Sometimes, people who don't have pets have a hard time understanding that animals have distinct personalities. But every pet I've ever had has been different in its own wonderful way.
When I was a kid, our two cockapoos were different as night and day, even though they were sisters from the same litter.
One was affable, easy-going and ate anything you put in front of her. Her sister was aloof, high-strung and a picky eater.
They taught me that beauty truly is only skin deep, because the affable one was homely (she even had buck teeth) while the aloof one was pretty.
Even the cockatiels I shared my home with had different personalities. And that kind of surprised me because for some reason I didn't think birds would.
Realizing pets have dis
tinct personalities comes in handy when you bring a new pet into the home. If you expect the "new cat" to act like the "old cat," you are setting yourself up for a rude awakening.
This has all been brought back home to me with the recent addition of my new dog, Arlo, who I got in December as a playmate for Ella and as a new snuggle-bug for me.
I wasn't sure how Ella would take to him, and I didn't know if he would want to be friends with Ella. Luckily, they are now fast friends who snuggle and play morning, noon and night.
Which is wonderful, except when they start wrestling on the bed ... while I'm still in it!
Arlo is crated when I am away from home, and I was glad to find that he does not whine or bark when I come in the house. Even after a four-hour stint at work.
While Ella was crated, she would whine and cry as soon as she heard my key in the door, but Arlo sits in his "little house" wagging his tail and waiting patiently for me to let him out.
Of course, then he goes nuts, but he waits until he's out of the crate to do it.
Another surprise came at the vet's office.
When I took him to get his county tag and leptosporosis vaccine, all the staff at Bayshore Animal Hospital was anxious to meet the new doggie. They thought he was adorable ... until he opened his mouth.
He whined, he barked, he wiggled, he "spun his wheels" on the vinyl floor.
He was a brat. I was mortified.
Finally, half in desperation and half in defense, I said, "I don't know what to tell you. I'm so used to having well-behaved dogs."
And they all said, practically in unison, "We know!"
Knowing that pets are like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates, ("You never know what you're going to get."), I think your best bet is to adopt a foster dog or cat.
The family that's fostered the pet can tell you a lot about him. For instance, Arlo's foster mom told me he's a leaper and almost climbed her horizontal privacy fence one day in pursuit of a squirrel. So I keep an eye on him when he's in the yard, especially in the morning when the squirrels seem to be the most active.
(That still didn't keep him from escaping through a gap where the fences meet behind the shed, but that's another story. Let's just say I'm glad chicken wire isn't real expensive.)
She also told me he did well in the crate, and he liked her kitties. (Squirrels are another matter.)
Unfortunately, she did not tell me he was a brat at the vet's office because she hadn't taken him there.
Ella's foster mom told me she loved other dogs, and that is certainly true. She fell in love with the neighbor dog, J.J., and was morose when he moved away.
I think you definitely have an advantage when you adopt a foster pet, and that's why it's so important for a community to have a strong network of foster homes. Animal Services has a foster program, as do most of the rescues.
So if you're thinking about getting a pet, please consider adopting rather than buying, and open your home and your heart to a foster pet. As a bonus, you will be helping Manatee County achieve its goal of becoming a no-kill community.
M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054 and followed on Twitter @BradentonPets