[This post was written for the 50th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene]
Here's a brief story, a dog tale in fact, of how two little white puff balls ended up in my life. Over a 14 year period while living in California, I was blessed with being able to share my ups and downs with Minyo and Princess.
Minyo - The Clown
Around the holiday season of 1990, I decided it was time for me to get a dog. I had never really had a dog in my life except for two very brief periods as a child: 1) we had a golden retriever puppy that proved to be too much to take care of and my mother wisely gave it to her brother and his family; and 2) we decided to help an elderly woman who had to give up her small dog or lose her apartment - unfortunately the dog suffered from extreme separation anxiety and we were unable to keep it.
I had researched a reputable pet shop in the West Portal district of San Francisco, making sure that they only carried puppies that came from AKC-registered parents and could be registered as purebreds. While it would have been ideal for me to adopt a dog from the local SPCA, not having had much experience in the canine world caused me concern - so knowing the breed I wanted was key. I found this cute little male puppy among a litter of other Bichon Frise puppies, brought him home and named him Minyo - a variation of the French "mignon" for small or dainty.
I selected the breed for many of its outstanding qualities and behaviors:
- they are great around children
- they are gregarious and outgoing
- they are hypo-allergenic, meaning they don't produce dander which can cause allergies
- they are smart
What I didn't bargain for was how much grooming would be involved or for how the word "smart" could really mean "devious."
Over the next few months, I took Minyo to obedience school (very important) and he basically became my best friend, sleeping with me each night and going for long walks during the day. I also got into the habit of taking him to the groomer's once a month, brushing him each day, making sure he didn't get a sunburn on hot summer days, and as you can see, dressing him up in costumes.
As for toys and treats, Minyo loved smoked pigs ears (what is it with dogs and pigs' ears?) and his favorite hedgehog toy called "Honk Honk."
Princess - The Doll
After about two years, I realized that during the day while I was at work, Minyo was miserable. Due to his gregarious nature he wanted to constantly be around people. So I decided to get another dog.
Since I was not committed to having the same breed, I went to the local SPCA to look at neutered female dogs, since that would be the best match for Minyo, having been neutered earlier. I was not expecting to find a female Bichon Frise but lo and behold, there was Princess.
Given the rarity of the breed (it all but died out during World War II and was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1973), I never expected that someone would give up a Bichon Frise to the pound. Normally, the dog would be taken to the Bichon Frise rescue and would be placed with someone who knew the breed.
Princess was small for her breed, a bit skittish, but of most concern was the sign on her cage which said "Unadoptable." Never avoiding a challenge, I asked the front desk about Princess, her background and why the presence of the sign. The clerk said that Princess was taken away from its previous owner by the SPCA when she was brought in. She suffered from cystitis (a bladder condition) and was prone to calcium stones which was due to improper care and mostly lack of water by the previous owner. The SPCA agreed to perform the necessary operation to save Princess' life if the woman would agree to surrender the dog (she could not afford the operation).
I asked what type of care was needed and while her condition required lots of patience, lots of water and lots of walks, the only requirement was to feed Princess a special canned food which was high in salt. This forced her to drink more water which helped reduce the risk of calcium stones.
Over the years, Princess was practically attached at my hip and would follow me from room to room. When I sat on the couch, she insisted on sitting atop the edge, wrapped around my neck. She also slept above my head on the pillow.
Princess was older than Minyo (estimated to be 6 years old when I adopted her), wiser and much more protective. The SPCA also surmised that Princess had given birth to at least one litter of puppies which increased her protective instinct.
As you can see from the photo below, ice cream was Princess' favorite food. But the deal was this: she had to sit with the Ben & Jerry's container on her head before I gave the word. Then she would toss her head and stick it in the container, running across the room trying to get every last bit.
My life with these two dogs seems light years away - they've both passed on but I know that they were an important part of my life as I hope I was an important part of theirs.
I'd love to have a dog or two right now but given my frequency of travel, it would be unfair to bring one into my life right now. But, when I retire in about 15 years, I know that I'd love to go back to sharing my life with the right dog!