Along with behaving beautifully in public, British dogs also seem to be extremely patient. It is very common to see them tethered outside restaurants and shops, and the dogs wait with the most heartbreakingly stoic resolve. They don’t try to greet other people or other dogs. They don’t whine or bark or pull. They just sit. And wait.
Like this little guy, waiting in Ambleside (in the Lake District):
Even the dogs here observe that “stiff upper lip.”
“‘Strange life a dog’s,’ said Jolyon suddenly: ‘The only four-footer with rudiments of altruism and a sense of God!'”
— The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I recently finished this giant, magnificent novel, and I loved the portrayal and constant presence of the family dog, Balthasar, who eventually charmed Jolyon Senior and was his constant companion in later years. The Forsyte Saga would be a great winter read, as we ready ourselves to be trapped up indoors; it’s a book to get lost in.
So, I don’t even have a dog yet, but I’ve already felt judgment from people about him or her. Crazy, right? When people ask what kind of dog I want, and when I answer that we’re planning on adopting a German shepherd, I always brace myself for this frequent reaction: “Ew, really? Why? They’re so MEAN!” It doesn’t happen every time, but it happens enough to be noticeable.
I also bridle when people express astonishment that I work with and deeply enjoy the company of pit bulls and pit mixes at the SPCA. “But they’re so vicious! I could never be around one of those.” This usually launches me into a 10-minute speech about how pits are unfairly judged and how they are some of the most cuddly, affectionate, and sweet dogs that I ever play with at the shelter.
I try not to get too riled up about it, because the fact is that people have breed biases. I have them, too (although not for the same reasons that people judge GSDs and pits; more in the, I could never live with one myself way). I also understand where some of these breed stereotypes originated. Both German shepherds and pit bulls have been misused by humans for terrible, terrible things in the past (see: Nazis in the Holocaust, Southern police forces during the Civil Rights Movement, dog baiting, and dog fighting, just to name a few). I understand where these negative reactions come from, but they are still dismaying.
It makes me want to try all the harder to raise an upstanding, well-trained, and gentle ambassador for a breed–for whatever breed we end up with. This is notably easier to do if you have a breed like a golden retriever, who are universally loved and lovable in return. But I think there really is something to be said for generous, sweet, and intelligently raised German shepherds, dobermans, rottweilers, pit bulls, chihuahuas, and terriers. They change people’s minds and break down their judgments faster than anything else.
Do you have a dog whose breed or breed mix is often unfairly judged? How do you handle it graciously?
A sweet, simple poem by Mary Oliver about when the dog runs off…
The Dog Has Run Off Again
and I should start shouting his name
and clapping my hands,
but it has been raining all night
and the narrow creek has risen
is a tawny turbulence is rushing along
over the mossy stones
is surging forward
with a sweet loopy music
and therefore I don’t want to entangle it
with my own voice
my little dog to hurry back
look the sunlight and the shadows are chasing each other
listen how the wind swirls and leaps and dives up and down
who am I to summon his hard and happy body
his four white feet that love to wheel and pedal
through the dark leaves
to come back to walk by my side, obedient.
How to Choose the Right Dog. Lindsey shares her wisdom about choosing a dog from a shelter. Decide your non-negotiables up front! This is helpful to me right now, because I’m in such a state of concentrated dog-longing that I could very well make poor, haphazard decisions based on any puppy face. (That Mutt)
The Morran Book Project. I love this. A collection of illustrations from all over the world of artist Camilla Engman’s beloved terrier, Morran, made into a beautiful little book! (Miles to Style)
Hank, Cat for Senate, Responds to Attack Ad. Hank the cat is running for Virginia Senate, but he’s been smeared by an ad campaign from the super-PAC Canines for a Feline-Free Tomorrow. Which is hilarious. (Animal Tracks)
I’ll admit that the toy group and the terrier group are my least favorite groups in the AKC system. Not that I have any personal vendetta against these dogs–I just can’t imagine myself ever living with one of them. That said, I have met some very pleasant terriers and some very enjoyable toy breeds. And my time at the SPCA has convinced me that pit bulls are totally wonderful. (Of all these dogs, I’d be most likely to take a pit home.) And you can’t deny that they are adorable. Look at those faces! That said, here are some toys and terriers I could possibly coexist with.