Tuesday, April 22, 2014


If you're going to have a dog, and you sit at home all day like me, it's best to have the ideal dog. Phoebe is not the ideal dog. In fact, she's crazy and a pain in the butt. But I love her to death.

Phoebe is a West Highland White Terrier, commonly referred to as a Westie. We went through several breeds of dog before her. Every one of them had serious flaws. This time around we did our research.  We went with a Westie because they are intelligent, non-shedding, friendly, spunky, compact, loyal, and absolutely adorable. What we didn’t take into account was that they are also stubborn, whiny, barky, and occasionally aloof.

Phoebe is our first Terrier and has several characteristics that I’ve never seen in a dog. Perhaps her most interesting quirk, and great entertainment for our guests, is her TV-watching. She stares at the television waiting for any animal to dare show itself in her house. She reacts most intensely to dogs, but also recognizes any four-legged mammal, certain primates, an occasional bird, and most reptiles. She’s even reacted to cartoon animals. Phoebe is so clever that she can be two rooms away when she recognizes the music associated with one of her favorite dog food commercials, and she comes running at full speed. She is so stupid that she thinks this two-dimensional image is a real dog. When she identifies an animal on TV she goes nuts – barking and jumping toward the screen. Luckily, she is too short to do any damage. It was funny the first 100 times. Now it’s mostly annoying.

2010 11 63 The other unique trait she has is the ability, and willingness, to tilt her head to extreme angles to try to understand what a human is saying to her. This never gets old. I think she has a listening vocabulary of 20 or so words, and she is trying to position her powerful ears relative to our voices in search of one of these 20 or so words. Her favorites are: treat, ride, dog, walk, or any sentence beginning with “do you want to…” Her most dreaded word is “bath.”

Regarding affection, she is hot and cold. When we return to the house after having been away, she turns herself inside out with sheer joy and love. She more than forgives us for having left her behind. This behavior persists for about five minutes, and then she is off to something else. In contrast, if it’s the middle of the day and I am bored and I ask her come over and jump in my lap, she stares at me like a cat would. She does not cuddle on command.

I love my dog, and I hope she has a long life. But when she’s gone I don’t think we’ll replace her with another Westie. We’ll keep trying to find that perfect breed. Maybe I’ll even look into a service dog.

Have you found the perfect breed, the perfect dog?

2006 704 Phoebe 03 2008 362
2008 374 2008 380
2010 08 10b
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  1. Hi Mitch!
    Well have a maltepoo which is in the terrier family I believe. She is a lot company but she does have a stubborn trait.If you scold her she looks at as if to say "are you talking to me!

    Both Merle and I are both laid off right playing the unemployment game!
    Merle is going to retire the first of May. I am trying to get disability which is fun!

    Take care!


  2. I have owned a lot of dogs in my life; the two top dogs were my first and my current. First dog was a runaway, literally, who showed up on a friend's porch one night. She had an allergy to dog dander, so we got him, an adult German Shepard/ Husky mix who was very loving to everyone but hated cats with a vengeance. Fortunately we were between cats at the time.

    Our current dog we found on Craig's list; he is a Pit Bull mix (I assume with a Labrador). He is the both the smartest and the sweetest dog of them all.

    I've also had good fortune with all of our pound dogs: a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Brown Lab mix, a Basset Hound, a Cocker Spaniel, and several Labrador mixes, and one Golden Retriever cross we got from a lady selling the litter at the grocery store (now illegal). The only one I almost returned to the pound was the Basset who had one hell of a time getting potty trained. Other than that, they all were great dogs. She was a sweet dog, but dumb as a box of rocks,

    I don't believe in buying dogs from a breeder when there are so many who are going to be killed at the pound if they don't get adopted. Sure, some have had their issues because you don't know how they've been treated/raised, but we have had mostly good luck.

  3. Thanks for the post. Glad you added several cute pictures!

    We searched for a dog that could be trained to be a service animal, was small, and was fairly low key. This led us to identify the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel as the ideal candidate.

    None available in the local pound or any pound within 100 miles that we could find. We went with a breeder.

    The first dog, Loki, would be great as a service animal - if he weren't so shy.

    Our second dog, Puck, would be great as a service animal - if he weren't such an excitable bunch of energy ready to jump up and lick your face in greeting.

    As pets they are very good. Smart, lap dogs, eager to please. On the negative side they will bark at people walking by and a TV animal will cause them alarm about 50% of the time. Perhaps those are traits of most dogs.

    Hopefully Phoebe still has some good years left in her. Best of luck in finding your next furry friend.

  4. I have a service dog!! She is a black labrador and she is absolutely incredible. She knows how to get my phone out of a holder I have on my wheelchair and bring it to me. All I have to do is say "phone take it". I have fallen in the shower and her ability to get me my phone was a life saver. She can open and close doors for me. She even helps me flip over in bed at night. She can lift my legs up onto my scooter platform with her nose. We got her through a service dog organization. Which I would highly recommend as opposed to having someone come train your dog. These service dogs are "engineered" to do this. She is so loving and great with my family members. If I ask her to come sit by me and keep me company she will place her head on my lap and stay as long as I like. Also, I've only heard her bark twice since getting her a year ago. If you want to hear more about my service dog feel free to contact me. Kathy

  5. I have to say you're right. Being home all day creates a bond with your dog that is irreplaceable. I got a black lab....Mistake? Hell no. Is she killing me? Absolutely! Her energy, strength and enthusiasm are infectious though, and of course her sweetness. But a lab is like having livestock in the house. The feet wiping has taken my life over!

    Great post Mitch. The fur babies are the best.

  6. Our Golden Retriever always brings me joy. Kasey also has a limited vocabulary, but he gives us unconditional love. He'll never be a guard dag -- he likes every person he meets.

  7. Oh well, now I've gotta come down on the side of the labs. Best dogs I've ever owned or encountered. They lean on you when you need affection (and they always know!)and their instincts for people are always correct.

    But then we like big dogs...I once owned a 145 lb Irish Wolfhound. She was no rocket scientist but she sure had a beautiful smile!

  8. Glenda, I'm so sorry about the employment situation. Please give my best to Merle, and good luck with your disability application.

    Webster, Phoebe is the first dog we ever purchased from a breeder. It seems that every breed has its advantages and disadvantages, and it's just a matter of trying to find the personality that suits your lifestyle the best.

    Darren, I looked up Cavaliers and they same like wonderful dogs, but it appears they do have more than average health problems?

    Kathy, your service dog sounds wonderful! I'm not serious about getting one yet, but I do see it in my future.

    Lew, I grew up with a black lab and I maintain a soft spot for them. My wife's issue, and I don't blame her, is how much they shed.

    Muffie, I hear nothing but good things about Golden Retrievers!

    Daphne, I can't argue with you about labs. I love their personalities.

  9. Yes, you are correct about Cavaliers, they do tend to have health problems as they get older. Then again, so do I :)

  10. Darren, if dogs ruled the world and we were but their loyal pets, and you and I found ourselves orphaned and looking for a new owner, it would take a very special dog indeed to adopt one of us!

  11. Don't know why Phoebe would stop barking at the TV screen to rid it of offending wildlife.....It's worked for her so far. She probably thinks she is doing the family a big favor. HA!......Ginny

  12. Ginny, I have no doubt that you are correct. She is wired to behave the way that she does!

  13. I can't resist being asked about my dog! We have a Vizsla (our second). Vizslas are the smallest of the hunting dogs and are all-rounders (pointers and retrievers, both fowl and game).

    Both of our Vs are beautiful, smart, soft, super affectionate and very trainable. Neither of them is an excessive barker. They also have enough energy to power a small city, and need (and get) 3 to 7 miles of walking/running per day. Assuming he gets his walks, our V is perfectly happy to curl up under a blanket next to me all day long. They're sometimes called Velcro dogs, and the nickname fits.

  14. Katja, that sounds like the perfect dog if you can give them the exercise they need. I've never heard of Vs until now.