Monday, November 16, 2009


I like dogs in theory. In reality, however, they are way too much work and responsibility so I have never owned one myself. I am quite content to experience dogs vicariously, which I'm able to do through three of our four grown children and the five dogs they have owned over the years. As soon as my daughter, Amy, got married and moved into a house she got a puppy--a Rottweiler puppy that she named Ziggy. He was incredibly cute as a pup--playful, affectionate, smart, and very fast growing. My dog education had begun.

The American Kennel Club ( describes the Rottweiler as "robust and powerful" and as a "self-confident" animal that "responds quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in the environment." Originally bred in Germany as cattle-herding dogs, they are meant to be strong, calm and intelligent. They are workers who want a job to do. By nature they are protectors and make good police dogs, service or therapy dogs, and companions.

All of this was well known to Sandra Darling, who, under the pseudonym of Alexandra Day, wrote and illustrated Good Dog, Carl in 1985. Proving very popular, a whole series of Carl books have followed. The books are limited in text, but the rich art work clearly tells each story. Her own dog, Toby, was the model for Carl and her granddaughter, Madeleine, was the model for the baby. Typically, the books start with the mother saying, "Look after the baby, Carl. I'll be back shortly." Then off the mother goes while Carl and the baby are left to have an adventure.
One could look at these stories as sad tales of egregious child endangerment, but I believe they were meant to be a testament to the breed. Although, I must note that there have been those who point out that the Rottweiler is illustrated in much finer detail than any of the people in the books, thus "proving" that Darling/Day cares more about the dog than the baby. (Also, she did name her own children Sacheverell, Rabindranath Tagore, Lafcadio Hearn, and Christina, which seems borderline abusive.) In the books, however, Carl always manages to keep the baby from serious harm and returns her safe and sound to her home with mother and father none the wiser, living up to the just what the AKC says --strong, calm, intelligent, protective and completely responsible.

Ziggy was not registered with the American kennel Club. He had a serious under bite which would have gotten him a fast ticket to the back door at any respectable dog show. He did meet the personality descriptors, though, and knowing him gave insight into the creation of the Carl books. He was intelligent and communicative, exceptionally observant, always calm and gentle.
Ziggy was devoted to Amy, but he liked anybody and everybody. He wasn't a good watchdog because he would happily greet anyone who walked in the door. Usually, he only time he barked was when there was a dog on the television. He also howled, "AOOO-OOOOOW," precisely at noon when the town fire siren sounded on weekdays. I am quite certain that he would have been a very fierce protector if anyone had ever made a threatening move towards my daughter or, later, my granddaughter. On the other hand, if you wanted to walk out of the house with a television or a computer when no one was home, I doubt he would have stopped you as long as you patted him on the head on the way out.

As Rottweilers can, Ziggy could look intimidating especially with those bottom teeth always exposed. One time some tick-or-treaters were coming to the door when they saw Ziggy in the drive way. Two kids and their mother went screaming out of the yard just at the sight of him. For his part, Ziggy was so obviously distressed at causing this upset that he gave himself a time-out. He went into the bathroom and laid down with his head on his front paws sticking out the doorway. His eyes said, "I'm so, so sorry!"

Ziggy was not an athlete although he did like to chase a tennis ball. Once they took him for a mountain hike at White Rocks. He whined for half the trip up and all of the trip back down. I was not surprised. He definitely took after Mistress Amy who also probably whined for half the trip there and all the trip back again. At some point, Ziggy must have seen one of those Hollywood accessory dogs being carried around in some young starlets designer bag on the television. He sure thought that was the way to go for a walk--never mind that he was a solid hundred pounds.
When Ziggy was six years old, his world was seriously rocked by the arrival of Baby Kristen. I thought he might be a little jealous of the attention diverted to that new development in the household. Clearly, though, he understood right away that this was his job in life--to watch out for that baby. He would greet me at the door when I visited with a pleading look that begged, "Make a fuss over me for a little while first," but he stood by the cradle looking as proud as a new papa whenever anyone else came to visit.
As Kristen grew and started moving around in Ziggy's world, he was a steadfast guardian. Kristen was the only one who could reach into his mouth and take away his yellow tennis ball (also the only one who wanted to). She cuddled with him and crawled all over him. Best of all, from Zig's perspective, she shared her cookies. I don't imagine that my daughter ever said, "Look after the baby, Ziggy. I'll be back shortly," but I actually do believe he would have been up to the task if she had.
Sadly, Ziggy succumbed to cancer in 2005. Both Amy and Kristen were with him in the end. He was a dog with a mighty heart. Now, here is the real reason I don't have a dog of my own. They do not live as long as people.


  1. Being a dog lover, I really liked this post. Not only for the subject matter which was very endearing, but you really told it so well. Very well written, funny and compassionate, especially for someone who does not own a dog.
    If you are put off with short life spans, think Chihuahua. My last one made it to 22. The smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan.

  2. really moving.
    I owned a cat and then she just disappeared one day... she never came back. Probably died under a car or something... It was also 2005 and I have never gotten over her entirely. so I know what it means... to love an animal, but on the other hand decide not to take one for fear of losing it.

  3. Arkansas Patti...Why thank-you!

    daisy...your blog is beautiful!


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