I love Schnauzers.
I love them in a collect knickknacks-and-other-
I am that person. I do draw the line on novel t-shirts with sayings like, “Happiness is Schnauzer Kisses,” but I digress.
I love their tootsie roll-shaped, stout bodies, their bold eyebrows, colorings and scholarly beard. To be honest, the fact that schnauzers exist makes me believe that there must be a god or higher power, as who else could create such beauty, such perfection.
I grew up with the breed, and am now on my second as an adult. Like many purebreds, Schnauzers do have their share of health issues: pancreatitis, metabolic syndrome, sudden blindness, diabetes, to name just a few.
I would have thought I could never love another breed. Turns out I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a ‘chit’ which is short for a DNA-confirmed Chihuahua Pitbull – incidentally the two most euthanized breeds at shelters.
Thomas Jo is either the world’s biggest Chihuahua or the world’s smallest Pitbull, depending on how you want to look at it. I love this dog with all my heart and soul. I love his bicycle seat shaped face, the fact that he has no hair under his armpits, that the same area feels like satin, and that even when he tries to be mean, he can’t stop wagging his tail. I love that he can chase a fly for hours, but couldn’t care less about pigeons, and how he has to smell every treat that I hand him before accepting it.
Falling in love as I did is akin to living your life as a career heterosexual, and then suddenly realizing you may tip the Kinsey scale after all.
If I had seen him in a pet store window, I would have walked on by, and not just because I think pet stores should be illegal, but because he wasn’t my type and I certainly would not have googled or sought out chit breeders.
So how did an affirmed Schnauzer zealot end up in love with a rescued chit?
As most things in my life tend to, it happened over cocktails when I engaged in a deep conversation with a well-connected animal-rights activist. I mentioned that I was in the market for a second dog and had a deposit down at the same breeder where my current Schnauzer was from. She asked why I didn’t adopt (not in a judgy way), and I told her that I had tried. I constantly filled out paperwork, gave references, and never so much as got a follow-up call. The process was daunting, if not impossible.
She asked what I was looking for, and I told her a young dog or puppy in the terrier family. She said she’d call me the following day.
At noon, I was picking up my first foster, a Yorkie mix, who we called Daphniss. She was a sweetheart (around people) and loved nothing more than to sit on a lap and be pet. She snuggled up to my husband and nestled herself in his heart, but our schnauzer Perri was not a fan – a big problem considering the whole reason I wanted a second dog was for her to have a playmate. I found Daphniss a home with a single woman who had no other pets. They were, and are, a match made in heaven. It felt good to do good.
My husband was devastated (he cried), but I knew it was the right move for Daphnis and my household. After that, we were in good with a rescue organization called Waggytail Rescue. My friend vouched for me, and we did a bang-up job getting Daphnis cleaned up and re-homed. When the next crew of dogs to be fostered arrived in NYC, this time from Texas, we picked up Thomas on an NYC street corner and carried him back to our apartment.
He came in, saw Perri and it was quite literally best friendship at first sight. They began to play games that we have now named, and they continue to play them some three years later.
Whether we would keep him was never a question.
Before becoming involved in animal rescue, I thought I did my part: I donated all of my speaking fees to the NJ Schnauzer Rescue Fund. I volunteered at ASPCA walking and socializing dogs too.
Now I know that wasn’t enough.
As long as there are dogs in shelters or walking the streets, I can’t justify ‘buying’ a pet. I also know that I can still always have a Schnauzer, as there are so many purebreds that need homes.
Every community has an [insert breed] rescue group on social media, and Petfinder is a catalog of adoptable pets in every size, shape and breed that will even send you a daily email alert to your favorites. There’s simply no excuse not to do better, when we all can.
The statistics should give every animal lover paws (get it?). About 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters
I became a volunteer with Waggytail Rescue, and fostered again (knowing that two pets is the limit given our current NYC apartment living situation) and have seen many puppies and dogs find new homes. I even recognize many of them around our neighborhood, and so do Perri and Thomas!
Many people will tell you that fostering and rescuing pets is hard work, but super rewarding.
Thomas required no work and was all reward. The dividends keep coming. He assimilated seamlessly to our household and our ways. I realize I got lucky as many dogs are traumatized and need some extra help to learn to trust.
I still don’t identify as an activist in any way, but loving and caring Thomas has taught me that it is OK to challenge beliefs about myself – especially when and if those beliefs get in the way of the greater good. Love is love.
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer in New York. She lives with her husband, David, their miniature schnauzer Perri Winkle Blu and their Chit Thomas Jo (pictured above), and their two human sons, Teddy and Evan. She is working on a novel loosely based on her own family.