Airedales are funny dogs. Funny ha-ha and funny peculiar. The main thing to know is that you really have to want to spend lots of time with your dog if you’re going to have an airedale, because they move right in. It doesn’t take them long to figure out that the two-legged ones have it better. Better in every way: they eat better, they get the best rooms, and they play a lot more than the four-legged guy.
So they set out to get all those good things reserved for the two-leggeds. They figure out how to get at the food, they learn to open doors, and after a while they pretty much take over the house. And with the passage of time, they develop their own neuroses. Our first airedale, Barnaby of Blessed Memory, “knew” for seven years or so that everyone who came to the house had come to see him and play with him. I mean, why else would they come? He was smarter, faster, stronger, fluffier and cuter.
Over the years it slowly and terribly dawned on him that there were some folks who came to the house for some other reason. What could it be? And so he pondered it, until the horrible truth became all too clear: THEY HAVE COME TO EAT MY FOOD. No other explanation was possible. And so, when the doorbell rang, he would race to the door, tail wagging, rapid breathing, bouncing up on the door in preparation for his welcoming bounce on the visitor. The guest would get maybe half a minute to make his intentions clear, and once Barnaby decided it was one of THOSE, he would let out a mournful wail, race to the kitchen, and lie flat on the floor with his arms around his bowl. If the poor soul–the visitor, that is–set foot in the kitchen, Barnaby would emit a vicious growl, and the guest would quickly retreat.
It has been said that you can’t really train an airedale, which is a bit of an exaggeration. True, they don’t take to discipline. But they certainly understand what you want from them, and they are even prepared to do it, for the most part. “For the most part” is key, because they view your commands the same way Neapolitan drivers view red lights: a strong suggestion, something to be seriously considered. However this does not mean blind obedience. An airedale has a very strong will, and there will be times when he will decide it’s best to ignore a command. As when there is a squirrel within five miles, for example. It’s better to chase the squirrel. Sometimes airedales even catch squirrels, and then bring them to you as a sign of their love.
I’ve often wondered how airedales would do in politics, because they have great charm, and some of them have great charisma. Our current airedale, Thurber, isn’t very charismatic, but he makes up for it with charm and cuteness. Everybody loves him, even anti-dog people. So I would think he would win most elections, and I’m sure he’d make good decisions in office.
All of which brings us to the horror story of the month, in which the Governor of the State of Maryland (aka the People’s Republic of Maryland), one Mr. Martin O’Malley. He is not, so far as I know, related to the legendary Mr. O’Malley, the cigar-wielding fairy godfather of barnaby in the old comic strip of the same name. If so, he has lost the magic, because this particular O’Malley actually evicted an airedale from his home. His mansion.
According to the Washington Post, Governor O’Malley had an airedale named Scout, who seems to me to be a model of his breed. The Post had previously reported, in the words of the two journalists,
that the pup was asserting authority beyond his actual powers, aggressively patrolling the perimeter of the governor’s mansion and barking fiercely at every tourist and legislator who passed by. Now, after months of unaccustomed silence from Scout, the O’Malleys are confirming that the dog is no longer with the family, as reported by the Baltimore Examiner.
Scout was doing exactly what he should: protecting his turf. And barking at legislators is one of the highest callings of an airedale. To say that he was overstepping his bounds could not be more mistaken; he was keeping potential enemies outside the boundaries, as well he should.
Mrs. O’Malley (Katie) actually made a nasty remark about Scout, whom she had evicted from the mansion. She cruelly told the Post that
He’s living with Baltimore friends who’ve trained other problem dogs and take him for long runs every day.
“He’s happy,” she promised.
PROBLEM DOGS? More like problem pols. Mrs. O’Malley even leaked the ultimate slur, whispering that Scout had bitten their 5-year old son. She quickly added that “it was minor,” which leads me to believe that Scout was loving up the boy, and between the irrational exuberance of the two of them, perhaps a tooth pressed on some skin. Our airedales have always loved children, and while I have known a tooth to press against my skin, none of ours ever bit anyone.
In fairness to Mrs. O’Malley, I must admit that Thurber is named after the great writer, James Thurber, who wrote a story about a family airedale. The story was called something like “The Dog Who Bit People,” and told, as you might guess, of an airedale who bit everyone who entered the house. That rather appealed to me; I thought maybe if I named the puppy “Thurber” he might be a fierce guard dog. But no. Our Thurber is Ghandian to the extreme. He thinks all problems can be resolved with treats and licks.
So maybe Scout misbehaved. But a bit of attention would probably have cured it. And it seems the O’Malley’s have a bit of remorse:
Though Scout still returns for visits, a new appointee has already taken his place: Rex, an English cocker spaniel. Cute, sweet, good with kids, said O’Malley. “He loves it out in the front yard.”
My bottom line: a feckless politicized spaniel was promoted to a position for which he has no qualifications, while a brave, trench-hardened airedale was sent to reeducation camp. Airedales are too good for politics. And, it seems, politicians in the People’s Republic of Maryland.