Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Finding the Right Dog

Recently my wife suggested we find a playmate for Sherlock,
our wire fox terrier. It was an innocent thought, though it makes little sense.
It amounts to nonsense. One terrier is enough. Maybe Heather has noticed a
recent sadness in Sherlock’s eyes, an emptiness in his life.  At three years (21 in human years), Sherlock
is a young male beginning to ponder the meaning of life. And if this is true, I
am not certain a mate is the answer.

Wire fox terriers are bred for chasing foxes down holes,
their docked tails used as handles by hunters to pull them out. They have this
heritage of riding gallantly on the laps of trackers, mixing it up with
nobility (there’s a reason King Edward VII named his WFT “Caesar”). Once the
scent of fox is in the air, they are released to go on the prowl. Later, after
the successful members of the aristocracy have received the trophies of their
pursuits, these terriers sit at their feet in the evening and listen as hunters
compare their exploits. It must be inspiring, listening to these warriors,
warmed by their fox collared coats that they wear as badges of honor.

I imagine it this way, and it probably explains Sherlock’s
emptiness. He and his tribe were reduced to pets in the 1930’s. His strong prey
instinct has been diminished to chasing tennis balls and an occasional passing
robin. He rides in a dog carrier, not on a saddle, and sits by the table at night
with plebeians as they watch Under the Dome and other intellectual shows. The
closest he gets to a fox is Fox News. He perhaps looks in a mirror and begins
to think, “My gosh, they have not only neutered me, but I will end up looking
like a Pomeranian if something doesn’t change.” His life is one “dutiful,
utilitarian, head down trudge.”

Nonetheless, in a weakened moment that I cannot explain, I
went on my own chase for a terrier—a Lakeland, a Welsh, and Irish—anything but
a Wire Fox. I could blame this on alcohol, but I don’t drink. It’s not that
Heather put undue pressure, but she did leave a book on dogs conveniently on
the coffee table. What I discovered was that there were next to no terriers of
these varieties to be found anywhere nearby. After working through 23 pages of
the Oregonian classified, the Humane Society, the Spokesman Review, the Seattle
Times, The San Diego Union, and the LA Times, I realized that finding a mate
for Sherlock is hard going. And I cannot explain why this is so. How can it be
that, of all terriers, Pit Bull and Yorkshire Terriers are preferred? Are
people insane? (simple answer—yes)


p class=”NoSpacing”>I did find one lone Irish Terrier near Tacoma, and in
another weakened moment, I committed to go check the dog out. I’m a bit
suspicious of breeders. My first pure bred was a Cocker Spaniel that was highly
dysfunctional. He was bi-polar, the type that licks your face one moment, then
turns and bites your hand the next. I don’t need a dog with pure lines or
papers (though I think it is cool when your dog’s father was “Red Cloud” or
“Ring of Fire” as opposed to parents with the names of Penny and Tramp). You
have to be suspicious, given that breeders ask a fairly steep price.

So there she was, this magnificent Irish Terrier. She had
that look in her eyes that said “I’m yours, but I am not cheap. Negotiation is
beneath me.” And then I saw her, out of the corner of my eye, a Lakeland that
has been in this pen for 9 months.  Not that
she has been mistreated. The breeder is a wonderful woman, who has won contests
around the world. But this dog never found a home until this weekend. She broke
her leg as a pup, and so she is defective (like her owners). The dog comes with
risks. But I like the temperament. And Lakelands have a heritage as working
dogs. They are “earth” dogs  from
England, bred to go after vermin. She will fit well with us plebes, always

1 Comment
  • Chip Morris
    11:36 PM, 17 July 2013

    I don’t miss having a dog, but I do miss our Ginger…

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