The Boston Terrier
It has all the makings of an Oscar-winning storyline. Raised a working-class tough guy from Boston, our leading man-upon being recognized for his intellect, dashing good looks, and utter potential-earns a place on the right side of the proverbial tracks.
No, this isn't a reference to Matt Damon in his finest writing and performing hour. It's the story of the Boston Terrier.
The well-dressed canine kids we see in the passenger seats of minivans across the continent today are a far cry from Boston Terriers of old. In fact, Boston Terriers were originally bred for pit fighting. Like the local bar brawler in every hometown, the Boston Terrier was once a fearless fighter. However, unlike the hometown goon, this one-time scrapper grew out of his penchant for aggression and into a sophisticated little dude. Were we to rewind the scene 135 years, the dogs forced to endure the horrors of the pits would never believe future branches on their family tree would be nicknamed "the American Gentleman." With his natty markings, the Boston Terrier looks more like a black-tie guest than a street thug.
Around 1865, coachmen employed by Boston's wealthy began crossbreeding some of the fine dogs owned by their employers. (What the owners thought of this is not recorded. Presumably, they were not told.) In 1870, a William O'Brien sold an imported dog called "Judge" to Robert C. Hooper. This dog, known as "Hooper's Judge," is considered the grandfather of all modern-day Boston Terriers. As such, the Boston is a mixture of many breeds- the English and French Bulldogs, the Bull Terrier, the now-extinct white English Terrier, and the Boxer.
In 1889, fanciers of the breed made the first attempt at naming with the formation of the American Bull Terrier Club. However, Bull Terrier enthusiasts put a stop to this moniker based on the names' similarity. Given the breed's origins in the city of Paul Revere, the name "Boston Terrier" was proposed and accepted. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1893.
From Boston? Yes. Terrier? Actually, no. The Boston "Terrier" isn't even in the Terrier group. For dog show purposes, the Boston is in Britain's "Utility Group" and America's "Non-sporting Group," which generally means nobody could figure out where they really fit in.
Aesthetically, they could be described as gorgeously ugly. The Boston Terrier funny-face is unmistakable. They have a short, square muzzle and full black nose. Their dark, round eyes are set far apart and convey a sweet yet determined expression. Their ears, even when left "au naturel," stand perkily upright. Their hair-short and fine-is brindle or black with distinctive white markings, including, in most cases, white "gloves" on the front feet. An undocked, short tail finishes up the smart look. While early Bostons were much larger- somewhere in the realm of 44 pounds-Simon and Schuster's Guide to Dogs (1980) reports that today's Boston weighs between 15 and 25 pounds. Collins Gem Dogs (2004) reports they can be as small as 10 pounds.
Their spunky personalities endear them to their human companions. They're intelligent, well-mannered, alert, and rambunctious. Easy to train and frequently effective watchdogs, the Boston Terrier is good with children and tender with elders. However, as we all know, nothing in life is perfect. Much the same as Uncle Cecil, the Boston Terrier is prone to snoring. And like a bad prom date, prone to drooling as well. But if you can handle the nighttime sonorous symphony and the occasional slobber splatter, you just may have a new pal.
Regardless of where you sit on the doggy fashion fence-whether you're a "My dog has a closet full of Coach!" parent, or a "My dog wears fur, but only his own!" parent-one thing is certain: The Boston Terrier is sensitive to the cold. Boston Terrier mom, Kaya, says of her nine-month-old puppy-son, Bodi: "He hates the rain. He shivers even with his coat on!" If you don't believe in canine apparel, a dog like Bodi is not the best baby for your crib. These former tough guys are foul-weather-wimps now. And if you're looking for a companion to accompany you as you train for the Ironman, keep looking. While energy is spent running mad circles inside the home, this dog does not crave the opportunity to flaunt his athletic prowess. Long naps are preferred over long walks. Says Kaya of Bodi: "In the morning, I have to drag his floppy, sleepy body out of bed. He'd be happy to sleep until 11:00 most days!"
Knowing that today's Boston Terrier has undisputedly lost his aptitude for violence-preferring infinitely to snuggle on mom's lap-it could be said that the closest he'll get to a fight now would be a Pay-per-View match on TV. And even then, he may only go so far as to open one eye to see who wins.
If you are interested in adopting a rescue Boston Terrier, check out www.petfinder.com or visit an animal shelter in your neighbourhood.