, and he laid there looking at me, interested, but not making a fuss like some of the other dogs. In their chorus of barking he joined only once. I was encouraged to take him out, walk him around here and there, inside the store where he might liven up a bit. 

A calm and curious fellow, he greeted everyone, dogs and people alike, ears perked, tail wagging. I showed him to the store employee I had pestered with a thousand questions and she approved. 

After greeting many dogs in my search, I had learned not to adopt at first love, but to stop and really think about it. So I put him back, and he went to his little kennel easily, looking just a little sad, but not making a big deal. 

He had been there for two months, despite being so very friendly and calm, he was ‘just’ a plain black dog. People fawned over the black with white socks in the next kennel, or the brindle girl down the row, and of course the rolly polly puppies. They crooned at the barkers, coddled the ones who whimpered.

It’s called Black Dog Syndrome, and it is very real, especially for big dogs. Black dogs just don’t seem to get noticed. 

His paper read “Friendly” as the name the shelter had given him. He was marked as good with kids, cats, and other dogs, but not housebroken. An intact male “lab-mix” who’s teeth said he was a year old even if he looked like a puppy. 

I asked for a card with the address of the shelter, a good forty minute drive. There was another shelter coming the next day and I wanted to see what they had before making a decision. So I left and went back to the van. 

It felt wrong. I looked through the papers of dogs I had already seen, the ones that were going to be there the next day, my lists of pros and cons for each dog I had really liked. On the top of my list was a Basenji who had a bent leg that would need vet care and had been so shy I suspected trauma. For a week I had carried his picture around getting advice on him and his leg. I felt bad for him, but he just wasn’t right. 

I went through the rest of the papers for dogs I was interested in seeing, but suddenly none of them compared. I didn’t want to search anymore. I turned and asked my kids if we should adopt “Friendly” and they immediately answered yes, he was perfect. 

So back I went, read the agreement, signed the paper, paid the fee. The harness I had bought the day before fit perfectly, like it was meant to be. The shelter workers agreed and said goodbye, be good, go home. For two months they had been bringing him to Adoption Days, and it was finally his day. 

The van was a new thing, not a little kennel in a big truck full of other dogs. He didn’t want to jump up, but he didn’t fuss at being picked up. He sniffed and explored and finally settled between the seats, alert and eager as we headed off. 

It took us only a minute to decide that he didn’t really respond to “Friendly” so he needed a new name. Immediately I said Tanji and he looked at me and wagged his tail. He liked that name, so he became Tanji. 

I had waited to buy the same brand of dog food that he was used to eating at the shelter, so we had to make a short stop at another store. I was worried it would be too much for him, but he greeted people and other dogs just fine. He picked up a pig’s ear from a low box and carried it around, so I bought it too. Then we went home. 

Sending the kids inside, I took Tanji to the grassy area nearby to show him where to go, and he did. Inside the apartment building, he was confused about the stairs, and that took a lot of time and encouraging, but I let him go at his own pace. 

Into the house, ignore the cat, straight to the bedroom where his crate and toys were already set up. Just one room for the first few days, so he could settle, and the cat could get used to the idea – from a safe distance. 

He chose the black cloth (prior cat bed) as his favorite spot, and kept his pig’s ear close. Tethered to my chair, he explored the bedroom and settled, as I debated his breed with a friend. 

Doesn’t he look so very Border Collie? Just looking at a picture of him you would think he’s full sized, but no, look at him next to my daughter, who is small for a ten year old. Border collie? Flat coated retriever? Schipperke? Some part spaniel? 

Maybe someday he’ll get a DNA test to find out, but it’s fun to guess until then. He’s a little black ball of so soft fur and love and joy, that’s all we need to know. 

Tanji found his forever home on June 27th, 2009. 

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