Pets: The much-maligned big, black dogs and black cats are the focus of this week's Pet Photo Friday
Can you imagine a dog or cat that has a great temperament, solid health and no problems getting passed over at a shelter?
It does happen, at shelters all over the country.
There's one reason for the ongoing trend in the case of dogs: They're Big Black Dogs, or BBD, as shelter staff say. It's a sad and unfair stigma attached to canines who were born as a large-breed canine with dark fur.
This sort of thing has always puzzled me. I'm a huge fan of any dog or cat.
Because of their appearance, they are thought by some to be menacing, ill-tempered, dangerous — something to be feared. In folklore, the demonic death hound in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is depicted as a large black dog.
Some humans find it difficult to "read" the dark faces of these canines: their black coats can make it difficult for their facial expressions to shine through. Because of that, they often do not photograph well, either — ask anyone who has tried to snap a photo of a sweet face that seems to get swallowed up by darkness.
Those working in animal shelters can attest to that: posting photographs of faces that are dominated by black fur seems futile. Most of them get passed over by prospective dog adopters because the facial features appear to be nonexistent.
The idea of a happy, expressive face is what comes to mind for many when you say "dog." Of course! Seeing flop-eared, seemingly smiling open-mouthed dogs with enormous brown eyes melt most human sensibilities. How can one be afraid of that image?
There are some who find black dogs plain, uninteresting. Really?
Its not a canine's fault if they were born without the fur and markings that accentuate the awesome physical features that they all possess. It's a human fault for not recognizing those attributes.
But, dogs — typically large-breed — are the ones who pay the price. They frequently get passed over, ignored, scorned, left behind — all because of a bias that we humans have unfairly bestowed upon them. As if it's not hard enough to be a shelter dog.
Black Dog Bias, Black Dog Syndrome, BBD — whatever you call it, it's a death sentence for some dogs. It's been well documented in articles and blogs. One article in The Bark chronicles the phenomenon and one woman's mission to dispel the myth of these worthy creatures.
Sadly, cats are part of this trend, too. The unwitting mascots of Friday the 13th, we've all heard how "unlucky" it is to have a black cat pass your path, among other unfortunate effects of folklore.
Rescue groups devoted solely to black dogs and black cats exist because of this thinking. Shelters often have special events designated solely to get pets in this demographic adopted out.
We know that there are aficionados of these perfectly worthy creatures out there. To highlight how great they are, you're invited to share your photos and stories of your special pets with us.
For the next two weeks, our focus and theme of Pet Photo Friday is "Big Black Dogs and Black Cats."
Participating is easy!
Simply email a photo of your furry friend to email@example.com, at any time of the week, and be sure to give a little anecdote about what's best about them. Your photos will be included as part of a very special edition of our ongoing Pet Photo Friday feature.
Please include the animal's name, age, and city or township of residence in your email. Be sure that your photos are 1200 pixels wide and in .jpg format.
We'll put the series' photos into a slideshow, publish and promote on the next two Fridays here in the Pets section.