Monday, March 22, 2010

Gone to the Dogs

I'm a dog person and can hardly remember a time that my family didn't have a dog as a pet. Each one notable for its own idiosyncrasies, and the current alleged "lowerer" of blood pressure certainly has more than his share of quirks.

For example, he loves stuffed dog toys that look like squirrels, or foxes, or hedgehogs. When he gets a new one, the first thing he does is tear off all its limbs, ears, and tail (as applicable). (Oops, there's the law degree rearing its head.) Then, he sucks on the poor mangled critter like a pacifier. Within a few weeks, this leaves the critter a perpetually soggy mess with an unpleasant odor, which is why he frequently gets a new one.

In honor of our German Shepherd Dog, today's randoms involve the origin of dog breed names.

The second half of the Cocker Spaniel’s name comes from its country of origin, Spain; the first half of its name comes from its ability to flush out woodcocks.

The Doberman is named after a German tax collector, Friedrich Louis Dobermann, who was so unpopular that he needed a little extra protection. He bred Manchester Terriers with Pinschers and Rottweilers with Greyhounds until he ultimately produced the Doberman.

The Dandie Didmont Terrier is the only dog breed named after a fictional person, Dandie Didmont, who was a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Guy Mannering.

And, finally, the expression "gone to the dogs" means something is not as good as it was. It is thought to have its origins in ancient China where dogs were not permitted within the walls of cities. So, stray dogs lived in the areas outside of the city walls and survived off of the trash thrown out of the city. Criminals and social outcasts were often expelled from the cities and sent to live among the trash – and thus, the dogs. These people were said to have “gone to the dogs”, both literally because that's where they lived, and figuratively because their lives had taken a definite turn for the worse.

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