Aaron Saunders, 32, has been a selectman in the town of Ludlow for the past five years and was just reelected Monday. The Ludlow native has been too busy for a pet up until now. For the past six years, he’s had a four-hour daily commute from Ludlow to Boston for his job as chief of staff for state Senator Gale Candaras. But now he has more time on his hands after taking a job in community relations at Comcast 15 minutes from his home. Saunders adopted a dog from the MSPCA in February. Boston.com Pets talked to Saunders about the day he rescued his dog, what inspired his pet’s name, and why he chose such a controversial breed.
Boston.com Pets: Did you have pets growing up?
Saunders: I grew up in a cat family. Gracie and Sylvia. My mother had a penchant for naming our pets after World War II-era names.
Boston.com Pets: Take us back to that day at the MSPCA. What made you choose your dog?
Saunders: I was coming back from Washington from President Obama’s inauguration. We drove down with a friend. I said, you know, ‘I should do this.’ It was on a Monday in early February. I made my way out to Boston and met him and it was over.
Boston.com Pets: What is your dog’s name? What made you choose that name?
Saunders: Kingsley. It was a Wes Anderson-inspired name. I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan and this one came from “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” Bill Murray plays this sea captain and Owen Wilson plays his presumed long lost illigetimate son named Ned. In this one scene where Bill Murray and Owen Wilson have this discussion, Bill Murray deadpan answers and says, ‘Have you ever considered changing your name Kingsley?’ I found it to be absolutely hilarious and it stuck with me.
Boston.com Pets: Pit bulls can be controversial dogs. What made you choose one?
Saunders: I have friends here in town who have pit bulls and every one of them I’ve run across has this great disposition. They are fun dogs too. For a lot of what I like to do in my spare time, being outdoors, they are animals that are built to be outdoors. That aggressiveness that sometimes is associated with pit bulls, it’s not there with him and I don’t think it’s just because of a one-off. I just think it’s a great breed of dogs.
Boston.com Pets: What is Kingsley’s background?
Saunders: He was found wandering the streets of Boston in a muzzle that was about two sizes too small, missing patches of fur, it was bad for him. The MSPCA brought him in and nursed him back to health. If that was his physical condition, what kind of situation was he raised in? But if you were to spend 10 minutes with him you would think he was raised as a puppy in a sort of loving caring household with people all around.
Boston.com Pets: Tell us three fun facts about Kingsley.
Saunders: Kingsley has never found a puddle that he doesn’t want to be in. He’ll never be the first one out of bed. (I’ve tested this before on a morning I can sleep in. I’ll try to wait him out. Nothing). He’s one-quarter bichon frise. They had a DNA test done on him. But that 25 percent is all in his head because he really believes he’s a lap dog. He likes to sprawl across your lap.
Boston.com Pets: What do you like to do together?
Saunders: Being outdoors whenever possible. He has a love/hate relationship with the car. He loves getting into it and then he wants to stop everywhere. When we can’t be outside, watching the Bruins is kind of our thing.
Boston.com Pets: You have pictures of Kingsley all over your Facebook page and we noticed someone referred to you as “a dad.” Do you think of yourself more as a doting dad or best pal?
Saunders: (laughs) Much more like a best pal. I’ll refer to him as my roommate. I think the way that Kingsly carries himself, it’s much more like a roommate than anything else.
Boston.com Pets: Is Ludlow a pet-friendly town?
Saunders: Yes. I think it has a lot to do with a general disposition toward dogs. There’s a sense that the responsibility lies with the owner. Out here it is a certain mindset. A lot of my friends who grew up with dogs and are dog owners today have that understanding. It’s not so much that they care about one breed over another, it’s more of an indifference of breeds.
Boston.com Pets: What do you want people to know about pit bulls?
Saunders: As impractical as it is, I think if people who have questions had a chance to meet my dog they’d come away with a much different opionion. A lot of it comes down to being a responsible owner. And that can be said for any breed.
Boston.com Pets: Do you think being a dog owner will influence you as a selectman?
Saunders: I think it’s inevitable that any new experience anyone has is going to have an influence. I couldn’t say, ‘Well, no, it’s not going to change the way I look at anything.’ Of course it is. I know I’m bound to hear from some folks in town who have been advocating for a dog park!
Boston.com Pets: What is your advice to people thinking of adopting a rescue pet and, more specifically, adopting a pit bull?
Saunders: Do it! Especially for first time dog owners, the joy and the fulfillment that it brings to you outweighs any of the negatives and pushes out any of the trepidation that someone would have. For pit bulls, in my experience, they face even more of a challenge because of an unfair perception at times. But they are the sweetest and the most loyal dogs you can have.