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.
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?