Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BLACK: The Hot Color This Season

Little black dress in the closet, check. Sleek, black BMW in the driveway, check. Black dog or cat to make the family complete, OMG, no way! Tragically, being born black is the kiss of death for many adoptable dogs and cats. Black pets are euthanized more than any others, they linger in shelters more than any others, and they are the last to be adopted from rescue organizations, like Planned Pethood. Planned Pethood volunteer, Colleen, has one of the toughest jobs in the rescue world. She heads to the pound weekly to determine which dogs are adoptable and which are not.

Poor Colleen has shed many a tear and spent many a sleepless night resulting from her life and death decisions. She has sent frantic emails in search of just one more foster. We call them DRD’s (death row dogs). The pound Colleen frequents has euthanasia scheduled for Fridays. When they get enough dogs to fire up the incinerator, the dogs go down. In most cases if we cannot get them out of there by Friday, it is over for perfectly adoptable canines. I know this is not a very appealing picture but it is something people need to know is reality. In this life and death roulette, black dogs are the ones who lose most often. So let’s focus instead and celebrate the minority of black success stories.

A sweet lab mix we named Lena defied the odds- big time. This poor girl had a myriad of strikes against her. Here is the list: number one she was black, she looked like she had some pit bull in her (which isn't a big deal to us but it is to some), she was limping on her back leg, and she had some hair loss. Lena was for sure going to be put down pronto if we did not get her out of there. But she had one huge positive going for her: she had the BEST nature of any dog.

After busting her out of jail, I took her to one of the Planned Pethood vets who gave us some pretty devastating news. The bones in her back leg had been crushed and it would have to be amputated. This sweet and gentle dog had been in horrific pain for at least 4 months. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, it got worse. Lena was also diagnosed with ringworm (a fungus). Despite all of these obstacles, after Lena’s ringworm was cleared up, she was spayed, and had her leg removed, Lena found a phenomenal home where her sunny nature is still brightening up her family’s days.

Any discussion of black dogs from the pound would not be complete without telling Ernie’s story. Colleen discovered a black lab who would be put down if he remained at the pound past Friday. I was flabbergasted when I met Ernie. He was one of the most stunningly beautiful dogs I had ever encountered.

He weighed 100 lbs. and was not yet one year old and had a head as big as a TV. I laugh now about my days of fostering Ernie but it was not so funny at the time. He would NOT tolerate a crate. When I came home, he was out roaming in the house. He had not just escaped the crate, he bent the bars down. Okay-Okay- we went to plan B: confine Ernie to a bedroom.

As I walked down the street that hot summer day, my neighbors were hollering, “Hey Judy, here comes a big black dog behind you”. I turned to discover, he had busted out the screen and leaped out the window to follow me. When I took the screen in to be repaired, I took Ernie with me. Let’s face it, there was no leaving him alone. I was quickly surrounded by 6 grown men all ooooing and aaahing over the dog. I kept hearing “I wish my wife would let me adopt him”. No one seemed to notice the ruined screen in my other hand. Happily, the big guy found his forever family who live on a lake and have two golden retrievers as his running companions. Last I heard he ate a piano leg and he is still not in a crate.

But families are sadly all too often hooked by looks, not personality.

And it is not only black dogs who get passed over. Black cats and kittens have the odds stacked against them too. Last summer I fostered a litter of kittens, all with names beginning with the letter “C”. I never called them by their names because I could never tell which one was which. The blacks were with me for months, growing up in foster care. They had the best, most affectionate nature. But families are sadly all too often hooked by looks, not personality.

YoYo has beaten the odds and survived a horrific start in life.
The only kitty harder to adopt out than a black kitten is a BIG black kitten. Just when I despaired of the last kittens getting adopted, along came Debra. She is a twenty something from Ann Arbor, met and formed an inseparable connection with Cierra. And what a home it is! She described how her boyfriend installed cabinets near the ceiling so the cats had tunnels to run through. Then she sent me pics of Cierra, now Miss Beast (due to her rambunctious nature) in the cat stroller. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a stroller for cats. She said her kitties all vie to be the first out the door. Even though she has relocated to Colorado, Debra and Miss Beast are our regular correspondents.

When it comes time to adopt a new family member, please keep your minds and hearts open. Planned Pethood gets the message loud and clear. They recently sponsored a mega adoption event in which all black dogs’ adoption fees were reduced to $5 to add a little incentive to adopting an ebony friend. Please note the standards for adoption were not reduced. My love and respect goes out to all of the Colleens and Debras out there who are doing their part. My own pack now includes two DRD’s, one of whom is black, Stanley and Ida.
by Judy Szewczak


To learn more about what is called Black Dog Syndrome click here.

All of Planned Pethood's pets are up to date on age-appropriate shots and flea and heartworm prevention before being offered for adoption. In addition, Planned Pethood's policy is to treat all medical ailments, regardless of cost, unless the treating vet feels there is nothing more that can be done. We do not refuse treatment to our animals based on cost of treatment or on the age of the animal.  When we take in a dog or cat, we take that commitment seriously.


  1. Great blog! I have a black Boxer and two black cats- love them! No discrimination against black fur in our household!

  2. My black kitty I adopted thru Planned Pethood brings more joy to my life than I ever imagined possible. If she were a human, she would easily be one of the kindest people I've ever known. She's not as easy to photograph as her tabby brother (he's pretty awesome too!) but she is gorgeous in person.
    Two years later, I still cannot find the words to express my gratitude for the volunteers at Planned Pethood for there help in putting my pets and me together.
    Black pets rock!

  3. Thanks for the story Judy! This is so sad. It really makes me want to go out and find a black friend to adopt!! -Christine Swan

  4. Over the years my most faithful pet has been my black cat Niles. She was a stray who was found discarded along the highway. Seventeen years later she's still queen of the house.

    Michael B