Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Pekingese for all seasons? His Royal Highness prefers his rain slicker of silk

Tampa's rainfall yesterday of 4.72 inches shattered our previous record for this date of 2.84 inches, set in 1955. It was the sixth wettest July day and the forecast calls for us to receive another 1 to 3 inches or more before this day is out. So what does a little record rainfall have to do with the strangely garbed animal staring at you with those soulful, pleading, almost desperate eyes. A lot. (He'd say it much more emphatically.) This little creature is a proud Pekingese, the Lion Dog. Named for the capital of China, the first one is traceable to the Tang Dynasty of the 8th century (A.D.618-906). It is said that thousands (?!!) roamed the royal palaces and no one outside of nobility was allowed to own one. (I hope no one is looking into my genealogy to see if I'm worthy.) During the second Opium War in 1860, the imperial family ordered that all of the dogs be destroyed so the foreign invaders could not obtain them. Many escaped and a British officer brought five of them home to England. Queen Victoria was given a Pekingese and the dogs became part of the royal household. (From one palace to another.) Pekingese were recognized by the Kennel Club of Great Britain in 1893 and the American Kennel Club in 1909. They are described as independent, assertive and stubborn. Very bold. Further, Pekes have a strong sense of territory and will protect it against all threats. Got that? All threats. Stubborn. Bull-headed. A mule if you will. This particular Pekingese is named 'Porter.' (He is named for the American photographer Eliot Porter (1901-1990). Educated at Harvard, and graduating with a degree in chemical engineering in 1923 and a medical degree in 1929, Porter is considered one of our finest nature photographers and an early master of the use of color. He published several books during his lifetime but is probably best known for the book "In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World," published by the Sierra Club in 1962.) Porter, the dog, is just as focused and tenacious a pet as Eliot Porter ever was as a photographic genius. If you look straight into those eyes it's clear that Porter is now beyond humiliation into anger. Just imagine. An imperial dog, raised in palaces from Peking to London, is clothed in a bright yellow, plastic rain slicker. Horrors! You can read it in his stare and set of his jaw (of teeth). He must use the facilities, right now, but Tampa's record rainfall mean his furry paws might be dampened by... moisture. He might get wet. (OK, I said it.) If like most dogs he jumps out of the door he would be swallowed up in flooded streets and even sidewalks. What to do? Oh, what to do? A human speaks up, How 'bout that rain slicker (that he hates?) Oh, he'll live. So the door opens, the mist and wind hit his delicate royal nose, and the small, cuddly-looking Pekingese assumes the unmovable stance of a 1,000 lb. mule. Or donkey. Did he go out? NO! Will he live to see another day of sunny, bright blue skies that Tampa is so well known for? Yes, I believe he will. I will check back later with his imperial handlers to gauge his mood and continuing need to visit his favorite trees, bushes and fire hydrant. (Pekes don't require exercise. Their curiosity is the reason they go outside their air conditioned world.) I'm slow to learn the ways of royalty. I should know by now that Pekingese and an embarrassingly bright yellow, plastic rain slicker do not go together. Now what if it was woven of the finest silk?? Porter? I'm talking to you. Ok, how long can you hold it?


  1. Very cute, Frank. Every Peke needs such a raincoat! Especially in Tampa, for I've been hearing you got caught in a terrible deluge and a tornado as well! Yuk! Hope things are improving for you now!

  2. His eyes match the raincoat. What is with the weather?