Life with Affenpinscher | Busby: I brought home my first dog when I was sixty. I had fallen in love with Bouviers, and got a baby male, Steinway; Aristes Fred Steinway, in fact. He grew to be enormous, and I did many things with him, including showing him in obedience, doing therapy visits with him, and getting him a much younger playmate to inspire him in his old age. That second Bouvier, a female I named Poppy, died in 2019. And I—a withered, shrunken little crone living on a fixed income—discovered that, without a huge dog, I actually had enough money to live on.
I took from this realization the lesson that I needed to get a Toy dog. I searched and studied, and finally arrived at the Affenpinscher—especially funny since I later found out that quite a lot of veteran Bouvier owners downsize to Affenpinscher when the time comes. (They have some common traits; they’re often dark, they have hair that grows, they’re smart, and they’re extremely confident.) But Affenpinscher’s are a tenth the size of Bouviers. Quick example: A Bouvier eats something around a quart of food every day, while the Affenpinscher manages on a half cup. “That’s not food,” I said, “That’s medicine.”
I was immensely lucky to find a nine-month-old Affenpinscher boy from reputable breeders, one of whom took the last plane, pretty much, before the pandemic lockdown to bring him to me.
Coachlight & High Noon’s Busby Berkeley arrived at my house on March 11, 2020. Since then, I have found him an ideal companion. He’s whip-smart, darling to look at, high-spirited, and cooperative. The breed is frequently described as “famously funny,” with a gait of “comic seriousness.” The French call Affenpinschers “mustachioed little devils.” All this is enhanced by their passion for toys. Busby has a stable of, maybe, a dozen and a half toys. His current favorite is a miniature stuffed sloth. Busby adores Slothie, along with Green Bone, Lil Lion, Pink Pig, Porky, and more. The toys are stored in a floor-level shelf in my small office. In the morning, Busby will start a process of taking one of these jewels into my study and leaving it there. Throughout the day, individual toys continue to be purposefully carried into that room. By the evening, there are, perhaps, a dozen of them strewn around. Busby then takes them, puts them into a pile, and finishes by lying on top of them, gnawing his rawhide bone. He might as well be rolling in gold coins on a silken bed.
On the day Busby arrived, he was introduced to my cat, Buki, who had spent his entire thirteen years with massive Bouviers. I suspect Buki didn’t recognize Busby as a dog. Busby knocked himself out from the beginning to persuade Buki that they should be playmates. He did play bows and three-ring aerial twirls while Buki sat a few feet away and watched. The cat looked exactly like Queen Victoria observing Jerry Lewis.
Since then, they’ve come to share my bed with me, and they often chase each other. Busby leaves the room in hot pursuit of Buki, and a minute later they return, this time with Buki as the chaser.
Busby defends the house against the mail—and the mailman. Steinway used to do that, too. I can tell you that the Bouvier’s booming bark compared to the Affenpinscher’s soprano trill is like the Conquest of White Fang compared to a garden gnome in a tutu. (And I mean a gnome twirling a cocktail umbrella.)
I can’t imagine how I missed this breed until now. Busby is a priceless, affectionate Fabergé egg. He has a repertoire of frequent vocalizations, including what I call conversational grunts. Not a bark—certainly not a growl—but a sort of ongoing commentary on the events of his day.
I may train him for nursing home visits as the pandemic recedes. I’m sure he would brighten the day for anybody in a place like that. Whatever he does, he is like the magical dog in the Tristan and Isolde myth, who took away all sorrow and replaced it with joy. Busby—my little fairy Affen, a comedian in a matchbox.
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