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How What I Know About Airedales Has Made a Difference

Jul 1, 2008
I'm not going to say I'm an expert on Airedale Terriers. I'm not a breeder. I'm not a trainer. And I'm not a dog show judge. But Airedales have been a part of my family since I was child, so what I know about them is what I've learned from living with them.

As an adult, my husband and I have had four Airedales -- two of them have passed and we have two now -- Amber and Krissy. Each one came to us in a different way - Bernie came from a backyard breeder, Max came from a shelter, Amber came from an AKC breeder and Krissy came from rescue. Yes, they all could be described with the typical Airedale traits - smart, playful and determined. But what made these Airedales so unforgettable is not how they were the same, but how they were different.

Max had the most unusual color -- his coat was what is called black and grizzle and though that is not the AKC standard, he was beautiful. His furnishings were very thick and he never grew out of his puppy black ears. Max was also the most happy-go-lucky guy. It didn't matter what happened in life; he was always able to get up each day and wag his tail. This was one of the most important lessons we learned from him and it was the inspiration for my book, Life to the Max: Maxims for a Great Life by a Dog named Max, which was recently published.

Bernie and Amber had and have the typical Airedale black and tan markings, but Bernie's furnishings were always thin and scraggly, while Amber's are beautiful and full. Bernie was sweet, patient and razor sharp. Out of the five Christmas stockings we would hang for the family, including the one for Max, she could pick out hers and she would lay under it all night until Christmas morning when her patience would be rewarded. Bernie was stocky, her tail was docked too short and one of her ears was higher than the other, yet she was graceful, gentle and loving. From Bernie, we learned the meaning of unconditional love and how to be good parents.

In contrast, Amber was our rebellious teenager. She really gave form to the depiction of the Airedale "Terror." Though perfectly proportioned, she was a clumsy puppy -- she ran into walls, she fell off steps and her impulsive exuberance got her into trouble more than once. Like the time when we were all gathered around the pool and Amber spotted my son on the other side. Convinced she could walk on water, she took off running toward him and plunged head first into the pool. Thank goodness, we were there to fish out the surprised little puppy.

Amber has also been the most pig-headed of our Airedales. To this day, she has not mastered "come." Instead she sits down and looks at us like, "What's your ulterior motive?" When she was about four, she began to calm down and now that Krissy has joined the fray, her patience is really emerging. (One of Krissy's tricks is to grab one of Amber's back legs in her mouth and Amber just stands there until she lets go.) Amber has taught us the value of loving, but firm discipline -- something that's been invaluable now that our son is a teenager.

Krissy is a spunky, very petite one-year-old Airedale -- the smallest we've ever had. Like Bernie, her furnishings are very sparse and her ears are asymmetrical, but her straight, coarse fur is totally different than any of the Airedales who have owned us previously. She does not have the typical Airedale beard or furry muzzle, so her face and body look more sleek and pointy. At first when I introduced her to friends, I found myself almost apologizing for her looks, "Well, we're not sure if she's really an Airedale." Afterwards, I found myself blanching at the thought that I had become a doggy bigot! Of course, it didn't really matter - Krissy had already captured my heart with her soulful eyes, her funny, prancing little walk and her big guttural sighs that sound like a cow mooing.

Still with all this dissimilarity among our dogs, it made me wonder: were these dogs really Airedales?

My question led me to do some research on the Web and to discover Joyce Miller, a long-time Airedale enthusiast who runs a website (dearjubilee) that offers advice, articles and links on all things dog and Airedale. She is as full of insight, wisdom and energy as any of the Airedales she once bred. After sending her pictures of my dogs, I asked if these dogs were indeed all Airedales. "No doubt they are Airedales," she replied, "I have seen these variations in the same litter."

After long conversations with Joyce talking about genetic anomalies and reading more Airedale history, this is what I now know: just because you've had one Airedale, it doesn't mean they're all the same. Just like people, they are all individuals and enjoying their diversity instead of expecting exact conformity is a lesson we can apply to life. If we were all the same, imagine how boring that would be! That may be the one thing we're supposed to learn from Krissy. All I know is that I've learned something special from every wonderful animal that has been part of my life. And it's made all the difference.
About the Author
Robin Reynolds is an award-winning writer who has more than 25 years of experience writing in a variety of formats. An Airedale Terrier lover since youth, Robin lives in Tempe, AZ with her husband, teenage son, and two Airedales. Visit Nice Creative and Life to Max.
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