This post is an ode to the best group of dogs out there: the terrier and the terrier mix.
Terriers are not only used to sell whisky in vintage adverts. Owning a terrier or terrier mix is also the definitive key to happiness.
Terriers have noble origins, with many breeds orginiating in Great Britian or Ireland. One exception is the magnificent schnauzer, whose origins can be traced back to Germany. Terriers were often sent on reconnaissance missions under the ground by their owners, to flush out or slay foxes or rodents. In fact, “terrier” derived from the French (terre) and Latin (terra) words for “earth.”
As an owner of four rambunctious terriers and terrier mixes, I can safely say that terriers are spirited. Terriers have big personalities. They are constantly on the go, and often stroll around the perimeter of my residence to ensure there are no intruders or vermin around.
Another accurate word to describe a terrier or a terrier mix would be gallant. Terriers are fearless. When we visit the dog park, my dogs will often play with the larger dogs. Even outside of the dog park, my dogs remain intrepid. When my neighbor’s rotund Doberman made the mistake of wandering onto my property, after a daring escape from his own yard, my female Scottish Terrier put him into place with ear-splitting barks. The Doberman promptly returned to his home, and order was restored.
Terriers have also resided in the White House as some of the most beloved pets in United States Presidential History. The most famous of these terriers is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pup, Fala, pictured below listening to his master on the radio.
Fala was the subject of Roosevelt’s 1944 speech to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America. Prior to making this speech, Republican opponents had been attacking Roosevelt in Congress, with one attack claiming that Roosevelt left Fala behind on the Aleutian Islands while touring them. Republicans then said that Roosevelt sent a U.S. Navy destroyer back to the islands to recover Fala, at an immense cost to United States taxpayers. Roosevelt’s retort highlights some key terrier traits:
“These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.”
When I read this speech to my own two Scotties, they wagged their tails emphatically in agreement. FDR also had a second Scottish terrier, Maggie.
President George W. Bush also had two Scottish terriers in White House, Barney and Miss Beazley.
Other Presidents that shared the White House with a terrier or more are James Buchanan (toy terrier), Theodore Roosevelt (Manchester terrier, bull terrier, rat terrier), Woodrow Wilson (Aierdale terrier, bull terrier), Warren G. Harding (Aierdale terrier), Calvin Coolidge (Aierdale terrier, unspecified terrier), Herbert Hoover (fox terriers), John F. Kennedy (Welsh terrier), and Richard Nixon (unspecified terrier).
Terriers are also the subjects of many films. 1955’s The Lady and the Tramp features Jock, a cartoon Scottish terrier. A Cairn terrier played Toto, Dorothy’s dog in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. 2000’s Best In Show proved that “God loves a terrier,” with the Norwich terrier Winky taking home the title.
Children of the 90’s may recall Wisbone, a television series that ran on PBS. The titular character of that series was a Jack Russel terrier, with a penchant for classical literature.
In short, owning a terrier or a terrier mix may not be easy at times, as it can be incredibly frustrating to have a dog that is so independent that it does not listen to you. Regardless, owning a terrier or a terrier mix also provides a person with an insurmountable amount of joy. The spunky personalities and indomitable spirits of terriers can bring much happiness to those fortunate enough to share their homes with them.
If you are looking to add a terrier to your life, check out your local shelter or Petfinder.com.