Coton De Tulear: Quarantine Puppy was the Highlight of 2020

We are so thankful this year for something we never thought we would have; a dog! We live in a ‘Lockdown State’ and after months of the kids not having school, sports or extended family I was becoming concerned. The kids created a PowerPoint presentation full of promises about how they would take care of the dog, and the benefits of dog ownership. I knew few of those promises would be kept, so I was shocked when my allergy-suffering husband said he would consider getting a dog. The kids began researching all different kinds of ‘hypo-allergenic’ dogs and then narrowed it down to smaller sized dogs that aren’t as prone to barking and that can love a whole family, not just one person.

There really weren’t many dogs that fit those criteria. The kids each presented 3 dog ideas and the Coton was on two lists. It also looks very similar to the West Highland Terrier that I had coveted in college. Marrying my dear husband meant giving up my plan to have a little Westie.

Picking the breed was time-consuming and when we finally settled on one we thought we were done. Apparently the rest of the nation wanted a Quarantine Puppy because dog kennels everywhere were sold out and taking deposits for puppies that hadn’t been conceived yet. Coton De Tulears are rather rare anyway, so when I contacted 39 kennels in 16 different states, a few of the owners were kind enough to not outright laugh at me. I finally located a kennel with only a phone number that had a mention in an out of date directory. It was a 12-hour round trip drive, which was much better than kennels I would have had to fly to (and still had no puppies and only a waiting list). The kennel owner said her last puppy was spoken for by one of her past clients, but the family hadn’t contacted her in a month. I said I would drive up that night with cash. She called me back the next morning and said her client wanted to wait for the next litter so they could go on vacation (lucky ducks). We named him King Louie.

Why do I tell you all this? So you will be prepared if you decide to buy this breed. Kennel owners are in love with their dogs. One kennel owner had a 15-page application to adopt a puppy. One owner required a phone call to be comfortable enough to sell me a dog. Almost all owners required some sort of written statement that I would care for the dog his entire natural life or return him to the selling kennel. My family raised and trained German Shepherds for Sheriffs, Police forces and personal protection my entire childhood, but we never had restrictions like this. I was willing to jump through any hoop, because this seemed to be the only breed that met all our needs.

All my experience with German Shepherds and a random Afghan Hound did not prepare me for a Coton though. All dogs are wonderful (juries out on the Afghan Hound, but all other dogs) and they can all help smooth the rough patches in childhood, I knew that first hand. A Coton is classified as a ‘companion’ dog though. A classification that doesn’t exist on the AKC registry. After several months I understood why there was a 15-page application and why one seller called herself a ‘full-time stay at home dog mom’!

Again, all dogs are wonderful, but this breed loves everybody! I’ve caught Mr. Allergy putting his face right into Louie’s baby soft fur right after his bath (as Mr. Allergy is on his way to his own shower). Louie doesn’t resort to barking to get his way, though he does chime in when we are singing “Happy Birthday”. And he uses the dog door knob bell to tell us when he wants to go out. When I hear his little nails tap the window I know he’s ready to come back in.

This breed is well-known for the ability to walk on their hind legs. It’s the one trick we try to improve on. Any dog can be trained to do tricks, so I’m not telling you this to toot our own horn about what a great job we’ve done training Louie. We haven’t. We’ve done a terrible job training Louie. There are five of us, no consistency in hand commands, no consistency in house rules, and no consistency in daily schedules. He will mess with anything left on the ground, so I had to get him these non-tipping food and water bowls.

I had to get a Kong version of this kennel mat because he dug holes into his first two then ate the stuffing. Louie doesn’t come when you call. With the weather turning cold he doesn’t like to walk into wet grass and has had a few accidents in the house even though we thought he was potty trained. Plus he drags you all over the road when you go for a walk! Louie’s good attributes are all natural tendencies ….. I’ve used none of my dog-training experience with him. We are just reaping the benefits of his good personality.

Some of these good attributes could be a problem if a Coton doesn’t fit your lifestyle. First off, that hair! Summer time means Louie comes straight inside and sits on the air conditioner vent. A Coton grows long hair, not fur. That is a major reason he creates less allergy issues. However, you have to decide if you are going to brush him EVERY SINGLE DAY or if you are going to pay in the neighborhood of $40 every few months to get it all trimmed down into a Puppy cut. We opt for the Puppy cut, but we weren’t paying attention and he had to have his ears shaved because of matting (which hubby said looked like a slice of baloney on his head). Better to keep even the ears trimmed down if you aren’t going to spend that time every day.

The second issue is that even a really good dog is still a dog. He will scratch things, he will destroy the occasional rug, he will need walks, and he will pee on your son’s bed if his whining goes ignored. You will still have to pick up his poo on walks and if you don’t pick up your lawn pretty often it will get tracked back into your house. The vet costs a couple hundred every time you go, and you will go there more often than you would think.

The third issue is that this little 14-17 pound ball of fluff isn’t going to go mountain climbing with you. This is good if you wanted a dog who could stand being inside all day and would just want one walk a day. He might enjoy a camping trip, but he really isn’t built for long hikes. If you really, really want to take him with you, you better get something like this because you will be carrying him at some point. All little dogs are this way, but his bursts of speed might deceive you about his abilities. Yes, he can easily out run you that last block on the way home, but he will also stop on a dime and collapse down into the grass if he suddenly smells something interesting. Depending on how young and agile you are that might send you for a tumble yourself.

The fourth issue is very much a Coton issue. This goes back to his ‘companion’ designation. The Coton loves everybody, but particularly he loves his people , he wants to be with his people all the time . Most dogs are like this in a way, but the Coton takes it to a co-dependent level. The reason the breeders were so picky about who they sell to is because this dog wants his people more than anything. Louie has not touched his food all day because he didn’t want to be away from his people . I have to remind him and sometimes call him in to his food while I do laundry so he won’t be alone while he eats. When he was a puppy my daughter would sit and wait with him so he would eat. Yes we’ve totally spoiled him because we had lost hope of ever having a dog, but he is also a total delight. For us, Louie is the family’s ‘Emotional Support Animal’. [With all due respect for those who have an officially designated animal.] The Coton has earned the nickname of the clown dog for many years. It recently was also dubbed the anti-depressant dog.

In my mind, having a dog is very much part of an abundant lifestyle. The concept of homesteading can range far and wide. Depending on your money, job and geographic situation you can range all the way from ‘off the grid water harvesting’ to ‘aquaponics in a high-rise apartment’. My particular flavor is to plan for my family’s future despite what the cost is today. So yes, my hen coop and fence costs more than I would spend on organic eggs for the next five years. Yes, my greenhouse costs more than I will ever spend on tomatoes and peppers. Yes, our forest land costs more than we have ever spent on vacations. And yes, Louie costs more than we spend on toys for the kids. However, a distraught child just scooped up Louie on the way to their room. That is the value of a dog to me. Tears are expensive, and by that count Louie is a bargain.

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