Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Do We Get the Dog We Deserve?

Bear with me, because once more, I can't sleep. I've lost track of how many days in a row now I have either had trouble falling asleep, had trouble staying asleep, or awakened very early, unable to get back into a comfortable groove. I can't blame my bed, because it's new, remember? I also can't blame a lack of medications, because I've been on the same medication for a few years now and it has reliably helped me. It isn't Ambien or any of the usual suspects; for me, it's something stronger. I blame perimenopause (or menopause, whichever I'm in now). It's my excuse du jour!

Listening to the snoring of my female bulldog, Lily, got me to thinking about whether we get the dog we deserve. She's a terrific dog. Her worst traits are two that are inherent to bulldogs: snoring and farting. Tonight she has some clear-the-room, peel-the-paint gas going on. I'm sure that's contributing to my desire to leave the room. Her traits remind me of another breed: the human male.

Lily is also fiercely loyal, sweet of disposition, playful, funny, and peaceful, Buddha-like almost. Bodhi is somewhat her opposite, or at least he was. He's getting better. At first, he was rough-and-tumble, prone to chewing on us (and shoes!), dominant, and a little stand-offish. However, he came to us in a time of great mourning, for we had just lost our little Leo. We were understandably in shock. Gradually, we got Bodhi more comfortable with cuddling while he got us more comfortable with playing rough. He was all puppy and all boy. He had none of the frailty Leo had, so he was ready to go. We were hesitant, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Lily was our daughter's 17th birthday present, a dog she begged for, shopped for (through a breeder directory) and selected. We just supplied transportation and money (a typical parental job description, eh?). When our daughter went her own way, though, Lily stayed with us. She was attached to us and our home, and there was frankly no safe place for a dog where our daughter was going.

Prior to Lily, we'd had several mutts, one German Shepherd, and two Samoyeds. We liked large breeds, and we were especially hooked on the Samoyed, after taking on our beloved Nikki from a friend who referred to her alternately as "the White Witch" or "the Lost Cause." Nikki was with us until she died at age 12. She adored my hubby and was his baby. The other dogs eventually went to other homes because of our highly mobile lifestyle for a bit there in our 20s.

We weren't thrilled with the idea of a bulldog at first, and they weren't even as popular then as they are now. We just looked at her and thought, "Poor thing. She's so ugly, she's cute!" And then we fell in dog love.

Bodhi has been a great addition, too, but I wonder if I'm going to have the physical stamina to handle bulldogs after he's gone. If you look at one of my previous posts, you'll see that I have some recommendations about whether or not you should get a bulldog. Feel free to check that out. But what was on my mind tonight is what has puzzled people for years. Do we look like/act like/seem like our dogs?

I look at my photos, and I don't think I have the underbite or the jowls of the bulldogs, but I'm pretty sure I match the rest of the AKC description, being "of medium size and smooth coat; with heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs. The general appearance and attitude should suggest great stability, vigor and strength" (even if the vigor and strength part is misleading). The AKC article goes on to say that minimal grooming is needed. We are constantly cleaning facial folds, tail folds, feet/pads, and skin, not to mention washing ears and generally keeping a close eye on health. Our Samoyeds were much easier, though they had a double-undercoat under a long top cost.

Perhaps it is that my husband and I have the heart of the bulldog: tenacious, cautious, and tentative until we know you, and then loving, playful, funny, and loyal. No comment on the snoring and farting.

I've been thinking about what kind of dog will eventually find its way into our home. Lily will be 8 years old soon, really getting up there for a bulldog. She's well into her senior years. Bodhi is 1. If we get him another playmate at some point, it probably won't be a bulldog (watch me have to eat those words). I've been considering another breed, like a Havanese (a member of the Bichon family). Again we have the words sturdy and playful. There the similarities end. The Havanese has a long, light coat that is easy to maintain. The tail is curled up over the rump (like the Samoyed), and the dog is easy to train, intelligent. On the contrary, the bulldog is hard to train simply because they are a dog who likes to run the show.

Hmm. Whoa. Sounds like ... me?

They know their own mind and like to enforce their will. (

They are courageous. (Oh..I'm so close on this one!)

So my question is, do we end up with the dog we deserve?
  • If we are OCD-prone, pulling our hair out types with a grating voice, do we end up with a Pomeranian who yanks out knots of her own hair and yaps endlessly if the wind blows?
  • If we are big, rather empty-headed, and thrill-seeking, do we end up with a Dalmatian?
  • If we have long, silky hair that flows in the wind but have little interest in anything but running through a fake desert in front of the camera, will we get an Afghan hound?
Sometimes we go with a breed that has been infallible and reliable for us, only to find out that we got a dud - a dog with a personality or body style completely out of line for the breed standard. If we can get through it, we might end up with a great adult dog or a dog that can teach us a few tricks. (Read both Merle's Door and Marley and Me - wonderful books!)

Just like the old "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop" question, the world may never know. But I can tell you that Lily is an exaggeration of my personality if that is so. I always leave the paint on the walls.

If you have a weird dog that just doesn't seem to fit in? Take a good hard look at yourself. The dog you feed may be your own - the spittin' image of you!

Peace and good night - D


Moannie said...

Good morning, D.Here it is 10.30am, house is cleanish, Milou under the table at my feet and I find your great post.

I have seen many people who grow to look like their dogs, or who primp and perm and pamper the dogs to look like them, but your question requires serious thought. I have always believed that dogs, and cats find us...If they like what they see they know perfectly well how to attract us, and once we are hooked they can then mould us into the blithering idiots that will do their bidding.

I am trying to get a file together so that I can write a post about Milou, and other dogs that have owned me.

I love to be first to the comment box...Hugs

Leendaluu said...

I have two Australian Shepherds and my husband has a lab. Yes, we get the dogs we deserve!

leslie said...

Gee, after all this introspection, I sure hope you managed to get some sleep. The best dog I ever had was my boxer Star who lived to be almost 12. The last one, an American Cocker Spaniel was a lemon as he was aggressive and bit everyone - needless to say where he ended up.

Akelamalu said...

I've only ever had one pedigree dog - a golden cocker spaniel, all the rest have been Heinz 57 variety - what does that say about me? I tried to be a lady but deep inside I'm a tramp? LOL

Daryl said...

As kids we adopted a stray who'd been abused. All she needed was to see a newspaper and she peed and shook ... Dad took to putting his newspaper in his back pocket when he came home from the office so she wouldnt freak out ... Mom took her with her to the beauty parlor once to get them to match her hair color to Ginger's (yes Gin was a setter mix and Mom dyed her hair red).

Loved that dog like you cant imagine and after we lost her I decided I didnt want another dog .. ever ... and so we have two wonderful cats ... I think we get the cats we deserve as well


Employee No. 3699 said...

I grew up with collies. My husband and I had 2 beagles at first and now we have a lab mix and a german shepard mix. All quite different dogs. They were/are all great pets. I think dogs tend to take on the personality of the household.

Jay said...

Well, you know, ever since adopting our first greyhound in 1993, I've been hoping against hope that I would grow to look like my dog; slim, elegant and beautiful. It wouldn't hurt to become as fit as a greyhound, either, but so far, no luck! LOL!

As to whether we get the dogs we deserve, I'm a firm beleiver that we do. But I think it's more of a case of getting the behaviour from the dog that you deserve - if you can't be bothered to put in the effort to train and socialise, you're more likely to have a badly behaved dog who bites. If you are patient, understanding and consistent, you're likely to get a well-behaved, social dog.

I still can't help nurturing the faint hope though, that one day, I might grow more like my dogs! ;)

david mcmahon said...

Our kids are running a determined (and spirited) campaign for a dog ....

CrazyCath said...

You have a point - there are many owners that resemble their dogs. I am not a doggie person but if I chose one, it would be a border collie. I wonder what that says about me... ;0)

Loved the description of the bad habits - so like men!

Kim from Hiraeth said...

We have two vizslas. Both conform to the breed description, but oh, that Ivy is a stinker. And I love her all the more for it!

I look nothing at all like my dog (she is sleek, I am not!) but I must admit I was born with an Irish gleam in my eye and an ornery streak so I guess I deserve her!

Hilary said...

Interesting observations, RP. I've never had a dog, until Benny became my part-time pup. So I didn't chose him, nor did Frank. We just kind of inherited him through circumstance. From this and past experience with cats, that kind of "let them chose you" situation seems to make wonderful pet/people matches. Sometimes they're just meant to be.