29 September 2008

'Black Dog Barkapalooza' Aims to Boost Adoptions of Black Dogs

Big and strong with a face radiating pure joy, Julian sweeps his tail back and forth in a fast, smooth arc, like a windshield wiper in a gully washer. But Julian, as happy a dog as you're likely to see, faces life with a couple of huge impediments. He's big. He's black. And that means he's likely to wait far longer to be adopted than a smaller, light-colored dog. In the world of animal rescue, they call this phenomenon Black Dog Syndrome.

For Julian, home for now is a dusty property at the edge of a gravel road in Celina, Texas, home base for Animal Guardians of America and its leader, Annette Lambert. "We have a lot of great dogs out here," says Lambert, "and a preponderance are black dogs, because they're so difficult to adopt out. But black doggies need homes, too."

To that end, Animal Guardians will hold a "Black Dog Barkapalooza" this Saturday at the PetSmart at 12100 Inwood Road, just north of Forest Lane in Dallas. But they realize that even with specific events and education, they face a challenge. Blame the economy, and a movement toward smaller dogs. But don't discount the black dog factor.

Black dogs are much more difficult to photograph – their eyes blend in with the color of their fur, so it's difficult for someone looking for a dog on the Internet to feel a connection, said volunteer Steve Hurst, who with wife Vicki fosters dogs that need homes.

Then there are perceptions. Big, black dogs remind many people of guard dogs. And if there's a menacing dog in a film, chances are it's black – like The Grim in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. English folklore is filled with tales of big black dogs haunting the moors and prowling graveyards.

"It's a stereotype," said Jonnie England, a longtime leader in pet rescue. Still, rescuers realize that adoption events are the best hope the dark dogs have.

Natalie and Bob Blankenship of Dallas foster two black dogs for Animal Guardians – a husky-shepherd mix named Josie, and a three-legged Belgian shepherd-chow mix named Clifford. "I think any dog, black or not, is going to get more attention when people are one-on-one with them," Mrs. Blankenship said. "That's when their personality shines. And Clifford is just a ham."

Animal Guardians have more than 40 black dogs in their care. And hopefully, Barkapalooza is when Clifford, Julian, and the others finally get new families to love them. For event details, please visit [Source: Animalguardians.com]

[Source: Dallas News]