Reading Susan Orlean’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times on the decline in popularity of the German Shepherd sent me back to my childhood when our family had a German Shepherd. I don’t remember much about that dog except that he wasn’t with us very long — unlike our darling French poodle, who was part of our family until her death.
The one thing I do remember about the German Shepherd was his bark being so forceful that it once knocked down the Christmas cards perched on the fireplace mantle and bookshelves. I was either four or five years old. And I have a vague memory of him biting my brother, which I guess could have resulted in him no longer being a part of the family. The dog, not my brother.
I didn’t know until I read Orlean’s column that the German Shepherd was once the dog of choice for families across America. It’s funny how breeds of dogs are trendy just like designers or food. Call Christian Louboutin and pork belly the German Shepherds of today.
I don’t know what the hot dog is now (no pun intended). Well, it’s the Labrador Retriever and has been for 20 years by the American Kennel Club standards. But it seems to me that in the last decade it was the Chihuahua. I’d like to think I started that trend when I selected Lucy in 2001 but maybe it had something to do with the “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” ad that started a few years earlier. Breeders couldn’t pump out Chihuahuas fast enough to meet the demand of people who stupidly thought that Chihuahuas really could talk. When these pet parents realized their dogs couldn’t be taught to speak, they abandoned them and that resulted in shelters full of Chihuahuas.
And then came the Reese Witherspoon hit film Legally Blonde in the summer of 2001 followed by Chihuahua, a song recorded by Swiss artist DJ BoBo that was the summer rage in 2003.
Click to Play!
OK, so maybe I didn’t have anything to do with the popularization of Chihuahuas, a breed that has withstood the test of trendiness. Next month Lucy and I will celebrate our 10th year together. I think a party is in order. The Jet Set Pets, a luxury pet travel site Lucy inspired me to create, will officially launch next month so I can have a dual celebration. Oh why not make a trifecta since my birthday is in November as well?
I can hardly believe it’s been 10 years since Lucy became my family. She’s a terrific little companion and brings such joy to my life — though she can be a handful with that diva attitude of hers. (Honestly, I don’t know where she gets it!) A platonic male friend recently asked me if I ever considered becoming a mother because he wanted to have a baby but didn’t want to be a husband. I told him that the thought of motherhood never crossed my mind, except becoming a pet parent to Lucy.
And to think, I almost missed that opportunity. I had started shopping for a dog in the spring of 2001 but stopped when my mother fell ill that summer. After she passed away on Sept. 17, 2001, I wondered whether I really wanted to become a pet parent knowing I would likely outlive my four-legged friend. Could I bear to lose something else so dear to me after losing my mother, to whom I was extremely close? But someone told me that I should focus on the years of fun I can spend with a pet rather than the time when nature runs its course. It’s like the quote that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Who knows how many more years Lucy and I will have together? Chihuahuas live to be around 15 or 17 and both of us are in terrific health. But nothing is promised to any of us. So we’ll just continue to enjoy our days together and keep Chihuahuas in the “trending now” category.
Thank you Maggie Smith for the photo of the German Shepherd!