I must announce something cool that has happened in the week since my last post. I am raising a puppy. I have waited for a while to get my hands on a puppy of my own, because I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember, as well as hearing things about pets helping with chronic pain (which is, you know, kind of my thing).
Now I have a very conflicted outlook towards animals. I love all animals except for a few exceptions like cats, spiders and guinea pigs. The spiders are because spiders are just plain creepy to me, and the cats and guinea pigs are because I am terribly allergic to them. In fact, I am allergic to most fur-bearing creatures. They make my eyes water and my nose get both stuffy and runny at the same time. The greatest offenders for me are guinea pigs and cats, but dogs are on the list too.
So I like to look at the animals, I like to watch the animals, sometimes even touch the animals, but I have to keep my distance. I tend to make friends with the neighborhood cats wherever I live, generally because they sense that I don’t want them touching me and naturally they flock to me. I’m less so with dogs, but they still flock to me likely because they are dogs and that is the way they are.
Now a lot of people in my position tend to get a poodle mix, as poodles do not shed or cause allergies. As an aside: dog allergies are caused by their dandruff, and cat allergies are caused by the cat’s saliva. And when a poodle is bred with any other breed the resulting puppy has the poodle’s hypoallergenic coat, which traps dandruff inside its thick curls.
Now there is an obvious choice here: that I get a poodle, which is a storied and old breed that was bred for hunting waterfowl in Germany whilst being the national dog of France. But, I did not really want a poodle. I don’t like the look of poodle fur. It just looks too…I don’t honestly know. But I don’t like how it looks. Maybe it looks too human to me.
Moreover a poodle mix was not really up my alley either, because poodle mixes have that poodle hair that bugs me. No knocks against the creatures or their owners, because all dogs are grand. It is just one of my personal flaws. Besides, they are too new for a history nerd like me. I want a breed that has a story.
For years, the dog that I really liked was the Irish Wolfhound, a massive breed bred to hunt wolves. Just a quick Google search will turn up pictures of Wolfhounds towering over their masters. But I was turned away when I learned that they tend to have short lives (the bigger the dog, the shorter they live) and have a two-year puppy stage.
My family had an English bulldog when I was growing up, and we raised him from puppyhood. Two years of puppyness really scared me. So I scrapped that plan.
I also have wanted a big bouncy sheepdog for years. You know the breed—hair covering the eyes, a big friendly smile, and a look of shaggy quaintness that hearkens back to simple times lost in the mist of folksiness and old cartoons.
So I looked into getting one. But I found out that not only are they not hypoallergenic, but they also require a large space of grass to exercise on, as concrete and asphalt can severely damage their paws. Who would have thought a dog bred for herding sheep would not be that suitable for a place without sheep? So there went that option.
Then I looked into various small breeds—terriers, dachschunds, and a Belgian breed called a Schipperke that has pointy ears, insane eyes, and a temperament that has them nicknamed “Little Black Devils”.
But then I found the perfect breed. The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. They are one of the four terrier breeds of Ireland (the other three being the Kerry Blue, the Glen of Imaal, and the Irish), named for the color of their adult coat, which is the color of ripened wheat. As puppies, however, they are born dark brown and lighten with age.
There are historical references to Irish peasants keeping dogs that fit the Wheaten’s description going way back to the eighteenth century, when they were known as “the Poor Man’s Wolfhound” and served as a companion, a vermin-hunter, a sheepdog, and a guard dog. Just a general, multipurpose dog. In England, where a harsh set of laws called the Game Laws began to deeply affect the lower classes, Wheaten Terriers were used as hunting dogs to help hungry peasants put food on their tables.
And, adult Wheaten Terriers look like miniature English Sheepdogs, only their long flowing hair is hypoallergenic. These boys were all the breeds that I wanted, combined into one hypoallergenic terrier-sized package.
Plus these pups fit the general hobbit-like image that I try to present myself with. All the world’s a stage.
So I pooled birthday money and savings and skipped buying books for a while, and with help from my dad (he is a good problem solver) found a good Wheaten breeder and a while later, I was bringing a Wheaten puppy into my home.
I named him Finnegan MacCool—partly after the Irish hero Finn MacCool, but mostly after the Irish folk song “Finnegan’s Wake”, and after Irish author James Joyce’s book Finnegan’s Wake, which has always intrigued me, being essentially a book of puns and being the one book that English majors fear. Besides, what kind of English major would I be if I did not name my dog after a book?
I also figured that ‘Finn’ would be an easy name to call a dog.
Nerdy mythical, literary, and musical references aside, I brought little Finn into my house and oh man, is he a little adventure. These critters are definitely wolves bred to look less scary. Training him has been rough, as it has only been a week. He has already tried to become the head of the house, put holes in a few of my clothes, and has screamed through many nights.
Its been rough, but he now knows not to pee inside, and he is getting used to being on a leash. But there are some silver linings. He has shown an interest in, of all things, the instrumental sea songs from Spongebob.
His current favorite game is a terrier trademark, according to forums: latching onto my arm with his fangs and enjoy watching me figure out a way to make him let go. But, what would life be without some difficulty? It would be a cooked pepperoncini—a tasteless, rubbery thing that tastes like steamed broccoli and nothing that you would like near your sandwich.