Some of you may watch this video of the judging for top American Eskimo at the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show and think to yourself that one of those cute and cuddly balls of hair would make a great pet, that they seem so full of personality, that one of them would keep you entertained well into your golden years. While you could do worse, let me just say that the American Eskimo is a breed that needs to be approached with caution. I speak from experience.
My American Eskimo, Homer, was an accident. Elaine and I had no intentions of getting another dog. We had a seven year old lab-husky mix and she was the perfect companion. Then we decided to visit a pet store, mostly with the intention of just browsing, killing some time. That's when we spotted this. I warned Elaine not to pet him, not to take him out of his cage, not to hold him. She did all three. Six hundred dollars in three easy installments later we were the proud parents of a miniature American Eskimo. No research of the breed, no consideration of the fact that we lived in a one bedroom apartment and that both of us worked full-time jobs. He sucked us in with his beady little eyes, that afro of white fur, and the gentle wag of his tail.
Now four years into our Homer experience, I wouldn't trade him for anything (well, almost anything). There are a few things about him that make him special. Allow me to share:
- Homer hates to be alone. When left by himself, he becomes especially neurotic. Our theory is that he sits on the back of the couch staring out the window waiting for our return, at which point he launches into a high-pitched wail that could shatter plexiglass. This is the same wail that he uses for passing ambulances and fire trucks. Fortunately, after four years of doing this, he seems to have worn out his vocal chords so that his wail now sounds more like a soprano smoker's cough. Some people have said that we should feel sorry for him. These people have not had to put up with the wail.
- Homer has no sympathy for the handicapped. He has been known to pick fights with elderly chihuahuas and tease three-legged pugs.
- Homer likes to act tough, but he's afraid of anything he deems unusual: remote controls, wind-up cat toys, metronomes. At the same time, he'll stand at the window and give the death bark to the UPS guy. He's conflicted, a contradiction.
- Homer barks at everything: kids riding on their bikes, the aforementioned UPS guy, dogs strolling by on the sidewalk, the downstairs neighbor, the doorbell he hears on the Dominos commercial, his shadow, dust. He likes to time his barks for those quiet moments when one is just drifting off to sleep.
- Homer loves my wife. This love is not healthy. He follows her, stalks her through the house, insisting that he be in the same room at all times. He stares at her even when she's not paying the least bit of attention to him. Last weekend, my wife was practicing her court reporting and I swear that Homer was jealous of the machine. He felt it was getting all of the love that should be his alone.
And that's the short list.