Most often associated with the British Royal Family, Welsh Pembroke Corgis rocketed to popularity in the 1950s when Elizabeth II became Queen.
Although it is believed their ancestry dates back to the tenth century, when Vikings brought Swedish cattle dogs to Pembrokeshire, Wales, legend has it that fairies used to ride them, and that’s how the breed got its distinctive saddled- shaped marking. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Corgis were recognized as purebreds. In 1934, the breed was formally recognized by both the English and American Kennel Clubs. Even today, Pembrokes are still used for herding cattle and sheep, but are equally adept as family companions and guardians. Pembrokes are highly intelligent and sensitive, and with patient handling, they’re easily trained. They also have a stubborn streak. Bored Corgis are like bored kids – they can both be trouble.
Carolyn Eastwood grew up with a Corgi, and has owned them ever since… or is that the other way around?
On the day I saw Skipper for the first time Skipper, I had just suffered the devastating loss of a beautiful seven-year old Corgi, due to a brain tumor. But God works in mysterious ways. When I arrived home, the local newspaper was in my driveway, and the first thing I saw when I picked it up was a For Sale advertisement for Corgi puppies. The big selling feature, as if I needed one, was the puppies grandfather was owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Later that afternoon, I arrived at the breeder’s house to find a large playpen full of Corgi puppies in the two car garage. I planned on buying another female, but when the puppies were released, and came bounding toward me, one puppy remained behind. It sat at the rear of the playpen, staring at me across the expanse of concrete. It never moved, and neither did I, now trying to ignore the bouncing bundles of cuteness at my feet. I pointed.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“One of the males,” the breeder replied.
I moved closer. It was now very obvious to me that this eight week old puppy was sizing me up. Finally, I called to him. For a second, he hesitated, and then he came trotting toward me. When he arrived at my feet, he looked up. In that moment, I knew. “I’ll take him,” I said, picking him up, “and his name is Skipper.” It’s astonishing to me now, but back then, he fit on the palm of my hand. It was as if he knew he had some enormous paws to fill, and he did, and so much more. When Skipper first met my husband’s nine-year old Lhasa Apso, she growled and snapped at him. As young as he was, Skipper remained seated, and just glared. The Lhasa finally gave up, and retreated, knowing when she was beaten. To the end of the Lhasa’s life, Skipper chose to ignore her, and vice versa. On his first trip into the outside world at sixteen weeks, after he’d had all his shots, I took Skipper to Hospital Point at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. The very first dog he met was an enormous harlequin colored Great Dane, owned by one of the officers. Skipper was totally unfazed by this giant, and as they touched noses, the crowd that had gathered all said it was truly a “Kodak moment.” Of course, no one had a camera! The Great Dane’s head was twice Skipper’s size, and he had to splay his front legs just to reach Skipper’s nose. Skipper was fearless then and still is today. He was definitely an Alpha male, and continues to rule supreme. I have raised a lot of puppies over the years, but Skipper was, by far, the best behaved. He was also sophisticated way beyond his years, very self assured, highly intelligent, and even now, prefers the company of humans to that of his siblings. When Skippers’ dislike for the really grumpy Lhasa grew, I decided I’d buy him a puppy playmate for his first birthday. I found another Corgi breeder who had bred her female to Skipper’s father, and that’s how Misty, Skipper’s half-sister, came into our lives.
From day one, Misty was a fiercely independent free-spirit. Most puppies, when chastised, will yelp. Not Misty. She would clench her teeth, her lips would tremble, but she never made a sound. When Skipper decided that his little sister had had enough “cuddle time” with Mom, he’d sit on her head! She soon learned to give Skipper what he wanted. Corgi puppies are born with their ears down, and their ears usually stand up at around twelve weeks. Only one of Misty’s ears stood. The other remained floppy. I tried everything, but to no avail. In the end, I almost resorted to plastic surgery, but everyone who knew her said that the one floppy ear suited her personality. They were right. But, if you pointed a camera at her, the ear immediately went up. That’s why I have no “floppy ear” photographs. When Skipper eventually became bored with his sister, Misty decided to became a troublemaker. If she couldn’t find trouble, she’d make it, and was extremely successful in her endeavors. Her antics were how she got the nickname “The Devilish Miss M.” However, Skipper did manage to teach her how to walk correctly on a double leash, and to swim.
A year later, had it not been for a regular telephone call to one of my Corgi breeders on a Sunday afternoon, I would never have adopted Duke. During that call, I learned that because of a rampant case of Demodex mange, Duke was going to be put to sleep the following day. He was Misty’s full brother, and I didn’t hesitate to instantly adopt him, sight unseen. It was probably just as well, because when Duke arrived, he was covered in bleeding sores, and for the most part hairless. Being so extremely ill, he was not expected to recover. Skipper immediately accepted him, and Misty seem to instinctively know he was her brother. Duke spent the first few weeks with us, covered with a blanket to keep him warm, in a open door crate. He woke to eat (puppy food, three times a day, plus an hour to apply some of his topical medication) and be taken outside. Misty never left his side. It took a year, and at the time, a radical new treatment for this vicious strain of mange, for Duke to regain his strength and for his fur to grow again. When the doorbell rang one day, and Duke barked for the first time, I knew he now considered himself part of the family. Finding his voice again, Duke then became a constant “talker.” After surviving such a devastating disease, I was sure he’d interact perfectly with sick people. I was right. He aced the Therapy Dog test and became a wonderful and much loved Therapy Dog. There are many stories of Duke’s successes, but one in particular stands out: A small group of Therapy Dogs were invited to a local school to meet the students of a Special Ed class. As Duke entered the room, full of children and adults, all he could see were legs and feet. But he immediately headed into the crowd, and I can only describe his progress across the room as being similar to the parting of the Red Sea. His “target” was a young mentally challenged student who was sitting on a chair, and at the sight of Duke, he started wailing. Duke ignore the student’s cries, and sat quietly at his feet. One of the teachers then explained that the young man had once been bitten by a dog and was truly terrified. Duke remained unfazed.
“He won’t hurt you,” I said to the terrified student. “He just wants to be your friend.”
Less than an hour later, this same student was running through the halls of the school, with Duke at his side, shouting to anyone who would listen, “Look at my new dog!”
When we eventually left the school, this student gave Duke a big hug and said, ”Please, come back soon.”
Truly courageous, super smart and sensible, and very loving, are just a few of the words that I use to sum up Duke’s personality.
With the Lhasa no longer with us, and me in the process of moving house to another state, one of the Corgi breeders called.
“Misty’s sister has just had her last litter of puppies,” she said, “and there’s a beautiful tri-color female with your name on it.”
“I already have three,” I replied.
“But this way, you’ll have two girls and two boys,” she added. “It’s perfect.”
And that’s how Tango, Duke and Misty’s niece, was added to the family.
From the start, Tango was an instant hit with her siblings and humans alike. She adored my contractor on their first meeting, and as she was too young to be outside, Tango spent a great deal of time with him and his nail gun. Consequently, Tango is the only one of the siblings who isn’t afraid of either thunderstorms or fireworks. She has actually been outside with me on the Fourth of July, just to watch the fireworks. However, I’m convinced that her lack of fear is partly bravado and one-upmanship over her siblings as she is the youngest. From the moment Tango arrived, Misty immediately lost all the puppy qualities that she’d craftily retained, and her maternal instincts took over. Although Tango loved Misty’s attention, she followed Skipper everywhere, and copied whatever he did. It was fun to watch. Tango is also a fabulous actress, and can, if allowed, play you like a fine instrument. She’s been called “cute” so many times, I now think she believes it. I’m constantly being asked if she can be taken home for a “sleep over.” Just like Skipper, she seems to know she’s of royal heritage and acts accordingly. Misty and Duke couldn’t care less that their grandfather belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. The older she grew, Tango and Misty became best friends and are now inseparable.
All the siblings love to travel, although I’ve never lived with a Corgi that didn’t. At the sight of a suitcase, they rush through the house, getting more and more excited. I’ve tried hiding suitcases, but the words “Road trip,” have the same effect. Over the past few years, during the research for my other series of books, I’ve driven thousands of miles, and the dogs are always with me. I’ve been in places that were none too safe, but I’ve never been afraid. Skipper is extremely protective, and with his siblings to back him up, I’ve always told myself that anyone bent on mischief would be confronted by a dog weighing over 100 lbs with four sets of very sharp teeth. So far, its worked. They also recognize the sneakers I use to take them on walks, and rush to the kitchen door, before I’ve even tied the laces. On the rare occasions I’m late preparing their food, Skipper will come and remind me. If his siblings want ice cubes to crunch on, they tell Skipper, and then he tells me. Really. They understanding of human vocabulary is also scary. They quickly learned what Furminator means, and line up to be brushed, always in the same order. Dogs, like children, are truly a product of their environment, and just like children, they need guidelines. I treat the dogs with lots of love and lots of discipline, and so far its worked. However, a Corgi will quickly learn all your weaknesses, which is why it is NOT a recommended breed for a first time dog owner. Other Corgi owners will know exactly what I mean.
In the third book, The Graveside Dog, readers will finally meet the other Corgis:
As far as anyone can tell, Buddy had a very bad start to life. He was found at the side of a main road in South Carolina on New Year’s Day and immediately taken to the Hilton Head Humane Association. He was then adopted by an elderly gentleman who unfortunately died a short time later. The elderly gentleman’s family, not wanting to see Buddy returned to the humane association, found, through their church, a wonderful local family to foster him. Although Buddy loved the family, he was left alone a lot due to their hectic schedule, and bored/lonely Corgis are very bad news. When Buddy’s destructive behavior became too much for them to handle, he came to me. As Buddy was no threat to Skipper’s dominance, Skipper readily accepted him into the family. Tango did not. For six months, she refused point blank to associate with him in any way. However, Misty was thrilled to get another brother. I know a lot about Corgis, and although I was told Buddy was about seven years old, I knew he wasn’t. My veterinarian confirmed my suspicions that Buddy was approximately four, which went a long way to explaining his behavior. Regardless of Tango’s total dislike of this “intruder,” Buddy fit into the family really well, and his destructive behavior immediately stopped. His constant “talking” did not. Although he’s very intelligent, he easily gets over-excited, and attempts to “herd” his new family. His adopted siblings reply to his antics is to ignore him! It took awhile, but Buddy and Tango are now good friends.
Dexter: Less than a year after Buddy’s arrival, one of my Corgi breeders unexpectedly died. Due to this very sad event, I then drove 1,600 miles, in really bad weather, to get Dexter, Tango’s full brother from a much later litter. Dexter had been raised in a kennel, and when I picked him up for the first time, I discovered that he was a fur-covered skeleton, due to a rampant case of worms. He was truly terrified of everything, and being so sick didn’t help. After many weeks of medication, puppy food, three times a day, and lots of love, Dexter rallied, and hasn’t looked back. Tango instinctively knew he was related, and from the moment that Dexter arrived in the household, she finally accepted Buddy as one of the family. After Dexter had recovered sufficiently, and being approximately the same age as Buddy, they quickly became playmates, and continue to race around the garden together at break neck speed. As Dexter’s fears subsided, and his self-assurance grew on a daily basis, he decided one day that he could take over the leadership of the “pack.” Skipper thought that was a very bad idea, and Dexter soon learned that Skipper was right. Since that dispute, harmony now reigns. Like his Auntie Misty, Dexter is also a hunter, but his digging skills have yet to rival Tango’s.by admin and comments are closed.