Being a weird, introverted, and not-well-socialized kid, I had plenty of imaginary friends. TV characters, movie characters, book characters… all fair game for an overactive imagination and a need to connect to people and the world in a way that felt non-scary and safe. I outgrew it for the most part (although… Hey, Elijah, call me!), or at least channeled it into writing and making up stories about these imaginary people, rather than pretending I was having a conversation with them. Writing is more socially acceptable than having conversations with people who aren’t there, after all. But while I may have moved on from the make-believe of imaginary people, I nevertheless have a house full of imaginary dogs.
I adore the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Not a breed I had ever really considered, I didn’t realize I wanted or needed one until I had him. From that moment, there was no turning back. I truly don’t believe that there is any other breed of dog so well-suited to me in every way. But even though other breeds would not suit me so well for one reason or another, I carry a soft spot for them.
So, come meet my imaginary dogs:
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Why I have an imaginary one: Often described as “love sponges,” Cavaliers are probably the gentlest, sweetest, prettiest little dogs imaginable. The melting expression, the soft, silky coat, the beautiful long ears… I dream of snuggling into a blanket to watch my TV shows with one of these little darlings.
Why I don’t have a real one: First of all, let’s talk about the health issues. Patellas, heart problems, skin conditions, eye problems… you name it, they’ve got it. I realize that health problems can occur in any dog of any breed, but why start with the deck so stacked against me? Second, how would that little love sponge feel when I left it every day to go to work? They were bred for one purpose: to be a companion dog. How fair would it be to take its sole purpose for existing away from it, all day, every day? Third, small litters plus increasing demand plus the aforementioned problem with breeding healthy dogs = an expensive and hard to come-by little dog.
The Doberman Pinscher
Why I have an imaginary one: So regal, so statuesque, so stunningly athletic… There are few sights more impressive at a dog show than a fit, well-bred Doberman. And they’re thinking, working dogs. Conservative, serious, and imposing-looking when they need to be.
Why I don’t have a real one: Size, for one thing. My house is not large, and my fence is only 4 feet tall, which would be iffy when it came to keeping a Doberman in the yard. Laziness — these are dogs who need a lot of exercise and a lot of work. And sometimes (okay, a lot of times), I just want to come home and watch vampires be sexy and pop off great lines. A Doberman would be bored and frustrated with me, and a bored, frustrated Doberman is not something anyone needs to have.
Why I have an imaginary one: Like a lot of folks, I grew up watching Lassie on TV, and to this day, somewhere in my house, is the stuffed Lassie dog that I inherited as a kid. Most of the fur is gone from the backing fabric, both glass eyes are missing, and there is little paint left on its plastic muzzle. Smart, brave, beautiful, the Collie is the quintessential family dog. And in the blue merle color? Be still my heart!
Why I don’t have a real one: Actually, I almost DID have half of a real one, a sable girl I was planning to co-own and show. But I realized that I only have time and money to show one breed. And Collies? Are big. Like, REALLY big. I always forget how big they are until I’m next to them. And all of that beautiful hair? OMG, the grooming!! I can trim feet like nobody’s business, but ears? Uh-uh. Did I mention the barking? Oh, the barking!!! Yes yes, my Cardis bark, but they have NOTHING on a Collie. I wouldn’t have thought that such a high-pitched, annoying noise could come out of a dog that size. I would have been wrong.
The Irish Setter
Why I have an imaginary one: LOOK at that dog. Look at it! That athletic build, the to-die-for red color, the long silky ears… A well-turned out Irish Setter in the ring can take my breath away. And like the stereotypical Irishman, these animals like to party. They carouse, they rough-house, their eyes sparkle to the brim with mischief and merriment. How do you not laugh in the company of an Irish Setter?
Why I don’t have a real one: Yeah, that mischief and merriment thing? Does NOT come with an off-switch. Sometimes you have to untap the keg and get serious and these guys? Do not do serious. They’re also not big fans of quiet or focus. If it doesn’t involve birding, it’s all one big party. I can’t live in the canine equivalent of an eternal frat party. Especially not with dogs this size.
The Standard Poodle
Why I have an imaginary one: Done up right, this is one stylish dog. And I’m not talking about the ridiculousness that is perpetrated on them in the name of show-ring glory. A nice, well-kept sporting clip is beautiful. Stylish and striking, but serviceable all the same. These guys are a ton of fun; I remember a black Standard Poodle, Elvis, who used to compete in obedience trials. We never knew what Elvis was going to do, but we knew that, when he stepped into the obedience ring, we were about to be entertained.
Why I don’t have a real one: Seriously, people, I have a hard enough time keeping myself groomed. THIS coat? And having to either perfect the trimming myself, or face exorbitant grooming fees every month? Not for me. Too big and athletic for my house and yard, this clown would wear a frown if it had to live with me.
The Icelandic Sheepdog
Why I have an imaginary one: I can pretty much sum this one up by saying “OMG SO PRETTY!!!!!!!” The fluffy coat, the rainbow of colors they come in, the bright eyes and small prick ears and the look like they’re always laughing, the manageable size… this is one very attractive package.
Why I don’t have a real one: I think the biggest reason is that these are still pretty rare and hard to come by. And when and if I did get one, trying to find shows that had an entry would be a nightmare. I’ve gotten remarkably spoiled with having available majors at most of the shows I attend with the Cardigans. It must be hell trying to finish one of these guys. Also, they are a spitz breed, and having lived with a Keeshond, I’m not sure the spitz temperament is all that compatible with me. I like a dog to be “spirited,” but some of the spitz dogs take “feisty” to new heights. And on a purely frivolous note, I detest the curled-over-the-back tails. Let’s just say that it amply displays the dog’s least attractive feature, and leave it at that, ‘kay?
The Scottish Terrier
Why I have an imaginary one: This one is sort of split between the “imaginary dog” and “possible future dog” categories. I’ve been saying for the last twenty years that when I am a lonely, frail, crotchety old woman, I’m going to have a nasty little Scotty to sit on my lap and snap at anyone who even thinks about annoying me.
Why I don’t have a real one: I am not yet a lonely, frail, old woman. The “crotchety” part is open for debate.
And, My Absolute, Number One, Imaginary Heart-Dog: The Borzoi
Why I have an imaginary one: I’m not sure I can entirely put the appeal of these dogs into words. The form that so completely follows function, the beautiful coat, the noble carriage, the royal heritage… I don’t think there is ANY breed that appeals to me in the same way that the Borzoi does. Even knowing all of the same things you’ve all heard about sighthounds and trainability (or lack of same), I want one down to the core of my being; I would be completely delighted and honored to have this dog do nothing but sneer elegantly down its nose at me 24/7.
Why I don’t have a real one: My husband won’t let me. Oh, okay! It’s not that he specifically won’t let me have a Borzoi; it’s just that I only have so many available “dog slots” in my house before he just up and leaves, and if I’m going to breed and show Cardigans then I can’t very well give one of those coveted household positions to an elegant sneerer. Plus, there are all of the same concerns with house and fence size as with the other large breeds, making a Borzoi completely and unequivocally impractical for me at the present time.
I can imagine it, though. And who knows? Maybe someday.