Daily Archives: March 1, 2012

COPING WITH EMPTY CANINE SYNDROME

One of the most significant and difficult decisions a couple must make—- next to which direction the toilet paper roll should go in the holder—– is whether or not to acquire another pet. Our black standard poodle Nigel left us six months ago for Doggie Dog Park Heaven where there’s unlimited grass (if Nigel’s into that sort of thing), no leashes, and unrestricted Milkbones. Cats serve as area rugs.

I know I’d like another pet. But it’s hard to choose between an intelligent, non-shedding, regal standard poodle and a sweet, affectionate, cuddly Burmese python. I can’t have a cat because I have three birds and typically cats refuse to eat seed. So I’m looking around at other dog breeds. In addition to purebred poodles, here are some of the breeds I’m considering that you can try to decode: Goldendoodle, Labradoodle, Lhasipoo, Maltipoo, Shihpoo, Morkie, Yorkipoo, Malshi and Coton de Tulear (in French, literally “Cotton swab for two ears”).

I’m also considering the Pekingese after that breed won the annual Westminster Dog Show. This dog has a long history, beginning as the favored dog of the Chinese Imperial Court. A few years later, Sun-Yat Sen, a Pekingese owned by Henry Sleeper Harper, of Harper Brothers Publishing, was one of three dogs to survive the sinking of the Titanic. According to a recent book by the granddaughter of Titanic’s second officer, the Titanic sunk because of a basic steering error now blamed on the ship’s cat, who escaped to a lifeboat while disguised as a woman.

There’s an online video of the winning Westminster Pekingese (“Malachy”) that purports to show the handler grooming his dog, What the viewer sees, however, is the handler grooming a square rock, smaller than a quarter-size Costco sheet cake, with stratified layers of gray, tan and white, and covered with static-electrified fur.

It must be said that as a little showdog, the Pekingese can reach great heights—-to quote the AKC— particularly if an air hose is inserted in its hind end. The stoic immovable Pekingese showdog doesn’t even need training in how to “play dead.” Instead of a trainer, the dog should occasionally be examined by a coroner.

But I’m not limiting myself to purebreds. Friends who’ve adopted rescue dogs enthuse about their canines. My friend Danny recently acquired an affable rescue dog named Milo,  a combination of mastiff, lab and boxer—A “Mastilabbox”?—that combines the best of all three breeds: A mammoth dog (the mastiff portion) with a sweet temperament and keen sense of smell (the lab) who’s a jumper until he’s overcome by his own excessive flatulence (the boxer.) As a [“Boxlabmasti?”] rescue dog, he is content to play by himself and isn’t finicky about food so long as he gets an occasional treat like the leather seats of a Jeep Cherokee.

The only problem with rescue dogs is the uncertainties of their pasts. True, some dogs are given away because of shocking abuse— beatings, excessive confinement, poisonings—but the law often forgives dogs guilty of these crimes, and there are clearly excusable offenses such as when a dog barks obscenities or writes hate mail to cats.

We once brought home a gorgeous black standard poodle we called Dreyfus, fittingly named because he was a French poodle and later because he belonged on Devil’s Island. In time we learned Dreyfus was a Jekyll and Hyde, outwardly friendly and playful, but secretly transforming himself into a dog who would—out of our view—-climb up ladders to threaten house painters, chomp at repairmen, or tree a cat, not alarming in itself except for the chainsaw.

Where I live, I notice an epidemic of people walking unidentifiable white fluff with legs, possibly white terriers, bichons, or poodle mixes, but all cloned from the same test tube. Maybe they’re popular because these dogs are easier to manage or because they give instant status if you claim the dog to be an obscure expensive breed and no one dares challenge you because the white fluffos all look nearly identical.

Perhaps you own a small shapeless fluffy white dog because you were too lazy to look up individual breeds, you got a deal, or because everyone else seemed to have a small shapeless fluffy white dog. Despite your failings, here are examples of comments to instantly pass off your small shapeless fluffy white dog as an upscale breed:

“Have you met my Chinese crested?”

“I love my coton de tulear, except for cleaning his ears.

“Say hello to my javanese.”

“Yes, this is my javier bardem.”

I still lean toward another standard poodle, except for their tendencies to demand your full attention all the time, to slyly ransack counters and closets for chocolate, and to jump up on you when you’re carrying heavy items. But if you love your big dog, it’s just a minor annoyance when you spill your groceries, drop your purse or get a hip fracture.