I encountered an interesting question on FB—if you were creating a quiz to test the knowledge of potential puppy homes, what are some of the questions you would include?
There were many excellent answers offered: questions about breed history, training, nutrition, exercise, management, behavior…
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would not quiz about knowledge. One does not need to start with a great deal of knowledge to be a great owner, and all the knowledge that is required can be easily acquired. Some of the most “knowledgeable” people are among the last to whom I would give a puppy. And it is often those who have a little knowledge who are least open to learning and growing.
If you are seeking to acquire an animal from me, I want to know if you are committed, dedicated, devoted. I want to know if you will reshape your life to accommodate an animal. I want to know if you will stay up all night to comfort a frightened puppy. I want to know if 15 years from now you will sleep on the floor every night to be with your old friend. I want to know what you will do if ten years from now you are offered a great job in a location where you cannot take your dog. I want to know if you will give your time and your heart to this animal. I want to know if you are genuinely open to listening, to learning, from others, from books, from your animal; and that you will remain open and critical to new ideas and opinions and will always strive to improve and grow. I want to know if you will laugh and cry and cuddle. I want to know if you will make a fool of yourself to make him happy; if you will see his innocence even when he is destroying your favorite possession, and his beauty even when he is vomiting on your carpet. I want to know that you will try to see the world from his perspective. I want to know that you are willing and able to make the hard decisions to do what is best for your animal, even when it is not easy or is not what feels best for you. I want to know what kind of leader you are, whether you relate through intimidation, coercion, supplication, or shared trust. I want to know how you will handle the hard days, the failures, the heartbreaks. I want to know that you have genuinely thought about these issues, not to give me the best answers, but to be certain in your own heart that you are ready and open to completely sharing your life with an animal, and to wherever that path may take you.
For me, these core attributes and aptitudes are what matter—if they are in place, knowledge will easily and surely come, if not all the knowledge in the world will not help….