I’m sure Barbra Streisand would tell us, “They’re the luckiest people in the world.” That’s because Terrier People stick together with a tenacity that is, well, positively terrier-like. And I believe no Terrier People have more solidarity than Smooth Fox Terrier People. We share the pride of owning the dogs often called “The Aristocrats of the Terrier Group”. But we also have a chip on our shoulders regarding the unreasonable popularity of the vastly inferior Jack Russell or Parson Russell Terriers. (The surest way to infuriate a Smoothie owner is to run up and say, “Oh, what a cute little Jack!”)
So annoying is this that the woman who calls herself Owner of famed and lately lamented blogging Smoothie, Raleigh Pop, (a distant cousin of Oscar’s) had to post this exchange in the FAQ section of her blog:
A compilation of actual questions I have fielded in the streets over the past 2 years….
Q: Is that a Jack Russell?
A: No, its a Smooth Fox Terrier.
Q: Is that Eddie from Frazier?
A: No, that dog is a Jack Russell. This is a Fox Terrier.
Q: Is that Wishbone?! Wishbone! Wishbone! Wishbooooooooone!
A: No, Wishbone is a Jack Russell. This.Is.A.Fox.Terrier.
Q: Is that some sort of Jack Russell mix?
A: No. Just a Fox Terrier. A purebred, Smooth Coat Fox Terrier.
Q: Hey look it’s Jackie! Hey Jack! Hey Jack, Hey, Jack Russell.
Hm. IS that a Jack Russell?
A: Fuck off.
You see what we face? Our dogs are an ancient and noble breed. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History, described with amazement the “earth dogs” and specialized fox hunting dogs the invading Romans found in Britain — dogs that were found nowhere else in the known world. From then, the Smooth Fox Terrier was developed and refined, probably descended from an early type of smooth black and tan terrier, then mixed over the centuries with Greyhounds and perhaps Beagles and Bull Terriers. By the 1700s, the breed was already pretty well known and much in its current form. By the time breed associations and dog shows were starting up in the 19th Century, terriers, specifically Smooth Fox Terriers, were dominating the Best of Show awards. If you are an aficionado of early advertising art, you’ll know that ads that often had not the remotest connections with dogs — like cigarettes, cars and baby food — would often feature a Smoothie, possibly for the cuteness effect.
Alas, all those things that used to make Smoothies prized — tenacity, ability to think for themselves, rat catching, proper behavior and their accessorizing potential during a formal English fox hunt — became less and less needed. What the public increasingly wanted was a big couch potato dog that that would need minimal training and supervision and would fit into a more urban lifestyle. Enter the Labs and Golden Retrievers. Exit Fox Terriers from the popularity contests.
But that didn’t matter to us Terrier Lovers. We just went underground. Even without our canine companions, we know each other by secret handshakes and the pet toys we buy. Terrier owners can often be heard quizzing pet store employees, “Will this toy survive being passed several times through an industrial combine or threshing machine, because then maybe my dog will get a month or two of play out of it.” And Terrier owners will “climb ev’ry mountain, ford ev’ry stream” to connect if they get even the merest hint that another Smoothie owner is within sniffing distance.
Shortly after I started blogging, I had Smoothie owners from the Midwest to the American South to Australia and Poland as loyal readers. No sooner did I start posting to Facebook with a Smoothie as my profile pic when I picked up as Friends what must be every serious Smooth Fox Terrier breeder in the Western Hemisphere. According to my stats, the greatest driver of traffic to my blog is some variation on searches for “terrier, smooth terrier or Smooth Fox Terrier.” That is until I started posting about that excellent movie, The Citizen Kane of Smooth Fox Terrier movies, A Single Man (terrier-centric review here). That really brought the Smoothie owners out of the blogging woodwork, launched a few more blog posts and created a large and diverse pool of terrier talent for director Tom Ford for whenever he should embark on his second terrier movie (and I believe his Magnus Opus Terrianus is still to come.) Now one of the top Google searches that brings people to this site is “What are the dogs in A Single Man?”
Anyway, this is a long piece to lead up to the fact that I just got the ultimate Smoothie shout-out. I had been told by a breeder and friend of Tom Ford and his companion Richard Buckley that they had enjoyed the terrier posts here. And I did see some hits coming from New Mexico where I know the two of them have a vineyard (what is it about Smoothies and wine grapes that goes together so perfectly?) But still Oscar and Lucy hadn’t been assigned their casting session in spite of flexing their range on these cyber pages.
Then out of the blue yesterday, a lovely email from Richard Buckley containing charming Smoothie stories and pictures of their dogs, Angus and India, the stars — sorry Colin Firth and Julianne Moore — of A Single Man. I shared the news and the email with a few Smoothie owners, which immediately resulted in a blanket invitation for Tom and Richard, India and Angus to stop by various points for playdates and refreshments. We are over the moon and Lucy already has a serious crush on Angus. Oscar thinks India would like to join him in Lake Charles (named after our dearly departed Founding Terrier) and he wants to remind her that he knows where all the lizards hide out.
And hey, folks, it could happen! In an age when coalitions and old alliances are breaking down, the Smoothie Bond remains strong. Granted Tom and Richard are sitting on top of the world after two illustrious careers in fashion and tastemaking, but should they ever be hard up for the next bowl of kibble, I know Smoothie owners from Michigan to Memphis and points East and West who’d load up the dog crates and be there as fast as possible.
But maybe I shouldn’t emphasize that too much. While so many of us are worried that our investments are shrinking, our mortgages are underwater, Social Security won’t be there when we need it and the government has decided it has no obligation to give us a hand, Smoothie owners know that we’ll always take care of our own.
Maybe that’s an alternate stimulus plan: get a Smooth Fox Terrier and sleep easy at night. Nah, people, don’t do it. We like being the Few, the Proud…