‘101 Dalmatians’: The dog versus the cartoon

As a child, I enjoyed watching “101 Dalmatians,” a reaction not uncommon for dog lovers. In the 1960s, when the movie came out (1961), the thought of 50 let alone 101 dogs owned by one person or a couple seemed like something out a fantasy.

Yet collie lovers in the Southwest know that 100 is not such a fantastical number. Vickey Willard of Houston Collie Rescue write in an email, “Remembering ‘101 Dalmatians’ as a little girl was a wonderful thought of being surrounded by so many cute adorable puppies. Of course,  I never imagined that one day I’d face my a modern day Cruella de Vil, a Tomball, Texas breeder/hoarder.

In August of last year (2014), as a result of a bankruptcy hearing, Houston Collie Rescue gained custody of what was supposed to be about 30 dogs.

As Willard recalled, writing, “The federal courts awarded Houston Collie Rescue with 116 Collies, 6 of which went on to give us 30 puppies for a total of 146 collies. The experience was overwhelming to say the least and will never be forgotten.”

The actual hoarder was well known to the Houston collie community and Houston Collie Rescue had dealt with this particular hoarder before. Willard commented, “Having received 4 out of 13 collies turn over in 2006 and again 32 out of 51 collies in 2007, this seizure in 2014, in the end was a long-awaited sigh of relief to save these collies from the life they were living. Conditions no one would ever see in a Walt Disney Classic.”

The dogs weren’t all absorbed into the Houston area, Collie Rescue of Greater Illinois, Southwest Collie Rescue, Rocky Mountain Collie Rescue, NorCal Collie Rescue and Southland Collie Rescue all took in some dogs.  Not all of the collies have been adopted out yet.

Margaret Maas of Dalmatian Rescue of Southern California commented in an email that “those movies (the 1961 animated feature and the 1996 live-action feature)  encourage people to go out and purchase Dalmatian puppies, encouraging breeding. Dals are beautiful dogs but definitely are not the dog for most people. ” According to Maas, that’s because Dalmatians are “highly energetic, needy, intelligent.” That means they aren’t dogs that you can just leave in your yard because they  “need lots of attention and exercise, usually do best with a companion.”

AKC Breeder of Merit, Toni Linstedt,  whose home includes several champions (MBISS GCH CH Centurion Coopers Brown JuJu,  BISS GCH CH Anticipation Heres Lucy!,  GCH CH Juju’s Bewitching Bailiwick and GCH Juju’s Busy Being Fabulous),  commented for the Dalmatian Club of America:

The Dalmatian is one of the most recognizable and strikingly beautiful of all purebred dogs.  Almost any child, from the time they can speak meaningfully, shouts out “Dalmatian” at the sight of one.  They are as cute and loving as the day is long.  But, anyone considering getting a Dalmatian, or any dog, must do their homework first to make sure the dog they are considering is right for their circumstances.  This includes not only understanding the breed and its typical characteristics but also carefully evaluating the breeder and his/her practices. 

The Dalmatian is an active and energetic breed.  They are loyal to their owners but may be protective of their people and their “turf”.  This is a part of their heritage as coaching dogs when their job was to protect the horse drawn carriages, their horses and the passengers. 

The original release of “101 Dalmatians” dramatically increased the demand for Dalmatians as every child who saw it wanted one.  This resulted in a lot of unknowledgeable and thus indiscriminate commercial breeding that produced poor temperaments.  Since that time, reputable breeders have put a lot of effort into producing dogs with good temperaments that make loving family pets. 

The Dalmatian Club of America website features a Breeder Referral page that offers individuals considering a Dalmatian a wealth of information about whether or not the breed is right for them and how to choose a reputable breeder.  If you are considering purchasing or adopting a rescue Dalmatian, we encourage you to please visit the page and carefully review all the information provided there. http://www.thedca.org/referral.php

The American Kennel Club also offers excellent information about Dalmatians (and all purebred dogs).  http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/dalmatian/

Two years ago, there was a story about an unemployed Chilean man who was inspired to rescue 42 Dalmatians because of the live-action 1996 movie, but the article also noted that his neighbors were complaining about the smell .

Just like Lassie might have created unrealistic expectations about collies, “101 Dalmatians” doesn’t deal with the reality of having so many dogs. If you love the animated feature, don’t forget that real dogs require a lot of work and even healthy purebred dogs are not necessarily a good fit for your lifestyle.

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