I Am a Former Dalmatian Owner

spot_the_caveman_eaterI got Spot when I was in middle school. He was a dalmatian puppy, the runt of the litter, and I paid for him with my hard-earned paper route money. Had I done a bit more research, I may have chosen a different breed of dog, but as it was, I was able to give Spot a better home than the one into which he was born.

Here’s a brief history of the dalmatian breed: They are originally from the Dalmatia region of Croatia, thus the name. And they are known by two other nicknames, the carriage dog, and the firehouse dog. The reason for both the these names stems from the dalmatian’s unique relationship with horses. You see, no other dog holds a horse’s gaze so well as a dalmatian. They calm and comfort horses, which is why they are handy pets to have if you drive a horse-drawn carriage, or you need to get your horse-drawn fire wagon (from the earliest days of fire-fighting) anywhere near a burning building (which is somewhere that horses do not naturally like to be). By the time that fire engines took over the horse’s job, the dalmatian’s association with the profession was too established to disrupt. This is also why theĀ dalmatianĀ is part of the logo on Coachmen campers.

Dalmatians, as I learned after the adoption was finalized, are a breed that has been blessed and cursed by stardom. Who hasn’t heard of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians?

Pongo and Perdita are the very picture of the perfect dog. They are loving, loyal, and they look cool. How could a movie that casts dalmatians in such a positive light be a curse to the breed? Mainly because once everyone knew about dalmatians (or thought they knew them from their cartoon counterparts), everyone wanted one for a pet. This popularization led to massive breeding mistakes. In order to cash in on the breed, owners that had male and female siblings bred them with each other to meet the demand, leading to a whole generation of inbreeding complications.

That’s the story of where my messed up puppy came from. When I started looking for a dog, I searched newspaper ads for a while, but I didn’t find anything until a friend from church mentioned that their neighbor’s dalmatians just had some puppies. I called and they came out to do a home visit. Shortly after that, I passed over some cash and I had my dog.

I soon found out that there was a reason that they had done a home visit to me rather than having me come out to their house, and it had nothing to do with making sure that my home was suitable for a dog. A couple of weeks after I got Spot, I received word from my church friends who were neighbors with Spot’s original owners. They had skipped town, leaving their dogs in the house without food or water. By the time the authorities went into the home, one of the dogs was dead and the others had to be put down.

If I hadn’t adopted my dog when I did, he would have died.

As it was, his life was marked by neurosis and I’m fairly certain that he was a pure inbred. I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from getting a dalmatian. I do mean to encourage you to do your research about dog breeds if you are considering a new pet. Also, if a movie comes out and popularizes a specific type of pet, be wary of getting one of that kind. And if you already have that breed, please don’t inbreed it just to make a quick buck.

But if you are in a spot like I was and you have the opportunity to give a pet a better home than certain death, feel free to do the right thing, even if it is with a breed of dog that has been hindered by popularity.

Do you have a favorite breed of dog? What fascinating thing can you share about it?