My dog's name is ironic. Actually, that's how I learned that word.
"Nice dog," someone would say. "What's his name?"
"Snowman," I'd say while beaming at the black dog. "It's ironic."
The truth is, anyone who said that my dog was a "nice dog" was really just a nice person. He was horrible.
I was in third grade with a border collie mix who knew not only that he was a heck of a lot stronger than me, he was a heck of a lot smarter to. We did 4-H together and he'd drag me from one tree to the next as the rest of the class heeled beautifully in a ring.
Around this time we were introduced to the gentle lead which I equate to a horse halter. It looks like a muzzle giving some ill-informed people the idea that at any moment the dog may attack. I could guide him by his snout and whenever he pulled it brought his head back to the right place.
Have you ever seen the movie Spirit? Ok. That movie. 8 year old girl. Giant dog. It didn't end well. He threw his head back in forth, ran in circles while we walked and made quite a spectacle of himself. Come to think of it, I can't really blame anyone for being distrustful of such a beast.
Eventually I gave up on the whole gentle lead thing. I still kept training him and working with him and laughing at him and loving him and thinking in general that I had the best, smartest, most beautiful dog whoever lived. And honestly- who's to say that I didn't.
The rest of the world didn't agree. Although he's ten now, he really hasn't calmed down that much. He's perfectly behaved when he wants to be and my increased body weight gives a little more resistance. We qualified for the state 4-H dog show because he decided one day he may as well cooperate.
When I'm trying to explain my dog to someone who thinks this crazy creature is unpleasant I tell them this story. Snowy chases anything that moves. Its his hearding drive- his instinct (not to mention his greatest passion in life). Anyway one day I come into the backyard to let him in and a mother and two baby possums are walking around our backyard. Snow is not chasing them or staring at them with his intent "I would chase you if I knew it would cost me in future pieces of string cheese" look. No. The babies would come within a few feet of my "untame" beast and he looked up at them curiously.
My point is this. Everyone- even crazy dogs- has a great heart. Lots of people missed the opportunity to adopt Snow from the shelter or get to know him later because they took one look at him and said, "No thank you!" But my advice is this- weather its a person, dog, elephant, or volunteer project, give them a chance. Odds are if you don't, you'll miss out on a great experience or, in my case, a best friend.