Category Archives: Dogs

Missing our holiday guest, Dembe

Before any more days pass, I just wanted to say that since Monday, we’ve really been missing Dembe, the mostly pit bull mutt who stayed with us from Christmas Eve to Jan. 2.

He’s my eldest granddaughter’s dog, and he’s a great one. I’m told his name means “peace” in Uganda, and that suits him, despite his bellicose body type. He’s mostly quiet — except for the occasional gruff whenever anyone came to the door, or when he’d hear a noise from upstairs and forget that it was me. Not an alarming, blood-and-murder howling, just a calm reporting of the possibility that maybe there was an intruder about, and that we were free to make of it what we would. An FYI thing.

He’s the only dog we’ve had in this house who would simply let us know with a brief whine that he needed to go out, and then go on his own without being contained by leash or invisible fence, and come back in. Very disciplined, very civilized.

I would put a leash on him when I took him off the property for walks, because while I trusted him to stay with me, I doubted the neighbors would share my faith. The leash was made of chain, because his mighty jaws would make short work of nylon or any other lesser materials, if he really wanted to get loose. But he never tried. And he didn’t try to pull my arm off the way other dogs have — even though it was probably in his power to do so. He’s a very gentlemanly walker.

I could go on and on about his virtues, but I wanted to tell you something else about him. You know how crazy I am about the whole genealogy thing. Well, Dembe is the first dog I’ve known who has had his DNA done. Or rather, my granddaughter had it done. Unlike me, he could care less. And he’s right not to care, of course, but it’s fun to see his rich heritage quantified. I love a mutt — I much prefer them to those purebred toffs you see on the Westminster show each Thanksgiving.

And Dembe is such a mutt, sometimes in surprising ways.

Of course, the plurality of his genetic makeup — 43 percent — is what he looks like. And he is 89 percent various bulldog breeds — pit, Staffordshire terrier, plain bull (I guess “Bulldog” means English bulldog) — or boxer. You know, tough-guy breeds. I was a little surprised at the Staffordshire designation, but look at these pictures. Whom does that look like, especially the brindled one? Dembe’s legs are just longer, which is probably the boxer influence.

But he’s also a sporting chap — 5 percent Lab, although he showed little interest in tearing off after squirrels or anything. He’d chase a tennis ball, and then challenge you to try to take it away from him (that was his idea of how “fetch” was to be played, and it gave him a chance to show off his bulldog superpower — his powerful jaws), but if a small animal passed in front of him, he’d just give it a glance and move on. And then there was collie, and a bit of chow chow.

I don’t know if anyone has told him that he’s also part Chihuahua. I’m certainly not going to bring up the subject. I look forward to seeing him again soon, and wouldn’t want to damage our relationship…

He really enjoyed our new storm door, which kept out the 13-degree air, and let in the sun…