See What I Mean Dog

“A Dog In Hand,” Portland, Oregon, 2015

What I like about the photo

It seemed so incongruous to see this small puppy in the hands of a man who resembled a professional football linebacker—two of them. He was that huge. He held this sweet little dog with such protection and affection. It was remarkable to witness. The dog, too, showed a reciprocity.

The juxtaposition caught my eye immediately. The scene tugged at my heart immediately. It was a King Kong moment from the original 1933 film with the gorilla Kong gently cradling actress Fay Wray on top of the Empire State. It was a bonding of gentle giant and unrequited love.

I’m interested in what breed of dog is the best for an individual and the family. A common observation is that people look like their dog. There are professionals who can suggest what breed is the best match for an individual based on personality and allergies. Call them Dog Whisperers.

According to a Michigan State University researcher on the subject, dogs take on the same personality traits as their owner. The study revealed that dogs are like humans in that they have personalities that are shaped over time. Chihuahuas are the smallest dog breed. Their temperament is described as devoted, lively, alert, courageous, feisty, intelligent, loyal and thriving on attention.

The American Kennel Club recognizes 195 dog breeds. However, it is estimated that there are 350 different dog breeds in the world according to prudentpet.com.

How I took the photo

I was walking in Washington Park in downtown Portland, Oregon, in 2015 and saw the man holding a chihuahua puppy in his palm. The man displayed his dog proudly, like showing off what he had just found. I used a Canon G7X shoot and point digital camera with its fixed 24-70mm lens.

Why I took the photo

Dogs have the power to comfort, heal and amuse. It’s incredible how capable and intelligent a trained dog is. There are a host of physical and emotional problems dogs are trained for such as: asthma, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, epilepsy, paralysis, speech problems, mobility and neurological problems; also, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic, eating, sleep and personality disorders, and other disabilities.

According to pet industry statistics in 2019, total expenditures of $95.7 billion were spent on all pets in the United States. The breakdown includes pet food and treats, supplies and over-the-counter medicines, vet care and product sales, services including boarding, grooming, insurance, training, pet sitting, walking, and other services outside of veterinary care. Dogs are easily spoiled. If I had one, I, too, would love it to death, and grieve heavily if it became terminally ill.

And one more thing

My first memory of bonding with any dog was in 5th grade. I had taken the train from Baltimore to Springfield, Massachusetts, where I was to live with my mother and her second husband. Sitting on the back seat of the car was a dog, wagging his tail, licking my hand, greeting me into the family. A liver-and-white springer spaniel named Topper, he rested his head in my lap driving back to the house. I petted him gently the whole time. He never moved.

Topper gave me a feeling of security, assuring me that this change in my domestic and parental life would be okay. “Stick with me, kid,” I imagined he said to me. I guess he became my personal service dog, intuiting my sense of unrest and insecurity.

As an only child, I didn’t imagine having “imaginary” friends because I had Topper to play with. He was my friend, brother and playmate. Every time I see a springer now, I regress to being that 5th grader again.

A selection of photographs from Chester’s forthcoming book, The Bay State: A Multicultural Landscape, Photographs of New Americans, is on view at the Milford Library through April 30.

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