Joan Cobitz

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From Savannah Dogs, published by Frederic C. Beil ©2001,

Minne McQuillen Beil, Editor.

Joan on Chutney:

Benign creature; outgoing, good natured, playful—capriciously

mixed with the breed's agile sparring instincts and natural


“The shar pei is a vet's dream,” cautioned Kyle Christiansen,

DVM, but that darling, copper-colored, fluffy beastie had

captivated me. AKC-unacceptable, chow-like coat—the “bear

coat”—a recessive gene results from an ancient relationship

between the two breeds. She isn’t the fearsome-looking dog I’d


So we amble along—she with her compromised immune

system due to inbreeding, ongoing allergies, and I, her elderly

owner, with all the accompanying indignities of aging.

Her catlike tidiness and independence, her thoughtful

intelligence is combined with an impulsive tactical-animal

sense. The combination seems to create a paradoxical, usually

careful, adventurousness.

Chutney, who loves company (people and dogs), has a sense of

poise. Since she was a puppy, she appears to be up to social


One spring morning I decided to let her take me for a walk

beyond Monterey Square, our usual turnaround point. Moving

north along the west side of Bull Street, she crossed Liberty,

turned right across Bull—not to Home Run Video, where we go

for movies. (This dog friendly store not only offers movies, but

also biscuits and, sometimes, if he’s not busy, a teasing,

affectionate, brief tussle with Alan, who is a special dog

person.) No—she was going to the Gallery Espresso, where she

gets not only my version of biscuits, but can sit outside, greet

people, and enjoy watching the scene. A cafe dog who brings

life and structuring responsibility to my daily existence.

Chutney on Joan:

My owner is an old lady who moves slower than than I do,

except when she wants to be fast. She dawdles when we’re

going to go out, wanders around the house saying:

“Where’s your leash?” “I don’t know where I left the keys.” “I

forgot the plastic bags.” “Do I have a paper towel?" This last

for when I embarrass her by shaking my head with drooling,

floppy lips, slinging slobber about. Of course with her as a

model I get to wander a bit before I answer her calls.

Keeping house doesn’t suit my owner. She makes nests—one

in the kitchen, another at the studio table, and in her bed. I have

nests too. A not-quite-large-enough pillow, which I’ve had

since a puppy, and which people trip over; and two pillows in

the parlours—one of these by the window where I guard the

house. I bring toys and chewies to my nest; she brings books

and magazines, which she doesn’t chew.

Sometimes, when I want to play, she doesn’t. But we share

dinner at home. When we eat out, I mustn’t beg, even when

meat-smells make me forget myself and groan. Oyster roasts

are the best as the shells on the ground are for me and my


She needs me for company and exercise; I take her for walks.

So we lead our days—me on the leash mostly. I'm quite

attached to her. She's all I have.