When my husband and I decided to welcome a dog into our home a few years ago, there was no question that we would use a rescue group to help match us with a furry friend. A professional dog trainer we know, Lisa Birkenstock, highly recommended Almost Home Dog Rescue to us. She also asked me a question that I found unusual. She asked, “Would you consider a black dog?” I was perplexed, as the color of a dog’s fur was never a decision-making point for me. When I asked her why she would ask me that, she then educated me about Black Dog Syndrome. I was stunned. I had no idea that black dogs and cats were more often overlooked because of the color of their fur, and for ridiculous and unsubstantiated reasons. I was grateful to have been enlightened and told my husband that we needed to search the Almost Home website for a black dog.
The second I saw a black female Labrador Retriever mix named Samantha on the website, I knew she had to be mine. Not only was she listed as a bigger pup at 55 lbs, but in the photo it looked like she had some discoloring in her coat. When I showed my husband her photo, he asked, “Why pick her?” With all that info about Black Dog Syndrome fresh in my head, I remember responding, “Because I know nobody else will.”
We waited in anticipation for the dog transport group to arrive on an October afternoon in 2011. Out of one of the cars popped a black beauty that we thought for sure wasn’t the awkward looking mutt we fell in love with online. This dog in front of us was beautiful. We were confused when her handler gave us her leash and introduced us to the gorgeous Samantha. I felt sick to my stomach at first, thinking that something went horribly wrong. I had visions of the dog we saw on the website still languishing in the shelter. I snapped out of my despair quickly, as her handler and my husband compared the paperwork and confirmed that we indeed had the dog we wanted to bring into our hearts and home. It was in that moment that that the whole injustice of Black Dog Syndrome really hit me hard. The photogenic qualities, or lack thereof, of a dog or cat can literally be the difference between life and death.
I will never forget the first drive home with the dog we renamed Sammi. I sat in the back seat of the car with her and felt her heart pounding against my leg. I fed her some treats and spoke to her in a soothing tone and assured her that she was safe and loved.
Sammi has been a wonderful addition to our home and in our hearts. She can be high maintenance at times, but she very loving and is not stingy with kisses. She loves cheese, lying in the sun and having her hindquarters rubbed. That’s our Sammi.