In association with our good friends at DogHQ each month we meet Shore people whose four-legged family members add a great deal of joy to their lives. Our very own dog-lover Aidan Bennett (he has two doggies of his own he spoils – Olive a Cocker Spaniel and Maisie a French Bulldog) loves the task of putting this monthly feature together. This month he talks with Marc Wendelborn of Milford about Brian, his much-loved pug who loves going to Dog HQ.
AIDAN BENNETT: How long has Brian been part of your life?
MARC WENDELBORN: Brian is two and a half years old. I met him at his birthplace in Whangarei when he was one week old. I collected him when he was 12 weeks old, driving him down to Auckland. He’s been my fur baby ever since.
AB: What made you decide to get this breed?
MW: I have adored this breed since I was a young boy – they featured in a few scenes in the old movie The Great Race with Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood. It took me over 30 more years to get one of my own. I got a couple of books on pugs from the local public library, specifically to learn their good and bad points, what to look out for, and I decided I would love their good points and be able to live with their bad points.
AB: How did you decide on his name?
MW: When I was young, my older brother’s friend had a cat named Brian and it made me laugh. I thought it was a great human name for an animal. I’m also a fan of the Monty Python movie The Life of Brian. It can be funny calling his name at a busy beach or busy park and seeing the occasional man (probably named Brian) quickly turn their heads in my direction.
AB: Is he your first dog, if not tell us about your other dogs?
MW: Brian is my first dog. For a long time I volunteered with the SPCA in Wellington, looking after dogs for about seven years, and more recently I’ve volunteered at the Dog Protection Society up towards Coatesville. I was very close to adopting one of the rescue dogs but I would have needed to re-fence my whole property – I wanted a smaller dog.
AB: Do you have any other pets?
MW: I don’t have any other pets. I bought a bird feeder for Tui and Rosellas that live in the trees around my home but all I succeeded in doing was attracting every damn sparrow in the neighbourhood to my back yard. I think Brian would love a live-in friend, especially a kitten that can be raised with him around. I’ll think about it.
AB: What do you love about Brian?
MW: Everything. Well, almost everything. He has the sweetest, friendliest nature and has never hurt anything in his life – apart from soft toys. He is inquisitive, intelligent and has a personality that is fun-loving, gentle, adventurous and peaceful all at the same time. Brian also seems to have no sense of fear. He loves pats and cuddles, and he makes me laugh every day. He greets every person or animal he sees and he makes a lot of people laugh and smile – children mob him, old ladies pat him, it’s nice to see the smiles and laughter he creates for others.
AB: Does he have any bad habits?
MW: Definitely. His bed is next to mine and he can wake me up with his snoring. He also gets fed in the morning as well as at night and so, when I don’t have to get up early and could sleep in a bit, he will start tapping on the floor and shaking his collar tags and making this loud humming sound. If I roll over in bed he’ll do it again and so I end up lying there afraid to move and realising I’m too awake to get back to sleep but I’ll be damned if I’ll let his bad behaviour win. So I have to lie there immobile for at least 10 minutes before getting up so I don’t reinforce the behaviour. It’s psychological warfare… and I’m not winning. He’s usually very obedient but if he’s disobedient he does it large-style – like Mother’s Day when, despite my yelling orders, he ran straight into a packed café and proceeded to rampage around under tables and people in chairs until I was finally able to grab him by the tail. No treats for Brian that day.
AB: What are his favourite things to do?
MW: Eat. Like every pug, Brian is absolutely obsessed with food. He loves running around and playing with other dogs, especially dancing around and getting other dogs to chase him. He also loves exploring, meeting different animals, and going on bush walks. Sometimes when we’re playing or walking he will get incredibly excited and do what I call a “crazy Brian” where his rear end goes down, his ears are pinned back, and he charges at full speed in big circles or in random patterns with this manic look on his face, burning off all the energy and adrenaline he feels I guess. It is hilarious to watch and some other pug owners say their pugs occasionally do the same.
AB: How long has he been going to DogHQ and does he love it?
MW: I’ve been taking Brian to DogHQ for about a year now and he will typically spend two or three full days there every week. I’m currently studying and on placement so I want him to be somewhere where he can have fun, socialise and tire himself out. DogHQ is indoors and air-conditioned which is great for pugs who are especially susceptible to high temperatures, meaning he gets the activity and play that he wants in summer time without getting heat stroke. And he’s cosy in winter. Brian absolutely loves going to DogHQ – he loves the staff, he’s well looked after, and he gets to play with his friends in Tiny Town. I take him in the front door of DogHQ and he doesn’t even look back.
AB: Does he love riding the scooter to Dog HQ?
MW: Brian loves travelling anywhere on the scooter and he knows the way from my house to DogHQ. As soon as we get near Porana Road, Brian knows that we’re definitely going to either the pet shop or DogHQ and he gets all eager and excited, especially when I take the road to DogHQ. And don’t worry, Brian is clipped on to the scooter (much scientific engineering involved) so that he can look out the sides but can’t fall off.
AB: Any words of wisdom for other dog owners or prospective dog owners?
MW: I really encourage people to either adopt a rescue dog or, if they’re looking for a particular breed, to buy from an experienced breeder. As a former long-time researcher and writer for Consumer magazine, I know that under consumer law, dogs are a “good”, a product. If you buy a puppy from a random person, you have no protection under the Consumer’s Guarantees Act which says that goods must be of reasonable quality and fit for purpose. Some puppies aren’t “fit for purpose” in that they may have congenital defects, diseases or other health issues that will make their life short, painful and/or requiring a lot of ongoing and expensive medical attention. If the seller is a breeder and sells a number of dogs, they are considered a “trader” and you have a right to a repair, full refund or replacement if you find the puppy has medical issues. Some people are breeding very expensive dogs at home without consideration for their blood lines or health issues – proper “trading” breeders will care about their dogs and know their obligations or they will pay – we had one case where a couple took the “trader” to the Disputes Tribunal where the trader was ordered to pay over $8,000 to the new owners for the ongoing surgery a Rottweiler would need over the course of its life. Dogs are beautiful and cute. But get a receipt and an agreement in writing as you don’t want a broken heart along with an empty wallet.