Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet

This week is’s “Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet” campaign. To aid in the effort, I’d like to share a story that brings to light the Black Dog Syndrome (this applies to cats, too). It was featured in Lost Souls: Found! Inspiring Stories About Great Danes:

A beautiful, big, black dog whom anyone would be lucky to adopt

A year ago I was content with my two teenage boys and two cats. I live in a tiny house, and we are always on the go; I couldn’t possibly handle a dog. I knew I would have another Great Dane someday, like I had 10 years earlier, but not for at least a few years. But then one of my well-meaning friends sent me a link to a Great Dane breeder, and I thought, “Well, maybe I could have a dog now—just not a puppy.” A very quick internet search introduced me to Upper Midwest Great Dane Rescue (UMGDR), and life immediately took an unexpected turn.

The UMGDR website is like internet dog dating, and I fell in love with a classic fawn Dane named Maverick. I filled out an application for him, sent in my fee, and scheduled the required home inspection. A volunteer brought her four-year-old black foster dog, Harley, with her when she came for the visit. This dog made me smile as I watched him lumber out of her car and up my steps, and I quickly forgot about Maverick.

Harley walked into my home, gave me a Great Dane lean, and then climbed onto the couch where my 15-year-old son was lying. In my heart he became part of our family at that moment, and before the meeting was over, he had “hugged” all of us. The only problem was that I was already “dating” Maverick, and Harley had his own date scheduled with someone else for later that same day. Dating can be tricky, but as they say, it’s a timing thing. Before I met Maverick in person, I found out there was no chemistry between Harley and the family he met later that day, so he was fair game, and I, too, was technically available.

A few days later we were approved to adopt, and I was ready to take the plunge. We picked Harley up the week before Christmas, and one of the first things we did was change his name. His human baby sister’s name is Hailey, and after we brought Harley home, we kept calling her Harley, too. The poor girl was going to need therapy before she even learned to walk!

Before Burly, I never knew about the big black dog conspiracy, also known as “black dog syndrome.” According to the UMGDR website, the first dogs to get euthanized at shelters and pounds are the big black ones because they take up so much room and are overlooked by potential adopters due to the usual dim shelter lighting. If Burly had landed at a shelter, that might have been his fate, but luckily he just ended up at UMGDR in foster care for a few months.

It’s true that many people we meet on our walks are terrified I won’t be able to control my gentle giant, and many have to muster all their courage to reach out and pet this beautiful dog. But anyone who stops and takes a moment to get to know Burly walks away convinced that he is one sweet dog. And any difficulties I associate with owning a giant dog melt away when my 130-pound lap dog cuddles up with me on the couch.

I will be a Great Dane owner for life, and after learning about the big, black dog conspiracy, I will always adopt black ones. A volunteer at UMGDR came up with these top five reasons to adopt a big, black dog, and I completely agree:

5. Owning a big black dog makes you look thinner.

4. Big black dogs are easy to find in the snow.

3. They turn into ninjas when intruders enter your home at night.

2. They’re the perfect accessory—black goes with everything, so your dog will never clash with your outfit.

1. Black dogs will always be the “hide and seek” champion.

By Cheryl Aarsvold

So if you’re in the market for a new pet, why not consider a black one? A great place to start is your local shelter, as that is usually where they are in the most danger of euthanization. However, you might also look on, where shelters and rescues list their adoptable pets.

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