This past May marked Mizpah’s seventh birthday! We have been through so much together. I held Mizpah on my lap from Fall River MA to my house in Lancaster MA when she was just 10 weeks old. My ex-husband was actually the driving force behind getting a dalmatian, something I will always be thankful for. She cried and screamed bloody murder the entire way. While she is an absolutely stunning dog, I’ll be honest, she was a very needy demanding puppy. She destroyed a beautiful pair of turquoise patent leather flats, ate a stick of body glide out of my triathlon bag, and even ate an entire aloe plant once- roots and all. She had deemadex mites on her adorable little paws once, then there was the ringworm on the top of her little head, and then we can’t forget all the numerous upset stomachs and scrapes.
Many people stop to say hi to her when we are out and about and make comments about how you never see dalmatians anymore, or how they had never actually seen a dalmatian. They marvel at her friendliness and talk about a mean dalmatian a neighbor or family member had or recant some story about a mean and vicious dalmatian. We have heard it all- that dalmatians don’t even growl before they bite, that dalmatians attack when you turn your back on them….I could go on and on. We do run into dalmatian fans who have had good experiences every once in a while.
Dalmatians were certainly overbred when they were a popular pet due to the 101Dalmatians movies. Overbreeding is bad for any breed. There is deafness in the dalmatian gene pool. All puppies should be BAER tested to determine their level of hearing. In Mizpah’s litter they were all bilateral except one unilateral. Dalmatians are high energy dogs, capable of running for hours without tiring. They were bred to be carriage dogs, running alongside horsedrawn carriages clearing crowds and protecting whatever what in the carriage. This is how they ended up as mascots for firehouses and for Budweiser. They are suitable only for families who do dog friendly activities. Dalmatians will destroy your house and not let you sleep if they don’t get attention and exercise.
Looking back, the two keys to happiness for Mizpah and her family have been socialization & exercise.
We started taking Mizpah to puppy socials at the local Petco as soon as she finished her shots. It was $10 dollars for an hour in a big exercise pen with other puppies, toys, and a trainer. The trainer would act as referee, encourage play and sharing of toys/water. Honestly this might have been the best investment I made for Mizpah. Mizpah had a little referee in her as well. When puppies started to play rough, she would get in between them and bark. I also noticed Mizpah’s flexibility with other dogs. If they were more dominant, she laid down and played the more submissive dog. If they were nervous and submissive, she approached slowly with a toy and let them take control.
As she grew, weekend mornings turned from Petco socials to time at off leash parks with lots of dogs to play with. I ventured away from my leashed walks/runs in my neighborhood to run on trails with her. One of the most important things I learned about Mizpah was her drive to move forward on a trail. Not every meeting between Mizpah and other dogs OR other people has gone well, but with Mizpah the quickest way to get her out of a scrape was not to get in the middle of it, but just enthusiastically move forward like nothing happened and call her along. She has always out run anything trying to get at her. Figuring this out has made it so we can always remove her from any situation on the trails….which has definitely been helpful MANY times.
Anywhere Mizpah could go, she has gone. She has gone to many family member homes, she goes to many towns/cities just to walk around and socialize, she goes to Lowes with us, she runs in road races with us, she goes to dog friendly beaches, campgrounds, hotels, & cabins, and she goes to horse shows with me. Being with my husband and I is her greatest reward in life, so we take her everywhere we can. We drove down to Florida to spend a week with my parents with Mizpah in the back. When we do have to leave her behind for a night, she goes to a boarding place that doesn’t use kennels or crates. She is welcomed there as a part of a pack/family which only increases her social well being.
Mizpah as a puppy needed multiple walks in order to have quiet nap times. Walks turned into runs, and runs on the road turned into off leash runs in the woods. My husband and I are both trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. Mizpah will happily run alongside a mountain bike. She is a stellar trail dog and has climbed I think 39 of the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers.
I learned early on that there would be very few days off with Mizpah as my personal trainer. Hungover…sick….busy….depressed….none of that matters to Mizpah. Spring and fall are the worst- the whining and crying, pure desperation to go out and run. It can be a lot. I have never looked back and said oh man, I wish I hadn’t gone out with Miz though. I am always happy that I exercised with Mizpah. Being out on the trails with her makes me feel centered and calm, no matter what is going on in my life.
Things that don’t work with Mizpah? She is NOT a yard dog. Roaming around our fenced in yard is nice for hanging out with us or just going to the bathroom, but she does NOT consider that to be exercise. Now leash walks are only cool if its a recovery day. Long runs on leash are ok, but just a walk around the block will not do it. Girlfriend also loooooves swimming. If we can combine running with swimming, then we have really nailed the workout routine for Mizpah that day. Even now at six months pregnant, Jon and I have to work together to make sure Mizpah gets her exercise. I am so fortunate that I am still able to go out with her, no medical issues yet, knock on wood!
Our Next Chapter
Mizpah will soon have to share our attention with a newborn! Jon and I have already discussed the importance of still tending to Mizpah’s needs. We have found some nice off leash areas that are really close to the house. We plan on doing leash walks with the stroller, and we are getting a great jogging stroller to run with baby and Mizpah. We have a k’tan wrap & an ergo baby carrier coming too so that we will be able to do family walks on the trails. Thankfully Mizpah is 7 now, and less demanding about her exercise regimen. She spends more time lounging as she’s getting older. She even laid down while we were at Groton House Farm’s summer horse trials this past week!
The first breeder of dalmatians in America was actually George Washington! His coach dog was a dal named Madame Moose. He paid 12 shillings to import her in 1786, and the pup was quite a companion for George and his wife Martha. Washington imported a male to breed with her the following August and actually wrote in his diary: “A new coach dog [arrived] for the benefit of Madame Moose; her amorous fits should therefore be attended to.” My husband and I fell in love with this quote because at the end of the day, Mizpah is extremely affectionate and just happy to be with her people. We joke about Mizpah’s amorous fits often.
Dalmatians are beautiful dogs, but they aren’t for everyone. I never sugar coat it with people that ask. She is beautiful and friendly, but very high energy and in need of exercise. As I write this, she is laying on the couch next to me but I know its in everyone’s best interest to take her to run somewhere today. Maintaining a happy Mizpah keeps everyone in the house happy.
Any other dog lovers out there? What do you do with your dog? What works and what doesn’t? Let me know in the comments!