Seeing Spots!

I’ve pretty much been a fan of Dalmatians since shortly after I was born. My parents got a Dal puppy not too long after I came into this world. They got her, Kelly, I believe from a pet store.

First Dalmatian, "Kelly"

I vaguely remember Kelly, just fuzzy images in my head here and there. C’mon… I was a toddler!

Yeah... That's me with Kelly

I DO remember that Dalmatians were quite rare at the time. We had one; and my parent’s friends had some that they showed, bred and sold the puppies. Other than that, you wouldn’t see Dals unless you watched the 101 Dalmatians cartoon!

At some point, my parents acquired a puppy from their friends. Lottie was essentially a real Dal puppy. Not one bought at a pet store with no real pedigree, but one that came from a reputable breeder. The acquisition of Lottie got my parents on the dog show circuit, then breeding her and selling the puppies.

We went to a lot of dog shows when I was young. My sisters and I would get packed into our van and then hang out all day while our Lottie “competed” at the show. It was fun! We’d wander around the show and check out the other breeds of dogs. I was always drawn to the larger breeds, especially the Bullmastiffs and smaller, extremely muscular dogs like the American Staffordshire Terrier. But our Dalmatians were always so cool looking and graceful…

Eventually we had, at most, four adult Dals in the house.

Let me take a minute to dispel some myths about Dalmatians.

  1. They’re not intelligent and, in fact, are quite dumb.
  2. They’re mean.

Alright… as for myth #1, bullshit, Dals are actually extremely intelligent creatures. I believe this myth comes from instances of deaf Dals throughout history. Unfortunately, one of the breed-specific issues for Dals has been deafness. Once it gets into the bloodlines, it’s hard to get out. Breeders have done a good job at identifying bad bloodlines and correcting the problem. No deaf dog seems right…

As far as myth #2 goes; Dalmatians are not mean. They are very high strung and require more attention, and exercise, than most breeds, but they’re not mean. In all my years of being exposed to Dals I’ve never seen a mean one. I will say that a lot of them are a bit standoffish with strangers. How is that a bad thing, though? Dals are actually real good guard dogs! Once they know you though, and you’re in their “pack”, they’re fantastic little friends.

The worst damage I’ve seen a Dal do to anyone is knocking little kids over. Out of the blue, they’ll get all fired up and just run their asses off. If there’s a little kid in the way they’re getting knocked down. Hell, I’ve had Dals crash into my knees while in these running fits (this happened yesterday, actually) at full speed and they’ll upend an adult!

Anyway, 1996, Dina and I were in our first house and I wanted a dog. We went out and got a Dal puppy at a local pet store, sort of like a first anniversary gift. While Duke ended up being a great dog, the fact that we got him at a pet store came back and bit us in the ass. First and foremost, he was built like a female Dal… meaning smallish and lacking good muscle tone. Secondly, we got him at like three months old. He’d spent at least a couple months in the pet store pissing where he stood, so potty training was tough. He never really grasped the concept of pissing outside. The biggest part of that is my fault, though, because I refused to have his balls chopped off and an unfixed dog will mark his territory.

We lost Duke a few months ago.

A few years ago, I started shopping around for Duke’s “replacement”. I considered other breeds, but ended up going Dalmatian. This time, instead of going to a pet store, I contacted a reputable breeder who had a history of champion Dalmatians.

Dalmatian fun fact: Dals are born pure white. Any color on newborn puppies will end up being a “patch” (see the above picture of Kelly) when they grow up that makes them “flawed” in the dog show world. It’s a flaw based on the American Kennel Clubs guidelines for Dalmatians. Dals with patches are generally sold at a discount by breeders with terms of the sale indicating that the dog must be spayed or neutered. This practice attempts to weed patches out of the bloodlines.

After my breeder’s puppies were old enough to meet, we went over to check ’em out and potentially select one.

Dalmatian fun fact #2: There are two spot colors for Dalmatians. A lot of people don’t know this, but they can have either black or brown (technical term is liver) spots. 101 Dalmatians is racist in only featuring black spotted dogs!

Before we even went to meet the puppies I said I wanted to get a liver spotted puppy. Out of the seven puppy litter, there were three liver females and one liver male. I wanted another male, though, so that’s the one I targeted.

And he had a patch.

I asked the breeder, Michelle, for a discount since I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) show or breed him. I was denied because, outside of the patch, dude was a high quality puppy.

I didn’t fight Michelle on the price, though, because I wanted the puppy. And we got him. I named him Bernie after one of the Cleveland Browns best QBs ever, Bernie Kosar, and because his spots were, well, brown.

He’s been my best buddy ever since!

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