Breed Love

As someone who has lived with a number of dogs over the years, starting in early childhood, I've often wondered why some people seem to be more, let's say open-minded for lack of a better word, in choosing their canine companions, while others are so passionate about their chosen breed, whatever it happens to be, that no other breed will do.

Certain breed devotees seem to be especially passionate about their breed of choice.  I've noticed, for example, that Boxer, Pug, and Bulldog owners seem to be particularly devoted.  A vendor I have often worked with over the last ten years just got a Boxer puppy a few months ago.  It's her third Boxer since I've known her.  She lost the last two to cancer, (I believe mast cell, which is very prevalent in Boxers), and when I found out that she had lost the most recent one, and offered my condolences, she had initially said she didn't think she could get another dog.  But when I talked to her again a few weeks later, she said she had news:  she was getting a puppy!  When I asked her what breed, she looked a bit sheepish and said  "A Boxer.  I know it seems ridiculous to get a third one after losing two in ten years to the same disease, but I just love them so much!" 

I told her it was silly to feel that way.  Love is a powerful thing, and it's often, as the saying goes, blind.  Why we love who and what we love is sometimes difficult, even impossible, to explain.

I have friends and family members who are the same way with their chosen breeds.  My best friend, J, has had three Beagles in succession.  My aunt & uncle had a procession of Bullmastiffs.  My grandmother and grandfather had four bulldogs during my growing up years, and even after my grandfather had passed away and my grandmother was really too elderly to physically handle a dog the size and strength of a bulldog, she chose not to have a dog at all rather than choose one of another breed.  She adopted a cat instead. 

I personally have never been all that invested in one specific breed of dog.  Growing up, from early childhood until college, I lived with a Lab, a Cocker Spaniel (mix), a Border Collie, and a German Shepherd (mix), all female.  All four were amazing dogs in their own way, and I am sure that the special affinity I feel to this day for Border Collies and German Shepherds was probably shaped at least in part by Missy and Reesa.  My first dog as an adult, though, was none of these breeds, but rather a male Malamute mix, with whom I shared an incredible, often adventure-filled, fifteen years.  

And then there are Tucker & Phoebe ...

It's bizarre to me how often I am asked by people on the street, vet's offices, etc. whether they are "mother and baby".  Aside from Tucker's gender making it impossible for him to be anyone's mother, it seems pretty obvious to me that they are not related.  Other than the fact that they are both little scruff-monsters, they could not look less alike.  The shape of their faces, bodies, the size and shape of their ears, the color and texture of their coats, the length of their limbs ... all very different.  

They do have certain similarities, also, but these are more to do with their temperament  than with any physical characteristics they have in common.   Take this photo, for example ... other than the fact that they are both freaking adorable (is it wrong that I say this about my own dogs?) I don't see much that would make me think they were related, do you?

I have mentioned before that when Tucker & I first found each other, his origins were unknown.  His confirmation suggested possible Italian Greyhound lineage, while his scruffy coat often prompted people to ask whether he had Jack Russell in him.  The truth was, though, nothing really fit.  I really had no idea, and I used to bemoan this fact incessantly, and say how I wish I knew what breed or breeds went into making him, so that I could breed more of him!  

I can't exactly remember, but I think it was about two or three years after I got him that I took him to be evaluated for his CGC, and it was then that I found out he was not some random mix of breeds as I had thought, but a Powderpuff Chinese Crested Dog.  The evaluator, who had also been a past AKC judge, was very sure of herself, and the breeders I contacted and send pictures of Tucker to confirmed it, although one who saw him in person said he was more of a hairy hairless.

Once I knew what he was, it was pretty easy for me to see, and for someone who considers herself to be pretty versed in dog breeds, I felt a bit stupid for not having recognized it.  Then again, if you Google Chinese Crested it's a little easier to see how I could have missed it.  Depending upon whether the dog's ears were taped as a puppy to stand erect or not, as well as the wide variation in coat types, from completely hairless to quite lushly coated, the difference in appearance from one to the other is often quite dramatic.  

Personality-wise, though, at least based on the comments of the Crestie owners I have talked to, they are much more similar.  And as adorable as he is, it is Tucker's personality that made me fall so hard and fast for him.  He is also the first dog I've ever had that has made me believe that, when the day comes that he's no longer with me, something I can't even begin to contemplate by the way, I may very well find myself unable to live without a Crestie in my life.  

Not that another dog, even another Crestie, could ever replace Tucker, nor would I expect him/her to.  But as crazy as it is for someone who grew up around working and sporting breeds of dogs, I am so nuts for this one dog that I just might be a Crestie-holic.  I mean look at that face ... can you really blame me? 

What about you?  Is it more about the individual dog, or is there a breed you are so passionate about that you can't imagine not having one in your life?


Babysitting Bella

I am actually not a stranger to dog sitting ... I was the neighborhood dog walker / pet sitter growing up, and made my pocket money caring for the Fidos, Rovers, and Fluffys of my neighbors.  This is a trend that has continued into my adult life.  Every friend and co-worker with a dog, cat, fish, bird, guinea pig, or turtle knows that I can be counted on to pet sit if asked.  It's just that now I don't get paid.  And I draw the line at snakes.  Yes, for the record, I know snakes aren't evil, that most of them are harmless and are more afraid of me than I am of them, but I still can't shake my instinctive antipathy for their species. 

But I digress ...  

The point I was trying to make is that I am not a dog-sitting neophyte.  Bella, though, is not your average bear.  Er, dog.  She's definitely in a class by herself.  You know how sometimes you meet a dog who is just so awesome that as much as you love your own dog(s), you halfway wish that he/she belonged to you?  Bella ... well, Bella doesn't fall into this category.  Don't get me wrong ... I love her.  She's a hoot.  She's also a little bit of a train wreck.  I can't think of one single command that she obeys reliably, and neither does she exhibit any signs of having mastered basic canine social cues.  The phrase bull in a China shop comes readily to mind, no pun intended.  To say that Tucker & Phoebe were less than enthused about spending the weekend in her company would be a colossal understatement.  Knowing what I already knew about her I wasn't super jazzed myself.  But hey .... she's family.  

And honestly, it wasn't that bad.  My aunt & uncle left town early Thursday evening.  I stopped over on Wednesday night to get the 411 on feeding, walking, and all things Bella.  Then on Thursday after work, Tucker, Phoebe, and I moved into Casa Bella for the weekend.  The first thing I did when I arrived was leash up Bella and take all three dogs for a walk together.  I find that this is a great outlet for all the excited/nervous energy that is often present when dogs who don't know each other well, or at all, are suddenly thrust together.  It had the desired effect, and by the time we got back home, everyone was much more settled.  A water break and a treat and it was time to relax and chill for the evening. 

We did a LOT of walking (in the early morning and post-sunset hours out of concern for Bella's bulldoggy intolerance of heat) over the span of the long weekend, especially because the home my aunt & uncle have here in Florida (their main residence is a lovely lakeside home in Alabama) is a tri-level townhouse with no yard.  The walks calmed everyone (though it was mostly Bella who needed it) down, kept their energy drained, and ensured that when we were in the house it was more reasonable to expect everyone to keep things calm and relaxed indoors. I also brought the travel crate I use for Tucker & Phoebe when we go to stay in hotels or the homes of friends.  They love their crate ... it's big enough for both of them to curl up together, and although I didn't lock them in it at all, sometimes they would retreat to it to get away from Bella's pushy behavior, in which case I would just close the door and let them relax while giving Bella a Kong or something else to occupy her attention. 

The other thing about Bella is that she really only has two speeds.  Stop and Go.  What this means from a practical standpoint is that she is either tearing around at 100 miles an hour wheezing like an asthmatic trying to run a marathon in the desert or she is dead to the world and snoring.  There is just not much in between.

So I got lots of pictures of Bella like this: 

And of course the obligatory bulldog on a coffee table shot ... 

On Saturday night my sister, K, stopped by with Cosmo ... and as they were a bit more of a size they were able to play together a bit.  This shot below was in the first five minutes that Cosmo was there. I think they had fun, but Cosmo was glad to be going home.  

Phoebe wore this expression quite frequently over the weekend.  

It basically meant ... "I am ok with you if you stay where you are ... but please don't encroach any further on my personal space, and for God's sake don't DROOL on me!  Thank you."

Fortunately, Bella is not the least bit aggressive.  She is gentle and loving, just a bit effusive and bumbling and completely unaware of her own size and strength.  Also fortunately, Tucker and Phoebe are not antisocial with other dogs, just a little unsure of a dog that much larger and stronger who keeps coming straight ahead without any regard for the usual displays of doggy etiquette.  But by Friday evening they were all pretty relaxed with one another and once we got into a groove the weekend was really not that terrible. 

It was, however, a bit exhausting.  Tucker and Phoebe took a rather long Sunday afternoon nap when we got home. 

Full disclosure ... so did I!  Babysitting Bella is hard work ... especially when you don't get any sleep at night because a bulldog is sharing your pillow and snoring in your ear! 


Weekend plans

So this weekend, we have a little reciprocal arrangement going on in my family.

I am watching Bella, my aunt & uncle's English Bulldog, for the weekend.  Tucker & Phoebe are accompanying me.  (They aren't thrilled about it, by the way.)  My sister, in turn, is taking care of the cats in my absence.  She, also, is less than thrilled, because she hates to handle raw meat, and since my cats eat a raw diet, that is pretty much a given.

Tucker is keeping a watchful eye on the situation. 

I'm sure it will be fine.  

Happy Friday, everyone!


Tanner on Tuesday

Can there ever be too many pictures of my main man cat?  I don't think so! 

Oh, and the Photo Shop Express app I downloaded the other night?  Love it! 



Being Second Best

Anyone who knows me, even slightly, knows how much I love my dogs.  I don't make it much of a secret.  They accompany me to the office most days, frequently join me on vacations, and to be truthful there aren't many decisions I make without considering their well-being first.  A photo of the two of them together adorns my mouse pad at work.  And even when they are not lounging in it, their bed, (as well as their toys and water dish) occupy a corner of my office.  

Anyone who knows me well knows something else:  however much I love Phoebe, there's just no getting around the fact that Tucker is ... my favorite.  It's hard to admit this, even to myself.  Even harder to write it here.  But undeniable just the same.  I don't  favor Tucker over Phoebe, at least in any way that I can identify.  Phoebe is greatly beloved, not a red-headed step child.  It's not even that I love Tucker more.  It's just that it's a different type of relationship, and it has been from the first - an instantaneous and powerful bond that has only strengthened over time. A bond unlike any I've ever had with any other dog, in a lifetime of living with dogs.  

But this post isn't about Tucker.  It's about Phoebe.  My little flying monkey.  My court jester.  The second-best dog in the world ...  

Unlike Tucker, who has pretty much been who he is for as long as I have known him (from approximately ten months old to now, at nine and a half years), Phoebe has, looking back on it, actually changed quite a bit in the four and a half years she's been with us. She arrived as a six month old puppy, un-housebroken, untrained, and although very friendly and affectionate, a bit underconfident in new situations or with strangers.   Four and a half years later, with a good mentor in Tucker, and some basic, positive-reinforcement-based training, she's matured into a pretty model canine citizen, and even has her CGC certificate to prove it. 

She's also just a really fun and funny dog to live with.  Her facial expressions are priceless, and her fairly significant under-bite often contributes to this in a most comical fashion.  She's a very happy, "up" dog, who can also be tremendously comforting in the event you are sad or in need of comfort.  She will come to you, and allow you to hold and cuddle her as long as you want, her tummy to your chest, with her head on your shoulder, until you feel better.  Should this fail to cheer you, she will cover your face, or any part of your body within reach, in enthusiastic kisses.  She'll do most anything for a treat and loves to learn, which makes her easy and fun to train (she was a star in agility class!).  When she's happy to see you, her tail wags so fast it almost seems like it will wag right off her body. Although she has never lived with any (except the little girl at her foster family's house), she loves kids, and is very gentle and sweet with them.  (To his credit, Tucker is as well.) 

There are so many things about Phoebe that endear her to me, so many reasons why I love her that this post would have to be a lot longer in order to even begin to list them all.  The thing I love most about her, though, would have to be her irresistible (at least to me) combination of sobriety and joie de vivre.  She's a very soulful dog in a lot of ways ... and when she gazes off into the middle distance as she is doing in the photo above, it's easy to project all sorts of deep thoughts into her head that don't really belong there.  

The truth is, if Tucker didn't exist (perish the thought), Phoebe would be just about the perfect dog.  As it is, as good as she is, and as much as I love her, she is still second best.    Then again ... when you're talking about a dog as great as Phoebe, second best is still pretty amazing.  

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