Jane and Lisbon
Eighteen years ago, my two daughters finally convinced me that it was time for our family to get a dog. We spent several evenings searching the internet for a breed that would work for us. One day a friend of mine said, “Why don’t you come over and see my brother’s dog while I am dog sitting. I think you’ll really like him–he’s a Portuguese Water Dog. They used to work on the Portuguese boats and have webbed feet that make them very good swimmers. The dogs were used to herd fish into the nets and send messages between the boats.” The girls and I were totally smitten with Murphy. I knew that if we mentioned that these dogs were used on a fishing boat, my husband would be hooked as well because he’s an avid fisherman. A few days later we were back over visiting Murphy with my husband. We had a chance to meet the owners. They were telling us that Murphy had come from California and they would go down with their motor home and stay near Napa while the dog was entered in various shows. We then got a new little Portuguese Water Dog puppy from a breeder in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. “Annie” grew up with our children. We were all devastated when she got cancer and died shortly before her fourteenth birthday.
A year and half later, my daughter was walking down the street in Carmel, California with my husband and I, and sees a Portuguese Water Dog. She runs up to the dog and asks many questions including where did you get your dog. I did not want a dog as I was both still grieving from “Annie” and also enjoying the freedom that comes from not having a dog to look after. However, two days later we were driving up to the breeders who happened to live a couple of hours from our house. They were going to be breeding one of their dogs, Deja, whose Mom was the most awarded Portuguese Water Dog in history. The father would be Manly, who, at the time was the number one Portie in the US. The next thing I knew, my husband put down a deposit for a wavy female puppy in a litter that would be born in about three months. In the course of our interaction, we realized these were the breeders of Murphy–the first Portuguese Water Dog we had ever met and the reason we got Annie. If I have learned nothing, I have learned that there’s something to six degrees of separation.
I thought we won’t get one of these puppies because we are number six on the waiting list and there’s a good chance that the mom won’t have that many puppies. She had seven puppies–two girls. We visited the puppies once and then a few weeks later, my cousin and I picked up Miss Lisbon. I fell for her right away as I knew I would. My husband, as part of the agreement to get another dog, said he would take the dog to work with him. Lisbon has been to his office once for a short visit. So once again, it was me and a puppy.
In 1976, there were only 25 water dogs left in the world and an American breeder decided to save the breed. Lisbon has some of the DNA from those original 25 in her as they froze the sperm through her grandfather. Lisbon is quite different than our previous dog. She absolutely LOVES the water and can stick her head in and pick things up. Lisbon is super cuddly–likes nothing better than to sit with you or on you and nibble your ears. Every morning she has to lie on top of me and give me kisses–which was fine when she was a puppy, but at 42 pounds she’s getting a little heavy. Lisbon has a very loud bark which they needed on the Portuguese fishing boats for when they were sending messages between boats–they had to be heard over the ocean. Both Annie and Lisbon were smart but Lisbon has taken this to a new level. She can open all doors and if she would like a drink from the toilet–something that we discourage–she can open the door, stick her nose under the lid, push it up and drink away.
We had just moved into our home and were in the middle of a horrendous renovation. There was a massive mess everywhere and the contractor who was recommended by our realtor, took everything apart and then rarely showed up. My husband and I were sleeping in a downstairs bedroom surrounded by boxes and a crate for Miss Lisbon. That is how Lisbon and I started our adventure together. Right from the get go, Lisbon was a bit of a handful. She was a biter–not of things like shoes or furniture–just her mom and she demanded all my attention.
Friends suggested we get a play pen for her and when she was misbehaving she could have a little time out. That didn’t work so well. We tried other playpens made of metal and she climbed over them. Lisbon had a babysitter twice a week so I could have a break and then she closed down her business while she went for training. When she returned, she no longer wanted to take Lisbon because she was worried she could climb over her garage fence.
Lisbon, at first was excellent at coming when you called her name and then she started behaving like an unruly teenager. She didn’t care if you had treats–she thought it was a great game to be chased around the park. I foolishly let her off the leash one day in the park. After 45 minutes of chasing, I decided that I would leave the park and she could follow me home. This strategy worked quite well until she discovered a bag of corn tortilla chips with some cheese on them on the side of the road. That’s when the trouble started. I would try and get her and she would run into the road with the chip bag. Then she’d run across the road. Did I mention that it was pretty busy road with stop lights and a fair bit of traffic which had stopped–waiting for me to catch Lisbon. Then the police car drove by and asked if I would like some help. I said, “Sure.” I would never have asked for help had I known the officer knew nothing about dogs. Dogs do not come running to people yelling at them–especially when they are yelling, “Come here you stupid little shit.” A lady from one of the cars, as there were now about ten waiting for Lisbon to be caught, offered us a half eaten bag of French fries to try and lure Lisbon. Of course, Lisbon was faster, grabbed the frie from the officer and ran. More yelling! Finally, I said to the officer, “Why don’t you open your car door and I think she’ll jump in. He’s like, “Oh I don’t think that will work.” “Let’s just try it,” I said. It worked. We closed the door, the cars moved down the street and I had to get in the back of the car with Lisbon. I have never been in the back of a police car–thank you Lisbon. I asked if he could drop us off around the corner as we had only been in the neighborhood a few months and I didn’t want to show up in a police car. The whole time we are in the car he is cursing Lisbon–calling her a stupid, stupid, little shit over and over again. Lisbon was just recently allowed off her leash again.
For this and other reasons, we hired a private trainer. Then we decided to show Lisbon and the professional trainer took her for three weeks to get ready. Lisbon is a Champion and working with her trainer made a massive difference. Lisbon still likes to jump up on certain people and she is overly friendly as in licking/nibbling your ears if she really likes you. Overall, she is much better behaved and training is an ongoing process. I’m learning to be a better dog owner as well.
I have, as I knew I would, fallen deeply in love with Lisbon and she is VERY attached to her mom. As such, she gets away with some things she shouldn’t but in the end, life is better with a dog.
We are hoping to breed Lisbon this coming spring and can’t wait to see what baby Lisbon’s look like. I’ll keep you posted (pun intended).