Every time a five year old kid grabs my dog by the tail and announces "Look, it's Pongo," to anyone within shouting range, I know another Dalmatian is destined for a miserable life. The Disney cartoon "101 Dalmatians" has made the breed a perennial favorite among the Chuck E. Cheese set. I think every preschooler with access to a VCR has begged and pleaded with their parents to get them a Dalmatian at one point or another. Many parents agree, not knowing that it would be much easier just to have another kid.
Dalmatians are wonderful dogs and I wouldn't trade mine for the world, but unless you are willing to give them your undivided attention, I wouldn't advise getting one. All dogs are pack animals and thrive on activity and attention, but the Dalmatian is even more of a social animal than most. They love being around people and if you shower them with attention, are generally exemplary canine citizens. Since they insist on being underfoot at all times, a Dalmatian is the perfect companion for a work-at-home writer such as myself. They are smart, imaginative and can provide an endless supply of amusement and entertainment.
If you dump them in the backyard with a doghouse and a bowl of kibble however, your typical Dalmatian will exhibit an entirely different personality. Realizing that they have been banished to doggie hell, a Dalmatian castigated to a lonely backyard existance will dig holes in your garden, climb over tall fences and run away, bite little neighbor children and chew up your lawn furniture.
The hyperactivity that Dalmatians are famous for is usually only exhibited when they are being humiliated by being treated like a dog. If you let them sleep in your bed, sit in your favorite chair and follow you wherever you go, they behave quite normally and will occasionally even heel, or sit on command.
Since most parents who accede to their kid's demands for a Dalmatian puppy are totally unprepared for this type of committment, the puppy usually winds up abandoned in the back yard within a matter of months. Buy your kids a plush stuffed animal at the Disney store. Let them watch the video a hundred times in a row. But don't ever buy them a Dalmatian puppy unless you are willing to let it become an integral part of your life.
About five years ago a family up the street from me bought a Dalmatian for their two little girls. The girls played with the dog every day at first. But quickly they began treating it like last year's Barbie and in less than three months the hapless Dalmatian was permanently demoted to the backyard. It was painful to watch. The dog became frantic. Then totally dejected. He started barking incessantly. And eventually started digging holes under the fence trying to excape. After he had excaped a few times, the dog was chained to a large tree in the backyard. The owner, who happened to be my sister's lawyer, should have been chained to a tree instead.
After a brief charmed puppyhood as "Pongo," this poor Dalmatian was never allowed inside again. I saw him alone outside during freezing January rains and hundred degree August afternoons. Eventually I couldn't stand it anymore. I would sneak in his yard in the afternoon to bring him food and a short amount of the attention he craved. The dog had dug a two foot pit in the backyard near the tree where he was shackled, so he could escape the summer heat. His skin was a mass of flea and chigger bites. Even on the hottest days, his water dish was often out of reach, two feet beyond the end of his chain.
It was amazing the transformation that occured in this dog after I gave him fresh water, a couple of biscuits and played with him for five minutes. Given even half a chance, he was a wonderful dog. Ocassionally I would see the lawyer who owned the dog sitting on his front porch when I happened to walk Spot later in the evenings. I would mention that Dalmatians often had allergies and sensitive skin. I would mention that they should really be kept inside in the summer, but the guy never took the hint. I even turned him in to the SPCA once, but that didn't work either. The lawyer and his wife eventually got a divorce and the wife took the dog with her. He ran away and got run over by a car two weeks after she moved to a new house in another part of town.
Some people should never get married. They should never have kids. And they should definitely never have a Dalmatian. They don't deserve one.
If you enjoy these stories and would like to help this wonderful breed of dogs, please consider making a donation to Dalmatian Rescue of North Texas. Your donation will help Dalmatian Rescue continue to rescue and rehabilitate the hundreds of Dalmatians that are abandoned in North Texas every year. To help give a deserving Dalmatian a second chance, just click on the button to your left. You can use any major credit card to make your donation instantly and no matter what you choose to give, you can feel a little better knowing that you have helped a dog very much like Spot find the one thing it really needs: a home.
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