No, this is not about a school for deaf canines, and I probably owe an apology to William Hurt and Marlee Matlin. What this article is about is the advantages of owning a small dog. Now I have to confess that I was always a big dog lover and was not very impressed with anything that weighed less than 50 lbs. I have had Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, a Saint Bernard, Chocolate Labs, and various other working and sporting dogs. However, I have recently inherited (my fiancé claims I poached him) an 8-year-old 4lb cream colored Pomeranian named Spartacus. Now the first thing you will probably notice about Spartacus is his fur is missing in several places. This is due to surgeries, emotional trauma of the loss of his partner in crime (another Pom named Lulu), and near death experiences as a puppy. It makes him look more like a white lab rat with a Q-tip for a head. However, he has wormed his way into my heart and I have begun to appreciate the advantages of a lesser (smaller) dog.
- Smaller dogs don’t destroy your house. The one thing you learn with sporting dogs and working dogs is that shoes, furniture, garbage and food are fair game for teething and chewing while bored. My Saint Bernard especially loved expensive shoes, and she could open closet doors like a cat burglar. It was an expensive hobby. Small dogs, at least the ones that go in the toy category, could care less about chewing stuff up and spreading it all over the house.
- Smaller dogs don’t hump your knee or fart. This may sound crude and socially inappropriate, but the truth is Retrievers, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards and other large dogs have the propensity to do socially weird things and pass the most odorous wind you will ever smell. Labradors in particular have the super power to empty a room in a heartbeat. The fact is, is that Spartacus could not hump my ankle if he wanted to (he is just not big enough) and he doesn’t have the capacity to break wind. A plus in my book.
- Smaller dogs don’t smell like they have been dragged through a manure pile. What is that smell anyway? Sporting dogs and large dogs go out of their way to find really offensive odors to roll in, I am told it has something to do with masking their scent from predators. Small dogs could care less. They will be sitting on the back of the couch preening themselves like a cat when that 150lb monster comes in covered with dead fish. Of course this may have something to do with the fact that we live in an urban environment and we’d have to walk, I mean I’d have to carry him, four blocks to anything that might be smelly by the river. My fiancé claims that he heads for the nearest dead seal on the Santa Monica beach, but since we don’t have that kind of stuff in Manhattan, I am sticking to my story.
- Smaller dogs don’t run far. Every large dog owner has to live with the fact that their dog may get loose and run away. Or when they go for a jog in the park it takes an hour to get the dog back on the leash. Spartacus has a maximum run radius of 20 feet. His idea of exercise is running to the end of the hall and back, running in circles (chasing his tail) and getting up and down off of the couch. My kind of doggie potato. I live in an apartment in Manhattan, and having to find a place for him to play in a safe place outside would be a real challenge.
- Smaller dogs don’t have to be “walked”. Any one that has a large dog in a city has to admit that it is a pain in the ass to have to walk your dog outside and pick up their poop in a plastic bag twice a day. When I had my Saint Bernard in college she would go for a “walk” on the football field every day. I was almost killed by the football team when they found out who was leaving landmines all over their playing field. Spartacus is trained to go on a potty paper in the apartment and could care less about walking around the town. In fact, he takes us on a walk, I put him in a sling over my shoulders and he takes us all over Manhattan. He never touches the ground. We put him on the ground in Central Park one day and he looked at us like we had lost our minds. Lesson learned.
- Smaller dogs are all bark but no bite. When I had my Rottweilers it was a constant worry that they would bite someone or some dog’s head off. They were very passive and docile, but any animal with the bite capacity of a 30-foot crocodile carries some concern. Spartacus doesn’t want anything to do with other dogs. He has a cute little squeak that I suppose is a bark, but most people fall in love when they hear him bark. That is not so with larger dogs.
- Smaller dogs are cute magnets. My fiancé doesn’t mind me saying this, it is the truth. All kinds of people (women and men) come up to us when we are out and about cooing about how cute this dog is. Spartacus takes it all in with an enlightened aloofness that approaches apathy. He is a lesson is equanimity. Quite frankly I have seen him put smiles on the most depressing faces. That is worth his weight in gold (which is not much) but worth all of the riches one could possibly imagine.
I know that every dog has its own unique personality and every owner would debate which kind of dog is the best. Like I said, I was very judgmental for the first 62 years of my life and would not have considered living with anything that weighed less than a decent steak. However, small dogs have a lot going for them, especially in a downtown area. Like every dog, people need to research the breed for common health problems and breeders who are respected and have dogs with friendly dispositions. Don’t buy from commercial stores or puppy farms, find a reputable breeder who sells directly to the owner and answers all of your questions with complete candor.
I have to admit though, going small has been one of my greatest experiences and size doesn’t matter.