This is the final post in a series about how my recent search for the perfect pup perpetuted an intellectual penetration into the hidden and varied economics of the marketplace for dogs and puppies in the different regions of the west coast. If you’re joining this series in progress, you may want to catch up by reading Dogonomics and SuperDogonomics first.
To Buy a Dog
When the market offerings are thin, and the prices of dependable supplies of the breed you want are super-expensive, you can do a few things. You can head to another state. You can try to get a dog through the friends-of-friends network. Or, you can become a Craigslist sniper.
I opened tabs for each and every humane society and animal shelter within day-trip distance. I opened tabs for the five Craigslist sub-sites for western Oregon. I stuck them all on my secondary screen, and I refreshed them every hour (okay, fine, every fifteen minutes or so). Every time I found a lab mix, I sent an email, made a phone call, or sent up smoke signals. I didn’t get anywhere with any of them—even thirty minutes after a listing was too late. The dogs just kept disappearing as fast as they came on the market.
And then, I got lucky. Appropriately enough, it happened the day after I wrote the first Dogonomics post. I happened to refresh the local animal shelter’s page a minute after their daily update, and there, starting me in the face, was a gorgeous, smiling, six-month-old shep/lab mix. All black, with little white patches on her chest, and all smiles.
I was on the phone in a flash, asking all the important questions. Was she cat-aggressive? No. Dog aggressive? no. Kid aggressive? No. But she was really hyper and excitable, still needed a good amount of training, and would be a handful till she made it out of her teenage years.
Excellent! Can you hold the animal for me? I have to put my car back together, and I’ll be down in an hour. A fee, you say? Five bucks? I can deal with that. Here’s my card number! Take my money! Hold that pooch!
The Last Big Obstacle
Allow me to take a moment to pass on some hard-won advice:
Don’t work on any delicate mechanical apparatus when you’re excited. You might do something stupid, such as overtightening a themostat housing unevenly, and shattering said thermostat housing, and then realizing that thermostat housings aren’t made by aftermarket parts dealers for your car, so calling the nearest dealership (which happens to be across the street from the animal shelter a couple dozen miles away) only to find out that they have to order the part from a factory and you won’t actually be able to drive anywhere for a week.
Not that I’d have any first-hand experience with anything like that, mind you. But it’s still a good piece of advice.
Anyway, for reasons—ahem—unrelated to the entirely theoretical mishap described above, I had to wait a day, and borrow a car, and go meet her.
Turns out, she was exactly as described. Total sweetheart, total handful, still very much a teenager.
She lives on the sofa now. She has her spot. She loves the beach, her ball, and the fact that we all chill out in the evenings writing and editing audio and scritching her ears.
So did I learn from this ridiculous adventure?
- You Can’t Escape Market Forces
Market forces really are like weather. Just like weather emerges anywhere you have atmosphere and geography, market forces emerge anywhere you have people with dissimilar resources. They govern governments, groceries, fuels, pets, dating, technology, music, books, religions, fashions, movies, you name it. Anytime one person has something another person wants, there will be a market, and that market will shape what happens.
- Market Forces Are Neither Friend Nor Foe
Just like the wind can blow your way or blow against you, but doesn’t really give a damn about you, the market can blow easy in your direction or blow all kinds of difficulty against you. Don’t take it personally. If you take it personally, you might miss the opportunities that come around while you’re busy being pissed off. Because, just as sailors can tack against the wind and still get where they want to go…
- As A Consumer, You Can Hack The Market
Any market. There are always opportunities, even when your situation is “hopeless.” You just have to decide beforehand what you’re not willing to pay (in terms of time, money, or effort), and recognize that as your price ceiling. Your price ceiling is like your vote–it’s a signal of participation that makes very little difference on its own, but in aggregate it creates the very weather you’re trying to navigate. If what you want is important enough to you, there are ways to get it, no matter what it is. All you have to be willing to do is…
- Apply Your Creativity
Creativity is the secret sauce that lets you bend markets to your will. It won’t usually be easy. It might not even be a small matter. Just like this dog search swallowed up two months of my life, your quest for that perfect collectible, or car, or job might swallow up gobs of effort and time. But, if the thing you want is worth that much to you, it will be time and effort and money well-spent. And, along the way, you’ll get enough of an education that you might begin to spot another sort of opportunity…
- Pissed-off Consumers Create The Next Market
I’ve learned enough about the dog market in the Northwest that I started seriously considering going into breeding for the breeds for which there is an undersupply. The market for gun dog breeds is seriously underserved up here, and there is an excellent business to be created breeding and training companion animals for family pets. It’s a capital-intensive endeavor, and I don’t think it’s where my heart lies, so I might not have it in me to make that business into the market-disruptor that it oughta be (the opportunity for market-disruption is seriously good in this sector right now), but if I were such a person, I could make a serious difference in the lives of thousands (or maybe hundreds of thousands) of people in the Greater Northwest, and make a good living in the bargain. If you are such a person, feel free to crib my idea. It’ll be years before I give it a go, if I ever do at all, and such opportunities are, by their nature, transitory. Carpe Diem!
- Obvious Tricks Really Can Work
After all the devious strategies that flitted across my mind, the easiest one turned out to be the one that worked: Ebay-style sniping. A monkey could to it, and it turns out I was just the right monkey to do it. Don’t discount an obvious solution just because it’s obvious.
- If You Want It That Badly, You Can Probably Have It
This one isn’t a “truth of the ages.” If you’re a human living in most places at most times in history, this is manifestly not true. However, if you’re lucky enough to live in an age of relative abundance and in a place where you have access to it, then it’s probably true that if you want it badly enough, you can get your hands on it. If you can’t lay your hands on it, it’s worth considering the notion that you might not want it as much as you think you do. Which brings us to the final, perhaps uncomfortable, truth made apparent by this whole adventure…
- Learning And Determination Are The Great Levelers
Not a day went by in my entire search where I didn’t learn something new about dogs, dog breeds, or the dog market. Sometimes the learning was formal—reading books, watching documentaries, watching how-to-train videos—and sometimes it was informal and osmotic. Education makes everything easier to navigate. This is true even in the midst of deprivation and scarcity. The better you understand things, the better you will spot opportunities. The more determined you are, the harder you will work at learning, at trying things, and learn from failure when those things don’t work. In the long run, it’s those that are willing to learn from mis-steps (whether their own mis-steps or the mis-steps of others) that forge ahead into new territory.
At the end of this great adventure, I wound up with exactly what I wanted: a young and trainable dog to round out the family.
Which means that I’m in for a whole new kind of education in the school of hard knocks: Managing a hyper teenage dog who has several hundred pounds of pulling power. I’m betting, though, that my hyperdogonomics course isn’t going to be nearly as tortuous or frustrating as my initial foray into Dogonomics.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we’re calling her “Trixie.” She’s got a personality that’s very reminiscent of “Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective” from Greg Taylor’s excellent Black Jack Justice series of books and radio dramas.