I am two things: a “cat guy” and fiercely independent, so naturally I never considered having a housedog. I always wanted a big dog, specifically a Siberian Husky, but only if I lived on acres and acres of property out in the wilderness and it remained outdoors. I’ve known outdoor dogs on large properties and they are great companions and largely self-sufficient.
That said, I always believed that having a large dog like that, even if raised from birth, in a small apartment in New York City was nothing short of animal cruelty.
So why would someone like me, living in the city, get a dog? It would have to be a smaller breed, but small dogs are high energy, yappy, human-dependent perpetual one-year old babies without the benefit of them growing up and taking care of you later in life. Their best traits are cleaning up spilled food and shredding important documents and assorted footwear.
Cats are great for apartments. Indoor-only cats are commonplace; they bathe themselves, go to the bathroom in one place (and bury when they’re done), and mostly could care less if you are around or not as long as they have fresh water, food, and a clean place to use the bathroom. They also don’t bark. A dog’s bark to me is nails on a blackboard. Shrill, loud, persistent, and all around annoying. Why would I get a dog?
Then I met a girl. I think people do strange things when they meet someone they are attracted to. Suddenly things completely out of the range of possibility becomes an “acceptable consideration,” and lo and behold within a few months of dating this special person, I find myself in front of a breeder’s storefront staring at yappy little balls of energy. They are cute to be sure; I don’t think I’ve ever denied that a puppy is, perhaps second only to a Slow Loris eating a rice ball, the cutest sight on Earth. There is a significant difference however between walking by a storefront to admire from afar, and taking a little noise box home.
My saving grace is that my girlfriend is highly allergic to anything organic that lives in the United States. So, although cats are out of the question with the exception of the highly unusual Sphynx cat (which was eliminated due to the high number of health issues), dogs were as well… so I hoped thought.
Then of course I learned about hypoallergenic breeds. Sigh.Hypoallergenic breeds aren’t really; they are a group of dogs that grow hair, not fur. They don’t shed and they don’t have dander so most of the allergens that cause a reaction in humans aren’t being left around the house. These breeds include the Poodle, the Shih Tzu, and the Havanese. Either way, it is full speed ahead for my girlfriend. Damn.
So they’re cute, yes. And there are some that are hypoallergenic, I’ll grant that. But they are still yappy and you still have to get your butt out of bed at 5am during the New York winter to walk them so they don’t poop all over the house. Objection sustained, victory for the defense.
One day, my girlfriend and I make the fateful decision to enter the shop. Inside, they happen to have a Havanese puppy. After spending a few minutes on my girlfriend’s lap, she decides that he simply isn’t affectionate enough. He just sat there like a wet noodle. The owner suggested spending time with a rare breed of dog named Coton de Tulear. They happened to have one in the shop. Out comes a fluffy, soft, quiet puppy with affection but not high energy. Like other similar breeds, the Coton is hypoallergenic as well.
Some research at home revealed that the Coton is an anomaly in the small breeds. They are naturally small, not bred down, so they don’t have the “big dog” aggressiveness or tendency to bark. The don’t require much exercise and can easily be a housedog (and left alone for hours in a day). They are known to be a quiet breed, and perhaps best of all they can be house-trained to use wee pads which means you never have to walk them.
Objection overruled, victory for the prosecution. Within 72 hours and after buying a setting up wee pads, a pen, food, water, and a bed, the new family member came home.
The first few hours were great – he was a happy puppy. Playing, sleeping, sitting, and stone quiet. Not a noise out of him – wonderful! And he already recognized what a wee pad was and was using it. Pure. Bliss.
At night, it was time to go to bed. We put the puppy in his pen and went to bed. Within a few minutes, the crying, parking, and howling began… and continued most of the evening. My worst fears had been realized.
The next three days were more of the same. Sleepless nights led to a short fuse and waning patience. Regrets aplenty sprouted in my head. Why did we do this? Why now? Why a dog?
This is when a realization hit me. Cats are like raising an adult. Dogs are what it’s like to have a child. You have to adapt, adjust, change your lifestyle, figure out why they are doing what they are doing, and realize they will always be dependent on you. In return however they are eternally and almost instantly bonded to you. They love seeing you come home or wake up in the morning, and they have a nearly unlimited amount of affection to offer. So I took a deep breathe, got some sleep, and made some changes at home to keep our puppy more comfortable at night to keep him from crying or barking.
Two weeks in and we have a routine. I’ve settled in with the puppy and the puppy with us, and all is well. Perhaps most importantly, I’m sleeping well at night. For about 15 minutes every night, he has his routine of running in circles with his favorite toy and growling a bit but he quickly tires himself out and passes out for the night. That’s about all the noise he makes now, day or night.
While first time dog ownership takes adaptation, and a little bit life change and sacrifice, it is rewarding. Having a dog in the house makes owning a cat feel more like having a roommate as opposed to a new member of the family.
All in all, I highly recommend the Coton de Tulear. Despite the horribly pretentious French name, this is the most docile, friendly, quiet, fully indoor, cat-like dog I think a person can own. They are quiet, fun, loving, don’t shed, have minimal health issues, can be easily house trained and kept indoors, and have lots of love to offer their family. For those into tricks, apparently they are also quite smart and easily trained although it will be some time before I find out whether that is true or not.
As much as you have to pick the dog, the dog must also pick you. I also highly suggest doing your research, but ultimately ignoring any reviews or comments with strong opinions and go with what you see and how you feel. Even if on paper everything sounds great, if it doesn’t feel good in person, don’t do it, and the reverse is also true. In my case, the research on the breed aligned with the puppy I met, and everything felt right. I highly recommend meeting a Coton if you are a cat lover but are considering a dog.