OK, here is the last of the current crop of BLACK DOG blogs (i.e. blogs relating to my work-in-progress novel BLACK DOG). Yes, I know I said the last one was the last one (as it were!) but I just couldn’t resist adding this one as it relates to Affenpinschers – my favourite breed of dog – which I am also including in the novel (in the guise of a character who is a breeder of Affens).
I was brought up with cats (and I do still love cats – equally to dogs) but I have wanted a dog for a loooooong looooooooooong time! Unfortunately my present circumstances mean it’s just not possible for me to have a dog just now – but each passing year I tell myself…maybe one day! And I’ve been saying that for over two decades and counting!
However, when circumstances change, I know exactly what type of dog I will have. (Well, in actual fact, I’ll probably have a rescue dog as I honestly think it’s the right thing to do. So, to rephrase…). When I am able to have two dogs(!)…one of them will definitely be an Affenpinscher. I’ve wanted one of these small, spirited, characterful, entertaining dogs (and been totally fascinated by them) ever since I was a teenager.
The Affenspinscher is a truly ancient breed – one of the oldest. The breed originated in Germany (Affenpinscher translates as ‘Monkey dog’ – ‘Affen’ being German for ‘monkey’) and is a direct ancestor of the Griffon Bruxellois. Affens are also thought to be closely related to Miniature Schnauzers. However, the precise history of the origin of the breed has never been fully determined – and remains a matter of conjecture and debate in the dog world. There is little doubt, however, that the very first Affies were probably larger than the ‘Toy’ dogs of today – and were originally ‘bred down’ in size to become ‘ratters’, later (from the late 18th century) becoming the companion dogs they remain to this day.
Known as ‘moustached devils’ to the French (‘diablotin moustachu’), Affenpinscher-type dogs can clearly be seen in paintings by van Eyck in the 15th century and Durer in the 16th century – not least van Eyck’s famous portrait The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini (1434) which has an Affie-type dog at the couple’s feet.
Prior to World War One it was possible to find Affies in a variety of colours beyond today’s distinctive and synonymous black – including red, fawn, grey and black ‘n’ tan. Sadly, the terrible ravages of World War Two saw the breed driven almost to extinction in its native land – and, in fact, the breed has never really recovered in Germany. There are now actually more Affies in the USA than in Germany! It has taken a great deal of hard work and dedication by breeders to establish the breed here in the UK – importing parent dogs from the USA to sire pups (so as to avoid the perils of in-breeding) during a period when the UK operated a six-month quarantine procedure for dogs.
I used to know an Affie that lived near to me. I had been walking back from work one winter afternoon actually thinking about Affies when an elderly lady came round the corner with a small black dog on a lead. To my utter astonishment, it was an Affie! (Considering these dogs are extremely rare and considering I had just been thinking about them, I was bowled over by the coincidence!). “Is that an Affenspinscher?” I asked. “Yes, his name’s Mr Monkey,” the owner replied. I’d see the pair sometimes in the Post Office queue or out for a walk and I’d always stop for a chat and make a fuss of Mr Monkey. I’ve not seen either of them for a couple of years now. Maybe one day!…