|Laurie and her baby Brody|
|Sweet Scarlett and Rhett|
I've always loved Poodles, the Standard kind, but after meeting Rhett and Scarlett, who live with Billy and Mike at The Reynolds Mansion in Asheville, maybe an English Bulldog would be fun, but I'd worry about the snoring.
|Riley, a Coton de Tulear|
Here's a breed I'd never heard of before-- a Coton de Tulear, the official dog of Madagascar. I fell in love with a Coton named Riley. I bench sat him once while his owner went inside Peet's Coffee and ordered a cappuccino. Riley reminded me a little of Stanley, a Bichon Frise puppy I owned briefly a long time ago, and after reading about the idiosyncrasies of this breed online, I know why I had the deja vu.
|Stanley, the Bichon Frise, waiting for his bath|
Coton's are high maintenance dogs, like Stanley. He required laborious combing and brushing every day and frequent bathings because of his sensitive skin. Stanley's allergy to grass and other outdoor living things were some of the reasons why after three weeks, I returned him to the breeder. Honestly, it probably had more to do with my not having the emotional bandwidth at the time to care for a fussy dog like a Bichon Frise. In addition to a stressful job and an aging Labrador Retriever, I was freaking out because, out of the blue, my husband confessed he still loved his high school girlfriend and wanted out.
Dogs have always been central to my life, although I didn't grow up with them as a child. Without checking with my parents first, my uncle gave us two puppies from an unplanned litter his family dog had, but the puppies mysteriously disappeared during my first week at summer camp. I always suspected that my anti-pet parents had something to do with this, but I gave up asking the questions to which they had no answers, except to say over and over, some day when you have a home of your own, you can have a dog.
That day came in 1969 when my then-husband brought home a
|Pam and Bruce, the dog! 1972|
When our Bruce dog died, it was the only time I ever saw my husband cry. Losing a pet is traumatic. Bruce was only nine years old, which is young for a Labrador Retriever, but he had cancer, and there wasn't anything our vet could do. Eventually, we were ready to love another, so we began to scan the newspaper ads. We also went to dog shows to meet dog owners, and eventually we crossed paths with Stuart, a Labrador breeder from across the Bay. He told us that his bitch Nellie would be bred to a famous stud dog named Lockerbie Brian Boru, and there would be a yellow puppy, since Nellie was yellow and Brian was black. We didn't know anything about recessive or dominant genes back then, but we were vulnerable and got sucked into putting a hefty deposit on not just a puppy, but a show quality puppy, since those show dogs were really gorgeous. So here we were; one month we were ignorant about dogs, and the next month we were buying a show puppy.
Weeks after the successful breeding, we drove 300 miles south to meet the stud dog, Brian, who had the record for siring more champion Labrador Retrievers than any dog in history. When we arrived at the owner's home, we were graciously led into the master bedroom to meet the famous Brian, who was sleeping in the middle of a king size bed and dreaming of another sexual conquest, I'm sure. To our surprise, rather than seeing a gallant, athletic dog, we saw an aging, arthritic one, but genes are invisible, and he still had what it took to breed. We told Stuart we wanted a yellow female, but as it turned out, there were no yellow females in the litter, so we came home with a black one we named Bristol. Genes don't always make promises, we found out, no matter how hefty the deposit.
|Ch. Gatwick's Bristol Cream|
I won't go into the details about the several years we showed
|Bristol and Pam 1983|
Bristol had two puppies who were very special to me. Porter, a mellow black male, became my constant companion for 12 years, and Tommy, a beautiful yellow male, I sold to a man who is still one of my best friends today.
|Tommy, Bristol, and Porter, 1984|
I'm sure that when my friend, Deb, reads this post, she will roll her eyes and remember a time when a dog, a bunch of them actually, almost got us into trouble on a bike ride. We were doing a metric century in the hills outside of Fresno when I saw a ramshackle house with a pen in the yard full of darling puppies scampering about. "STOP!" I shouted to Deb, as we rolled past. "Look at those adorable pups." Deb and I have a lot in common, but a love of dogs is not one of them. Because she is such a nice friend, she put on her brakes and came to an abrupt halt. In a matter of seconds, my bike was on the ground, and I was on my knees oohing and aahing over the furry puppies who looked like Border Collies. There were a half dozen at least, all enclosed in a pen made of chicken wire, in the middle of a very overgrown yard filled with debris and rusty vehicles that looked similar to the junky properties I saw in North Carolina last week.
Immediately, a beefy looking man with a ratty beard and dressed in dirty camouflage clothes emerged from the house, and in a very stern voice asked, "What's your business here?" In my usual chatterbox way, I asked questions to show I knew something about dogs, and that I was not going to steal a puppy. In the meantime, Deb, who was quietly observing the man and his unusual surroundings, noticed he was wearing a belt with a swastika symbol emblazoned on the metal buckle. I was totally oblivious. She also noticed other bizarre stuff around his house and realized this man should be avoided. That's when she turned to me and said, "Pam, it's time to go." Thankfully, I then realized he was a weirdo too. We jumped on our bikes and rode out of there as quickly as possible. At a rest stop a few miles away, a rider told us that the police were actively monitoring the area we just rode through because there was a crazy guy who lived on the route and was known for hassling cyclists. Now, whenever Deb and I are riding, and I see a dog I want to check out, she jokingly reminds me of our scary experience near Fresno.
To get my dog fix I take a walk in downtown Los Altos where there seems to be an unofficial dog show every day. In one of the stores where I shop, I'm greeted by a very friendly dog named Cody, a Barbet. Cody
|Cody at Gitane, a wonderful store in Los Altos|
My good friends have a Briard, another uncommon breed. LuLu swims in their pool, sleeps in their bed, and makes me smile whenever I visit because she's so beautiful and full of energy.
I know that what I'm about to say might upset some of my cat friends, so I'll apologize in advance, but I'm a dog person at heart. Even though I own two beautiful cats, whom I adore, I think that dogs are much more fun. Generally speaking, they are more social, more responsive, and more loving on your terms, not theirs, like a cat. Dogs say please when they want something, I'm sorry when they are naughty, and thank you when they are appreciative. You can take your dog out to breakfast, lunch or dinner as long as there is outside dining, unless you happen to live in Germany, where well-behaved dogs are allowed inside restaurants. You can train a dog to come, sit, stay and heel, but most cats can't be trained, except for that exceptional feline with three million views on YouTube who plays classical music on the piano. (Click on link to watch video.)
Truthfully speaking, dogs are a lot more work than cats, who are comparatively easy. Cats don't take up much room, don't require outdoor exercise, are able to groom themselves, and I love to hear them purr with contentment. I like that my cats greet me when I walk in the door, but what I hear is feed me not Hi, I'm happy to see you.
So all this comes down to the reality of my life. Forget the dreaming. I can't have a dog, dammit. Why? Because we travel all the time, our small townhouse has no yard, and my Tonkinese cats, Sophie and Indie, were here first and would have a fit if I brought home a dog. So I say to myself, OK, Pam, you can't have a dog, but you can still dream.
Dogs on Parade