When I first got my Saint Bernard puppy, Monkey, it was fascinating to discover just how open total strangers were with their opinions. Certainly, there is a lot of love for Monkey — I mean, look at that face — but there are also a lot of people who feel the overwhelming desire to tell me all of their thoughts about Monkey, Saint Bernards, and especially about me for daring to bring a Saint Bernard into a city like San Francisco. It seems like everyone knows what do and don’t make the best apartment dogs.
In just one short walk to the coffee shop, I’ve had strangers approach me and blurt out the following:
- “You keep that dog in a tiny apartment?”
- “Wow, you must live in a really big house.”
- “Do you have a yard?”
- “You know he’s going to get bigger, right?”
- “Do you live IN the city?”
I wish I could say that I just smile and tell them to have a great day because it shouldn’t matter what they think or that they’re judging me, but I’m not that good of a person (don’t worry, I’m totally in therapy), and so I feel the need to explain myself — ourselves — in an attempt to earn their approval that I’m not a bad person after all.
So, to those people, who’ve made it abundantly clear that they think I’m a silly little girl who’s torturing her giant breed dog because I live in a San Francisco apartment, I say this:
My city apartment is actually a perfect home for my Saint Bernard. And it still will be when he weighs 180 pounds.
First of all, not that it’s really anyone’s business, but I’m very lucky in that my apartment isn’t that small. In fact, Monkey has his own little room. Sure, it was once the dining room, and then my office/guest room, but now it houses his crate and his dog bed and that’s fine with me.
Also, we spend a lot of time in Tahoe. For a city dog, Monkey spends a lot of time romping in the snow and by the lake.
But even though that stuff is true, it also shouldn’t matter. What matters is that Saint Bernards don’t really need or want a huge house. What they want is to be close to their person.
The reason I chose to get a Saint Bernard was because the breed matches my personality and lifestyle well. Yes, Monkey is already big (100 pounds at seven-and-a-half months) and he’s only going to get bigger (anywhere from 160 to 180, most likely). But he’s also incredibly gentle, even as a puppy, and slow moving. The other day a woman gasped at his size and then said, “Well, at least you’ll get a lot of exercise” (don’t even get me started on that), and I just laughed because even though he loves to run when we go on hikes, he takes just as much pleasure in sauntering down the street at a snail’s pace. (All the better for passerbys to admire how handsome he is.)
I’m a pretty mellow person and most Saint Bernards are as well. They don’t need acres to roam because they’re not as active as other breeds. As long as Monkey gets some good walks in (and they vary — sometimes he gets several 20 minute walks throughout the day; sometimes he gets a two-hour hike in the woods), he’s content to spend the rest of the day sleeping at my feet. And by “at” I mean “on.”
Still, when the ski season started, I was excited to bring Monkey to the house I rent in Tahoe with a group of friends. The house has a large enclosed deck and I thought Monkey would love spending time out there. Hahahaha: NO. Monkey doesn’t want to be out on the deck alone. After two or three minutes, he starts pawing at the door. “Let me in Mama! I wanna be with YOU!” In fact, he’s so attached that he would rather sleep in the car (windows down and in the shade) while I’m having lunch than stay at the house alone. He feels better knowing I’m nearby. (And I feel better keeping an eye on him because, well, he’s still a puppy and we know how that can go.)
Truthfully, when I compare Monkey to some of the smaller, more active dogs I see, I think it must be tougher for those pups to live in small city apartments. High-energy dogs run up to Monkey and jump jump jump bark bark bark circle circle circle whine whine whine, whereas Monkey, for the most part, just lumbers and lollygags.
I’ll admit I’ve wondered if those dogs get enough exercise, if they’re lonely at home all day when their person is at work (my neighbor’s dog can bark for three hours straight on a “good” day), or how they’re faring in their environment. But then I remind myself that I don’t have the whole story. And that all I can do is assume the owner did as much research as I did before choosing her dog and that she picked the perfect one for her home and lifestyle.
If only strangers would give me the same benefit of the doubt.
Do you live with a big dog in an apartment? Do people give you a hard time about it? I want to hear about it!
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