Last week, StubbyDog.org asked on its Facebook page and in a Tweet: What did you get your dog as a holiday gift?
The responses included plenty of the usual goodies: Kongs, bully sticks, blankets and sweaters, and homemade treats.
Among the more inventive gifts were a stuffed Lamb Chop because their dog has a thing for lamb-shaped toys; a play date with some cousin dogs; a stamp card for walks (after so many punches, the human got to revert to their lazy self); a bag of carrots (!); and "dog beer," snacks made out of barley and shaped like beer bottles.
So what did I get Ella for Christmas? Just one thing, but it's quite spe
cial: a playmate.
Ella's always been playful and she and Reba didn't really play because Reba was 13 when Ella moved in with us. So I knew after Reba died that a playmate was in Ella's future.
I've heard more than one person say you should wait six months before getting another dog, but frankly I think that's bunk. My ex wanted to wait six months after our shepherd-Lab died, but about a month later Reba started running away from her house and coming over to ours, and it ended up being only five weeks before we got another dog.
So what's the right time frame? The only "right time" is what's right for you and your pet.
If your dog or cat doesn't get along real well with others, you might not want to get another pet at all. But if your pet is playful and loves others, then go for it. Your pet will help tell you when it's time.
I think dogs especially enjoy the companionship of other dogs; they are pack animals, after all.
So in mid-December, I decided the time was right. Ella was moping and seemed a bit lonely out in the yard playing all by herself.
One evening when I arrived to help train dogs with the Pit Crew at Animal Services, I ran into Kris Weiskopf, chief of AS, and mentioned to him I was going to be bringing Ella over to pick out a playmate.
He told me all dogs in the shelter for 60 days or more were free, except for the county tag fee. That interested me a lot because I know dogs can suffer from shelter stress.
He also gave me some great advice: go to Petfinder.com and pick out some dogs beforehand because the information on the dog would include the intake date.
So the following week, I took Ella to AS in Palmetto armed with a list of dogs.
The staff there made it real easy for us. I handed the list over and the friendly shelter worker, George, took us to the kennels to find out which ones were available.
One of the dogs was at the vet getting fixed, and one of the dogs was at the downtown adoption center. But the first one on the list, who had been at the shelter since July, was ready, willing and able to meet us. George directed us to a play yard and went to retrieve Sundance.
As soon as they came out through the door, I knew it wasn't right. Sundance was BIG, about 65 pounds George said, and Ella and I both said, "Nope. Sorry."
The next dog was too big, too, and I was starting to lose heart. Then I asked for a dog from pit row, a small brindle I knew was young and frisky.
I had a lot of hope for this one, but the problem with her was she knew me and tried to get in my lap and Ella was having none of that!
The last dog on my list was at the downtown center, so I thanked George for being so patient with us and hit the road for Bradenton. I hadn't visited the downtown adoption center, so I looked forward to seeing if they had Ella's playmate there.
Cheryl and Meaghan were there that day and were more than happy to help us. The dog on my list was brought out, and guess what. He was too big. Rats.
Meaghan offered to watch Ella while I went through the kennels to see if there was anybody else we might like. There was plenty of nice dogs there, but not one of them was the right size.
I began to feel like Goldilocks, searching for one that was "just right."
All was not a total loss, though, because I learned something that day.
I had never "gone shopping" for a dog. My dogs seem to find me, so this was a learning experience.
I had thought taking Ella along would be a good idea, but frankly, she did not enjoy the experience.
I had thought it would be better for her to meet a dog on neutral ground, but actually she is way more protective of me out in public while on a leash.
For some folks, and for some dogs, this would definitely be the way to go. For us, it was not.
The search would continue, and our patience would be rewarded.
Next week: the unexpected pittie party.
M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054. Follow on Twitter @BradentonPets.