Two rescue dogs—but only one of them grabs attention.
I walk the park with my light-colored Husky mix and my black and white Border Collie. Inevitably, the Husky makes heads turn. People will stop in their tracks and gush over how beautiful she is—ogling at her white mask and gold eyelashes. Kids point, “Look, a Husky! A Husky!” Adults reminisce about their first Malamute, and gawking people in cars honk their horns as they wiz by.
I smile politely, but turn to my big black dog and give him a wink.
After the petting party is over and the age thing has been discussed, we move on. But, not before a parting gift. We get an extra hug for my cream and tan dog. They tell me that she’s soooo pretty and give a longer than normal gaze back at her, not watching where they are going as they turn to leave. Then they usually snap out of it, and say, “Uh...and that one’s cute, too.”
It’s a sad fact that approximately 4 million dogs (and cats) are euthanized every year. The black ones are first in line. When a black dog enters a shelter, it’s usually a death sentence. Due to the overwhelming and unfair assessment of black dogs, there’s a term called The Big Black Dog Syndrome (BBDS)—well known to rescue organizations, but not always taken seriously by the general public—most likely, because people don’t realize the severity of the problem.
Common big black dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Chows, or Newfoundlands—or any such black-like-mixes—are most difficult to adopt out, resulting in an abundance of unwanted hopefuls. Overpopulation is a tragedy. There are just not enough responsible homes for these deserving, innocent animals. Canines with black coats are often discriminated against because of their appearance.
Theories why black dogs are most difficult to place:
They don’t show up well in kennels to distinguish their best features.
People fear them. Whether they admit it or not, a person’s body language changes at the sight of a black dog, especially if the dog is excitable. Because they’re darker in color, their expressions may be more difficult to decipher.
Their teeth look whiter. Because of the contrast with their coat, they appear more menacing.
Magnitude. Because of the mere volume of black dogs, people don’t pay much attention to them.
Superstition revolves around the color black. The subliminal ‘black is evil’ is just not true for dogs.
Think: Classic Black, Black is Beautiful, Black: Always In Style.
While there’s an undeniable stigma attached to black dogs, and we can do something about it. With increase awareness, we will help wipe out BBDS.
Creative Ways Shelters can showcase black dogs:
1. Make their space approachable and illuminated.
Avoid clustering all black dogs in one row by alternating kennels with other colored dogs. Keep clean, comfortable bedding and toys in view to present a fun, friendly environment. Take them out of their crates so they get noticed. Show off good traits by teaching them polite tricks like a “bow” or a “sit.” Highlight the beauty of their nature to provide better chances of adoption.
2. Feed them quality foods and keep them well-groomed.
Bathe and brush dogs often to keep their coats lustrous. People won’t see beauty if it’s hidden behind matted fur and dull eyes.
3. Take exceptional photographs.
Hire a professional photographer who believes in the cause and wants to make a difference for animals. Make certain the shots are well lit and the dog is against a contrasting background. A three quarter profile is much more clear than a full face. Use discernment with selected focus, angles and perspective photos. Avoid busy backgrounds or clumsy Photoshop techniques. Great images make for ideal posters, bulletin posts, and social media channels.
Capture images that resonate. When a dog has a happy face with their ears perked or tongue out, they are more likely to get noticed. If they have a ball in their mouth, or a bright toy next to them, they are most memorable. Personality videos are always a hit.
4. Post compelling bio and back stories.
Every dog has a story. A dog’s profile should include the stunning characteristics of the breed. The more potential adopters know about the breed, the closer they are to saving their next dog. Knowledge is power for interested pet parents. Hire a professional copywriter who’s vested in the cause and who’s trained to write dog bios that work hard to reach targeted audiences. Finding forever, loving homes is the goal—good writing is worth the investment.
5. Give them a chance to shine.
Accessorize black dogs with colorful scarfs, collars, or coats. Orange, blue, yellow, and hot pink shades show well, as do fancy stones or beaded leashes for visit day. Black dogs are the perfect complement to Halloween costumes, winter backgrounds, bright red blankets, and patriotic American flags.
Fashion forward thinkers who hold a special place in their hearts for dogs, are willing to take a stand to overcome the stigma by introducing new merchandise that looks great on black dogs. They design bright apparel and accessaries that show off our companions.
6. Honor all dogs with an interesting name.
When naming a black dog, make it cool. “Jellybean” is a fun example. This unexpected black kitten name is playful and denotes sweetness, not midnight or looming darkness. Choose a name people will never forget. (Make sure it’s enjoyable to the dogs ears too.)
Significant black dogs in history:
“Petey”: American Staffordshire Terrier, TV original “Little Rascals”
“Mother Teresa”: Newfoundland, Movie “Must Love Dogs”
“Bo”: Portuguese Water Dog, President Barak Obama’s family dog
October 1, 2015 is “National (Big) Black dog Day.” Please join me as I celebrate the underdog on this real and important holiday. Never overlook a big black dog when you visit a shelter or rescue group. Pay close attention to all deserving black animals (dogs or cats) waiting to be noticed. Please find it in your heart to bring them into your home.
Thank you for considering adoption when searching for your next forever friend.
Christina Bournias resides in Michigan with her 3-pack; three new beautiful adopted miracles. As her “Angelwriter”, Nicodemus (1997-2010) is the wisdom behind the stories she shares. Christina champions the magnitude of building the bond between a dog and their person(s) by means of respectful communication and enduring admiration.
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2015 © !woof Nicodemus™
September, 2015: American Pet Magazine | V4 Issue3, Page 6,7