Encounters of the Public Kind

by Susi on September 6, 2012

in Komondor, Meet the Breeds, Puli, Puli cords, Pulik

Post image for Encounters of the Public Kind

As a new Puli owner back in the late 70’s, I was the poster child for being a good ambassador for my breed. I was enthusiastic, patient and the font of information every time I appeared in public with my dogs. “What IS that?” people would ask.  “Is that a dog?” I became accustomed to drivers slowing down in their cars as they drove by, pointing at us.  I even smiled to myself at a dog show when I overheard a woman say to her companion, “Why doesn’t she groom that poor dog?”


I understood that a lot of people didn’t know what a Puli was, and most had never seen one in person. Until we came along, my veterinarian had never seen a Puli in person. I was their go-to-girl to learn about the breed.


Over time, my answers to the same old questions became automatic: Yes, the coat does that naturally. Yes, the dog can see.  Yes, I know which end to feed. Yes, I bathe the dog. I even laughed at their jokes, novel to them but redundant to me. “Harharhar, mop the floor with the dog. Funny!” and I’d wipe an invisible tear from my eye. “Why yes, Whoopi, Marley and Ziggy ARE cute names. Aren’t you clever!”


I’ve owned Pulik for over 30 years now, but ten years into my love affair with the breed and the questions and comments started to lose their charm. Worse, I was losing my sense of humor. The signs were all there that I was getting tired of dealing with the public when out with my dogs. I avoided eye contact. Heck, I avoided people. Sometimes I drooled so people would avoid me.  I dressed my dogs in bunny suits to get a different set of questions. I dressed myself in a bunny suit to get different questions, but then my dogs were too embarrassed to be seen with me.

A Komondor. The different between them and a Puli besides their breeds, conformation and function? About 10″ in height

I suspected I was suffering “burn out” and saw the signs in another rare breed owner I met at a “Meet the Breeds” event; She owned Komondorok and our booths were next to each other. Her fully corded Komondor stood next to a white Puli owned by another Puli person and we could see that in the eyes of the general public, size was the only difference between these two dogs. One brave soul asked the Komondor person if the Puli was a baby version of her dog. She replied with the seriousness of a coronary that while the two dogs were the same breed, the smaller one had been washed in hot water and dried too quickly. Sadly, the dog had shrunk thereby ruining his show career.

“Andy” from Denver

The unfortunate person who had asked the question believed her and left wide-eyed at the peculiar vagaries of rare dog ownership. Once the fellow was out of earshot, we chuckled, but now 30 years later, I cringe as I think about it. We were younger, we had answered the same five questions far too many times, and in truth, we probably should have recruited other people in our respective breeds to deal with the public. The problem was that we were it. Rare breeds aren’t only rare because there are few of them. They’re also rare because there aren’t many people who own or breed them, and this was especially true thirty years ago.

Happily, new people have acquired Pulik over the years and they’re a tremendous help in educating the public. The Internet, and success in the show ring (especially in televised dog shows) have also encouraged the public to do its own research and I’m delighted now when someone approaches me as I stand with my dogs and asks, “Is that a Puli?”  I, too, have aged, matured, and have regained the patience and humor I once had when fielding questions about my breed. It’s all good.

That covers the general public.  There IS another audience, however, which remains perplexed by my breed and I was reminded of that this afternoon when I took my dogs to the vet for their shots.  As I entered the clinic with two Pulik in tow, we approached a German Shepherd whose eyes visibly widened at the sight of us. His mouth dropped opened, and when he looked up at his owner, you could almost see the question mark hovering over his head. It was so comical that the receptionists and I burst out laughing.

Another dog in the waiting room was less subtle and started barking raucously.  His owner said sheepishly, “She thinks your dogs are toys. She has a rope toy at home that looks just like them.”


A really skinny Puli or a toy?

I didn’t doubt him. Puli Puppies often grab their mother’s cords and tug at them. I’ve even seen my dog sitter’s Papillon do it. It’s all fun and games until a cord gets detached, and then it’s tragic.

In the end, dogs aren’t that much different from people. If they’ve never seen a Puli or, say, a Chinese Crested Hairless, they, too, are probably wondering, “What IS that?”

Talk to someone you know with an unusual breed. I bet they have a similar story to tell.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy September 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

Good post Susi. I still talk about the time (about 35 years ago) I went to a show in New Hampshire with a terrible hangover. I was in a friend’s setup with my Komondor in a pen next to me. I was on a folding chaise lounge with one foot on the ground trying to keep the world stable and two old ladies walked up to me and started asking questions. I was trying real hard to not throw up on them when one of them stamped her foot and declared, “Young lady, you have no right to own a dog like this if you don’t want to talk to people.” Good point there.

However, after so much time in the breed people know that it’s probably best to keep me away from the public.


Susi September 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

I totally believe your story, Nancy, because in the blog when I mentioned being set up to a Komondor person – it was you. Do you remember the day? We were at a Meet the Breeds at a bank in Denver. Funny how you’re in some of my more vivid memories…..


Nancy September 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I remember that bank job! It was fun!


Susi September 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm

It was like it was yesterday, wasn’t it? We were so enthusiastic (and younger!)


Heather September 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

I *love* the visual of the GSD wondering what in the world you brought into the vet clinic …. Surely that wasn’t a DOG?!?!?!?!

I’m convinced that not only can dogs (usually) recognize the same species – they can also recognize their own breed.


Susi September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am

I totally agree, Heather. My dogs will walk through a dog show filled with other breeds, but once they spot a Puli, their whole demeanor changes and they become engaged. It’s really something to see.


Mona Karel September 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Salukis can be horribly racist. When my first Saluki bitch saw her first fully coated Old English Sheepdog at a winter show, she stopped dead and her already large eyes got huge. The dog finally moved and she jumped to the end of her lead. After that she would not walk thorugh a crowd of OES, I think because she could not figure out which direction they were going.
Even with a slightly better known breed I get the questions and force myself to answer politely. When it came to the many Meet The Breeds booths I helped on, my major job was decorations since I couldn’t get us into too much trouble there.


Susi September 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Mona, you make me laugh! Pulik are much the same way – and like you, I find it difficult sometimes to hold my tongue. I recently talked with a corded Poodle owner who was asked if it hurt the dog’s mother to give birth to him. You have to have a sense of humor, don’t you?


Elizabeth Davis September 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

You have to be a people person to have a Puli!


Susi September 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

I just now finished washing my Puli-in-show-coat.Elizabeth, I also think you have to be a glutton for punishment to own a Puli (grin)!


Donna mosley September 11, 2012 at 9:07 am

I get this all the time with my Russian Black Terrier

1. is it a labradoodle ?
2. its big for a terrier !
3 . how can it see ?
4 . i bet it eats alot !


Susi September 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

I love hearing of the typical questions other breed owners get! I particulary fond of BRTs, in part because I was on hand when the breed made its debut at Westminster, and also because I know some BRT owners who’ve coached me about their breed enough to admire the dogs beyond their handsome looks! I feel for you, Donna, but I guess it’s a happy burden, eh?


Donna mosley September 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

Oh really who was you with violet slade ?
i do find the questions funny sometimes but other days they really make me mad !
I had one lady say to me ”WHAT IS IT ? ” in a rude way so i say ”its a cat” she looked and me and said ”no its a dog i can see that i mean what is it a heinz 57” and to that i replyed ”OH sh!t i put the wrong animal on the lead again” and then just walked away calm with a huge smile on my face LOL
what i dont understand is these people that ask these silly questions clam they are dog lovers so if thats true why do they not know about these breeds thats have been around for 100’s of years Am a huge dog lover and i have many books and spend many night on the net looking at diffrent dog breeds 🙂 these is not a dog breed out there that i dont know about 🙂 *well maybe one or two hidden in the small villages of orkney islands*


Beth September 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Years ago, I remember listening to an acquaintance at a show while he told people (with a straight face even) that the black & tan min pins in the expen were actually the bred down version of the dobe in the other pen. He had this long, drawn out story about the war in Africa, and how the the Pygmy tribes were a problem with sabtage attacks on the Japanese army bases. Because of the Japanese ability to successfully modify genetics, they were able, within two generations, to breed dogs small enough to get through the dense brush that stopped the Dobes from attacking the Pygmy saboteurs.
I heard this story many times over the weekend, and every single time, I swear it got more and more believable, and at least one person walked away believing the story.
Now, I feel badly, but then, no, it was funnier than all get out!!


Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) September 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

The first time my first show dog, a malamute, saw a poodle in show clip, she pretty much stopped in her tracks … wasn’t sure what it was…


Susi September 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm

You never forget the expression on a dog’s face when they display genuine puzzlement – or downright human qualities. I remember walking with the family dog years ago – a Cairn Terrier, down a sidewalk. She tripped, and actually looked behind her to see what it was she tripped over. There was nothing there, but she still looked….


Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) September 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm


one guy’s first look at an adult standard poodle at a dog show… I think 🙂


Rachel September 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Even if you have a more common breed you still get asked the crazy questions. The one we get asked alot is does your dog come in any other colors other than white? Which I reply no he is a West Highland WHITE terrier.


Susi September 26, 2012 at 10:36 am

Wiping tear from my eye – how FUNNY! I love your retort – the whole, “Well,he’s a West Highland WHITE terrier.” It’s like the trivia question: who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? When do we see you again, Rachel?


Lorna November 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm

When I met my husband-to-be, he had a very sweet 14-year-old husky. Some people at the dog park were always claiming their dogs were part wolf and asking if the husky was part wolf. So, he took to explaining that she was a very rare breed, the California Pocket Wolf. More than one person nodded sagely, saying “Oh, yeah man. I’ve heard of those. Cool!”


Susi November 13, 2012 at 9:11 am

At a recent craft show, Lorna, where I was a vendor with my doorknob alerts, I had two people argue (and quite heatedly) that their Maltipoo and Doxador, respectively, were AKC registered breeds. “Funny,” I said, “I’ve been showing dogs for 30 years am certain that the (fill in the designer breed) isn’t an AKC breed.” I was quite wrong, they said, even as I was wearing a jacket with a Eukanuba National Championship dog show patch on the front. What’d’ya gonna do.


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