THE COMING OF
© copyright 1999, Kate
I hadn't lived with
a dog since I left my parents' house decades ago. I had always kept
cats. And I had wanted a dog of my own since my wonderful
Persian cat Tribble was about twelve. My little house had a fenced
yard, and I loved dogs. But when I consulted Trib, he let me know I
was going to have a dog over his dead body. So that is what I planned
At the beginning I wanted a Chow. They look like a cross between small
bears and enormous Persians, and I thought it would be like having a Tribble
I could take everywhere. I met several of the dogs, read a fair amount, and
talked to a lot of people. Almost all of these people said I would be
crazy to get one. They said the Chow temperament was surly at best,
unpredictable and vicious at worst. After years of uncertainty, I ran
across an author who said Chows were not a good first dog, not a dog for a
beginner. I was persuaded. I didn't have to make the dogs
all bad, just me a beginner. One other thing--I had noticed that I
wanted the Chows to be bigger. This fondness for size was not about strength
and protectiveness. It had something to do with the extra charm of a
very large but playful animal, some odd subset of cuteness.
Time passed. My mother died. An old boyfriend turned up. Dear
old Tribbie got to be almost nineteen, and slower and smaller and sleepier.
He became very frail, and finally died. I wept, and scattered his ashes in
I knew it was time to start looking for the dog. I began researching in
earnest. I learned that, along with bigness, I was attracted to
hairiness, intelligence, gentleness, and humor. I considered Samoyeds
and Giant Schnauzers, Keeshonds, Newfoundlands, Elkhounds, Akitas, and
more. And compared with all of them, the Bouvier des Flandres sounded
exactly right. Big. Darling. Smart. Sweet.
Hairy. "Protective but not aggressive."
I telephoned a breeder referral service, and found a woman who talked to me
kindly and informatively. She told me about an upcoming show where I
could meet breeders. I went to that. There I met a lot of
breeders and a lot of Bouviers, and lost my heart.
Now, although there is a very active rescue program in the Bouvier
community, I was advised to get a puppy, since a rescue dog might not be
safe with a cat, and I was certainly going to get another cat. A few weeks
earlier I had gone to see a litter of kittens. I knew Trib would
approve, and I picked out a little strawberry blonde fluffball tomlet of
five weeks. He looked like a fairly princeling. He was not yet ready
to leave his mother, but I plunked down a deposit and arranged to bring him
home as soon as he was old enough, probably right after I got a puppy.
I already knew what I wanted to name my Bouvier baby. I had spent a
lot of time on it. First I had tried to come up with a Belgian name,
but "Hercule" was all I could think of, and I tossed it.
"Jackie," "Black Jack," and all their in-laws got a nod
and a wave. Then I thought about heroes--Greek, Biblical, whatever.
Couldn't get worked up about anything much. Next I moved on to
faithful companions ("Fido" is a great name for a dog, and it is
too bad it died of overuse ). "Sancho" was only a passing blip.
After that I decided to search around for BIG names. I had a quick
flirtation with "Hindenburg," then realized that was a terrible
idea. I went through "Goodyear" before starting on
mountains--McKinley, Whitney, Rushmore. Then I looked across the room
at the piano I'd grown up with, thought "Steinway," fell off the
couch laughing, and never looked back.
Meanwhile, I got a call from a breeder with an enormous litter of pups, so I
went and looked. We talked about puppies, and Bouviers and care and
feeding. And training and grooming. And fences and jawlines and
children. I'd never seen a Bouv puppy before, except in pictures, and these
were about eleven weeks old. They were huge. They were also
sleepy, because when I got there it was mid-afternoon on a hot August day
and they were lying around like massive caterpillars in the shade. I
admired the one in the rose-and-green collar. He hardly noticed.
I held him. He was heavy and sleepy and roly-poly. Very cute. I
went away to think.
A day later I called the breeder and said I wanted that puppy if he was
still to be had. I was on a waiting list, and it was two weeks more
before she called and said I could have him. That day. September 13th.
Two days after his three-month birthday. I had not shopped for any
supplies except for a million books, and I asked her if she thought he would
fit into an airline-size cat carrier. She said, probably. I
raced over to a dog show twenty miles away and waited around for my baby. He
finally arrived, and I watched in awe as the breeder combed him out on her
grooming table in the parking lot. His sister had thrown up on him,
and he had to be tidied up a bit. He was sleepy again. I was--scared
and excited. I had never had a dog. All new. Steinway.
We fitted him into the cat carrier with a shoehorn. I gently put the
carrier into the front passenger seat in my tiny car, and drove off.
When I got him home he was very quiet. He sat shyly on the kitchen
floor and dampened a sheet while I frantically went to a pet supply store.
Late in the afternoon I thought I would take him out into the back yard and
show him his bathroom. Tribble's ashes shifted slightly. Steinway sat
at the top of the steps into the garden, and looked bewildered. I
suddenly understood that he didn't do stairs yet. I realized I would
have to teach him how.