They're a breed apart

April 27, 2003|By Steven Lubet

CHICAGO - Someday, you might want to get a dog, and you'll probably want to do some research first. Head to the library and check out the "breed books." Then compare the various canines by size, temperament and "personality."

But before you do it, there's one thing that you really need to know: Dog books are filled with lies. Not some of them. All of them. On every page, cover to cover.

You see, these books are all written by dog devotees, who see no faults in their favorite breeds. So relying on a dog book would be like basing college admissions on the sincere evaluations of the kids' own parents. What you might consider a serious behavior problem, they call a charming quirk - if they mention it at all.

I know what I'm talking about. I got a Siberian Huskie.

According to the dog book, Huskies can be "somewhat stubborn," which turns out to be a euphemism for nearly untrainable. Simple commands such as "stay" or "fetch" are contrary to the dog's genetic code. It's not that they're disobedient; they've just been bred to run. Away.

As the breed book never told me, a first-rate Huskie will want to start running and never stop. Sled dogs don't ever want to be behind anything or anyone, which is why they are always hurtling forward.

That's great out on the tundra, with the team harnessed firmly in position, as they race from Anchorage to Nome in a marathon test of speed and endurance, with nothing before them but the frozen wilderness. Far above the Arctic Circle, each living creature serves as a mobile milepost, marking the way on a frantic dash toward the distant, dim horizon. But that attitude gets darned inconvenient on crowded streets, when the dog keeps trying to overtake everything in sight - including other dogs, joggers and kids on in-line skates - even if they're on the next block.

And then there's the matter of hair. The dog book said that Huskies require "moderate grooming." Yeah, moderate. In the same way that an avalanche is a moderate earthquake.

The shedding is copious and constant, with the undercoat fluffing out in tufts the size of hockey pucks, and then exploding into thousands of short, coarse, spiky hairs. Talk about three bags full. I could stuff mattresses, if anyone needed that many mattresses.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my pooch. And since I have to walk her six miles a day, we've gotten downright familiar with each other. Still, I've noticed that Huskies are getting alarmingly popular. From the Disney films to yuppie catalogues, you see their noble snouts and piercing blue eyes all over the place.

But take it from me, it's nothing but a snow job. So before you fall for this blizzard of propaganda, please consider the cold facts. 'Cause if you let 'em, those puppies will turn your heart - to mush.

Steven Lubet is a professor of law and a professor of comparative literary studies at Northwestern University.

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