The new dog park opened in my neighborhood. It is a small enclosure made almost completely on donated funds. It has a chain link fence around it to keep the dogs from running off of the premises. My friend and her husband went and collected all the fencing from some abandoned project and transported it in their own vehicle back to my neighborhood, where other volunteers helped them install it. I think community projects are so much better when the community makes them themselves, don't you? Along with the fencing, is a post with potty baggies, to encourage owners to pick up after their canine friends and a local phone. Cell phones don't work in our area, so the local phone was thought to be a good safety measure. After all, what if one dog attacks another? Or a person?

My own dog would not have been a good candidate for a dog park. She liked people on occasion but was not very fond of other dogs. My friend's pit bull is even more predictable. He hates all other dogs. He likes most people though. The dogs who arrived at the opening ceremony were various breeds and sizes. The largest dog there was a calm looking golden retriever with a permanent smile on his doggy face. The smallest dog there was a tiny Chihuahua, looking for a new home. The Chihuahua, named Moby, had been recently rescued.

Moby had been found in the home of a "hoarder." I sincerely believe it is a mental disease, without cure, that makes well meaning people take in too many dogs, cats or other animals. Talk to these people in person and they appear oblivious to the suffering of the animals in their care. The animals are usually stuffed in cages, rent with open sores, starving, with matted hair. Recently a couple was found guilty of doing it to horses. They had so many horses crammed on their property that horses were tripping over horse carcasses stacked in the back. Usually such people are shut down in one area, but quietly move on to another small town and start hoarding again.

In Moby's case a cache of 35 small dogs were found in the home. Poor Moby had been without water for so long he had been reduced to drinking his own urine. Animal control took most of the dogs, Moby and one other were in such bad shape they would have been euthanized if they hadn't been rescued. The foster caretaker had socialized Moby wonderfully. He would have gone home with me that day if I were in a position to take a dog. His cohort was still being worked on for health issues. Apparently the originally owner fancied herself a breeder and went looking for hapless Chihuahuas in dog pounds and animal shelters. She would take them home and breed them, keeping them ill fed and ill housed in cages in her house.

In my neighborhood several "cat ladies" have also been discovered. There seems to be more women who do it that men. Education level varies. One I knew was a successful writer, an articulate interesting woman. I saw her often leaving the local grocery with large bags of cat litter. It wasn't until after her death that I learned she had been hoarding them, maybe 50, in her small mountain cabin. Like others with this strange affliction, she ruefully believed if she didn't care for the animals no one would. It would have been lost on her that the animals were suffering.

I think it's important to have an animal match your personality. If you like to run a couple miles a day a spirited dog, like a Dalmatian is just thing for you. My pit bull friend just isn't into running. He's happy enough to take a small walk with me, but when he's done, he's done. He's too heavy for me to carry back to the car, so I have no choice but to oblige. Nonetheless, if I were to live in the city again, a pitbull is a useful choice for a single lady. They generally like people, and are protective. They are smaller, thus cheaper to feed than an Akita, and don't have the same dominance issues. An Akita is looking for a strong pack leader, as are many of the Nordic wolfish dogs. Yes, they look so pretty, but they want a firm hand.

If you want a breed that's good with kids look to the herding breeds. A shepherd will keep track of your kids and make sure they don't wander into the street. They like making sure everyone is where they belong, it's what the breed was created for. Some of the shepherd breeds got so popular and over bred they started to have problems: German shepherds often have hip dysplasia and I am convinced the breed is not as smart as it used to be. Border collies, smaller and more commonly black and white than their "Lassie-like" cousin, benefited from being less popular. I think the breed has retained its original intelligence, and is one of the smarter dogs around. Australian heelers are another breed meant for herding that has gotten popular of late. I would agree they can be good family dogs, but they struck me as more hyperactive than either of the collie types.

A large collie or a long haired shepherd requires a commitment to brushing. The hair can quickly get matted into dreadlocks if you don't. My wolf mix dog had less hair but still needed a daily brushing. If you don't want hair all over the place you can chose a non-shedding breed such as a poodle. They are very intelligent and the smaller poodles live a long time. An Airedale is a non-shedding protective dog which will be happy enough to accompany you on your daily jog or equally willing to become a couch potato if you don't like to go out much. This large breed often does police work and seems less inclined to hip dysplasia.