Within days, we could, at last, be up to our full quota of terriers! Since the sad death in February of our beloved Charlie from a rare cancer, Two Terrier Vineyards just hasn’t had the same feeling. While we could never replace him (and he’s memorialized in Lake Charles), you just can’t run a decent vineyard, we think, without a brace of terriers. However, as I explained in an earlier post, getting a pure-bred Smooth Fox Terrier is just not that easy.
Once one of the most popular dogs in England and America in the late 1800s through the 1920s (check out old advertising if you don’t believe me. You’ll find gratuitous Smoothies in everything from toothpaste to insurance ads), Smoothies outlived their popular appeal. Originally used to administer the final coup de grace to the fox in fox hunting, Smoothies made the transition from rural to urban dog easily. They’re small, but they have big attitudes. And they are superb ratters, something Victorian city dwellers must have loved. Once World War I started, Fox Terriers (and all kinds of other small terriers) were embraced by soldiers living in rat-infested trenches. It became de rigeur on both sides of the trenches to have a Regimental or Company Terrier. (One terrier named Sargent Stubby even alerted his soldiers to incoming gas attacks and drove off an invading German soldier by biting him in the seat of his pants. He retired with a full pension, although in the interest of full disclosure, I have to report that he was a Pit Bull mix.) I’ve included two of my favorite WWI terrier pictures. The group picture includes Hitler (he’s the one on the bottom left) posing with his company’s terrier (that’s the one with the floppy ears.) In the other photo, a British regimental terrier proudly stands with his daily “kill”.
But, even as a terrier lover, I have to admit, these are big dogs in small packages. They don’t know they are only 20 pounds. They can be like the little scary guy in the pub that no one wants to mess with. (For exactly the type, refer to Ben Kingsley in “Sexy Beast”. He must weigh 140 pounds wringing wet, but he plays the scariest gangster/psychopath you’ve seen on the screen in years.)
Fox Terriers are also incredibly loud and that yapping can get very high-pitched. Both of these tendencies can be alleviated with lots and lots of continuous training. But most people haven’t got the patience. They’d rather get a semi-comatose Lab or Golden Retriever. (Okay, hold the hate mail, Lab and Goldie lovers. I know there are some wonderful smart ones out there, but there are also a lot of dim bulbs.) Dim bulbs, Fox Terriers are NOT. In fact, one of the challenges is that they are so smart, they’ve figured out all the “training techniques” before you even have a chance to try them. My dream is to have Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, come to my house. Let’s see him try that Alpha Dog “calm assertive” act on a Smoothie!
Smooth Fox Terriers seem to be found now largely in the professional breeding circles and you almost have to be a “made” dog owner to get one. Only occasionally, when a dog is not deemed “show worthy” is it released to a “pet home.” To qualify as a pet home, you’ve got to have an in with a breeder. These dogs don’t just get posted on eBay. And expect your breeder to stay in your life, sort of like Open Adoption. They like to know at all times where their dogs are.
But, luck seems to be with us. The woman who bred Charlie (who was clearly not show quality with his droopy ears, curly tail and moochy walk) and Lucy (who has the conformation of a show dog, but not the attitude) has brokered a deal with the breeder of one of Charlie’s sisters. So we’ll have one of Charlie’s nephews. And he’s a little Chocolate Head as well.
My only hesitation: this dog was bred in New Jersey. Hmmmm. Little, tough, feisty, from Joisey. Could we be in danger of getting a canine Joe Pesci?