Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Is canine beauty dangerous, or is it beneficial? I am not talking about the dangers of breeding solely for conformation, as this subject has been covered by the BBC and many authors. I'm referring to individual dogs and their owners, irrespective of whether the dog approaches the standard for its breed or not.

People stare at Kafka all the time and say he is beautiful, yet Standard Schnauzers are not known as a beautiful or even popular breed. They are a working breed. They were not selected as part of the "15 most beautiful dog breeds" by Eukanuba. I often wonder if the beauty people see in my dog is related to having a groomer at home to take care of his looks, or if it is about having an uncommon hair color, or if it is about the relative rarity of the breed. And I wonder, was it such a good idea to own a beautiful dog?

While walking him almost a year ago, I heard a stranger shout across the street, "Never seen one like him, bet that's an expensive dog!!" I cannot leave him tied to a post outside a store while I run an errand. Neither do I ever leave him alone in the truck. Like all dog owners, I worry that he'll escape, but mostly because I think someone will grab him before he has a chance to get hit by a car.

People attracted to his looks will stop us, and will tell me after a while that they've been thinking about getting a new dog. They ask me about his temperament, grooming needs and health. Most of them are unfamiliar with standard schnauzers. They keep commenting about how good he looks, and I know then that nothing I say will dissuade them from considering this breed when the time comes.

At the pet supply store, mesmerized salespeople are constantly amazed to discover he knows how to sit, because they are so busy looking at him. The in-house groomers walk out of their stations to see who are we talking about. And he does not have to do much to get a treat! Other dogs are asked to perform tricks, even the big ones. But I guess the standards are abismally low for flashy dogs. Beautiful dogs are only expected, well, to be beautiful, not even affectionate, another surprise for the salespeople. If they are not already petting him, most stare and mumble:

What breed is he?
Is this his natural hair growth pattern or is he groomed?
Is he a show dog?

I tell everyone how far from the standard his looks are, much daily work his grooming involves, how stubborn he is despite all kinds of interventions, and how much exercise does he demand. They do not hear me.

Because of his not-so-common looks, he will never be able to fly below the radar. He's a high profile guy. When he does not behave well it is big news, because people remember what he looks like. "Oh yeah, the terrier dog, grey and black, he went that way with your dog's toy. Look, he's in the water now."


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