As a dog lover/advocate, I notice that every new dog movie seems to spur an explosion of people buying breed X. It’s a phenomenon known as the 101 Dalmatian Effect. I’m not blaming the directors or producers of any film. We are responsible for our own actions. Disney, Warner Brothers, and any other film company is not responsible for informing the public of all the nuances of dog breed personalities or dog ownership. Need I say it? Movies and books such as 101 Dalmations, Air Bud, Homeward Bound, Beethoven, Snow Dogs, Turner and Hooch, and the recently released Max are works of fiction. Say it with me: fiction. Say it with me: personal accountability.
I’ve written two tales that include dogs. The Book of Lost Souls contained Devlin, a Beelzepup who hiccups fire when fed sugar. Devlin is modeled after my own dog, Ronan, and while there are similarities (Ronan and Devlin both never miss an opportunity to chase squirrels, get into trouble, or pee on rosebushes), Devlin is not a real dog. I realize people can’t go out an buy a Beelzepup because the breed doesn’t exist, but Ronan’s breed (Shikoku) does. In Nature’s Fifth Season, I originally planned on using either a German Shepard or a Malinois. Instead, I used a mixed breed for the character Colt. Colt’s love of Becca in the story knows no bounds. It’s a tearfull, beautiful story about love. Again, Colt doesn’t exist.
And for that matter, Max, Benji, Beethoven, Lassie, and Devlin and any number of canines do not exist any more than does Iron Man, James Bond, Christian Grey, Dean Winchester, or Damon Salvatore.
In 101 Dalmatians, we were treated to adorable, loving, and smart spotted puppies. Parents rushed out to get a dal only to find out that dals are not usually very good with children. Maybe people watched Homeward Bound and wanted a boxer with Michael J. Fox’s personality, or watched Lassie and wanted a collie who understood every English word and thought and acted human. In Turner & Hooch people saw a protective, loving, crime-sleuthing mastiff. Okay, so maybe the mastiff drool is a bit much. I certainly hope people don’t get a Shikoku in the hopes of owning their own Beelzepup. Oh, but Max! As a line in the movie stated, “You’ve got the air Jordan of dogs!” I can clearly see where Max is going to spur people to want their own Belgian Malinois. After all, they’re so cool — even Finch in Person of Interest has one. Both the military and local police are using them. Max is smart, fierce, loyal, and damaged in only a way that an untrained, inexperienced boy can handle. Yep, love solves everything, right? Love is enough.
It’d be nice, wouldn’t it? If love was all it took to save the world. What a wonderful thing it would be if our spouses and children never lashed out, never spoke an ill word if love was all it took. When was the last time someone you loved was hurt or angry despite your best intentions?
See what I mean? Love is not enough. Not at all. Dogs need lots of exercise, mental stimulation, proper food and vet care. Dogs are not gadgets. Dog breeds exist because humans wanted different traits for different jobs. ALL dogs are working dogs. All dogs need a job–some more so than others. Enter the Malinois. I fostered one for about three weeks and while I love and miss her terribly (she went on to a sport home and lives happily ever after), I can tell you that she had more energy than the energizer bunny. Ronan is high energy and this mal girl made him look moderately easy. Mals are mouthy. Very mouthy. Hubby kidded that Zee was the offspring between a German Shepherd and an alligator. Mals are workaholics. I’m not kidding. Not even remotely. This from a person who has spent a lifetime with dogs, from Akitas to Dachsunds, from Shepherds to Shikoku with some labs and collies in between to name a few. While Ronan is content with several (yes, several) walks a day, obedience, and nosework, Zee was not. True, Ronan could out-hike her, but it took four times as much effort and time to keep Zee from being bored. Her desire to learn meant she was a sponge, which also meant we were always working on something new and exciting. She was curious and hella-reckless and a ton of fun. But just so you know, I spent an average of three hours a day working with the dogs. Some days, I also put in six mile hikes, and I don’t even care to guess how many times I threw the ball.
Question: What dog breed is perfectly content to sit home alone for 6-8+ hours without destroying shoes, walls, or sofas and will be happy to see you, then be perfectly content for a quick spin around the block and five minutes of ball throwing?
Answer: Ceramic. Unless you want to cuddle, in which case I suggest a child’s stuffed toy dog.
Question; How many dogs are euthanized in shelters yearly?
Answer: 2.7 million
What happens when you don’t supply an outlet to a dog who is bred to do a certain job? Herding breeds will herd feet and children as an example. Other behaviors include destroying property, neurotic disorders, aggressiveness, physical ailments, barking, marking, etc. And who’s fault is that? Answer: The human. Would you like being ignored most of the day, expected to sit quietly in a corner, allow strange people to bounce your head like a ball, climb over you, stick their fingers in your food, take away your TV/Gadget? What if you told them repeatedly that you didn’t like it, but they didn’t consider you important enough to listen? To see the whites of your eyes, the head turn, the lip curl? What if the only thing that got their attention was the chewed shoe or a bite or growl?
What I’m saying is that people should do thorough research on the breed they are interested in and be perfectly honest in their ability to spend the time, effort, and money necessary. One day I’d love to share my life with my own malinois. But I’ll know precisely what I’m getting into.
Still want a purebred dog like you see in the movies? I suggest talking to rescues. As a foster mom on occasion, I love rescues. Not only are they often a wealth of information, you might decide to foster dogs yourself. Who knows? There are a lot of great dogs looking for forever homes (Some aren’t even purebred at all, but will steal your heart just the same). Also, ask family and friends who already have the breed you are interested in. Do an Internet search for ‘So you think you want a .’ If you are looking into a high-energy/drive dog, I suggest checking out a few dog sport clubs in your local area. Ask questions. Watch, learn. I’d argue that people who don’t have the time to put in the research don’t have time for a dog at all.
So you think you want a dog…
The Doggington Post
Non-fiction books on living and working with dogs that I have read and highly recommend:
My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am. ~Author Unknown
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras
“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”
“Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.”
Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog. ~Franklin P. Jones
“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.'”
—Rudyard Kipling (author, The Jungle Book)
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.”
“Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~Gilda Radner
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”
“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”
Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment. ~George Eliot
Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend. ~Corey Ford