I have a confession: I have disliked Pomeranians since 1987.
I was weeding in my garden in Scotland, minding my own business, when I was bitten in the back of my leg. The aggressor was a Pomeranian who lived with one of my neighbours. That is actually the one and only occasion I’ve ever been bitten. It wasn’t a deep bite or dangerous but, ever since, I have avoided Poms.
So, when Joseph Chan, a 52-year-old IT professional, invited me to meet Beary, his Pomeranian, I hesitated. When he sent me photo after photo, all with enthusiastic praise of his pet, my resistance crumbled.
The second we met at a pet-friendly café on a sunny afternoon, I was smitten.
Beary is four months old, just a small ball of fluff but with a personality the size of a planet. The second he saw me, he was waving his tail and yipping excitedly. He sniffed my hand for a second, licked it enthusiastically, and then insisted on up-close and personal kisses. In a word: irresistible.
“I taught him to sit three days ago.” Right from the word go Chan is showing off his pet.
“He’s super smart. I kept repeating ‘good boy’ when he sat, and he just internalised it all.”
Chan may be deprecating his training skills because he is a consummate animal-lover with a real feel for our furry friends.
Syrup, his five-year-old Retriever, was left at home with Garfield, his five-year-old pet cat and unofficial dog-sitter.
“Syrup was originally a relative’s pet,” Joseph explains. “But his dad got a job outstation and so I took Syrup. We were living in a condo which wasn’t much fun for him, so I moved to a landed property.”
Having moved house to make the adopted dog happy, Chan found a thin, bedraggled cat knocking on the window.
“I’d just moved in and it was pouring,” Joseph recalls. “The cat was ravenous and all I had in the house was a tin of sardines in tomato sauce. I handed it over and went out for dinner. The cat was still there the next day. I reckoned he came with the house and so adopted him. Or maybe we adopted each other?”
Syrup and Garfield are at home because taking Beary out for tea is like taking a baby on an outing. He has his own waterproof pee pad so he can sit on a chair nicely, as well as his water bowl, favourite chew toy, comfort blanket, wet wipes and leash. In fact, the bag of provisions is much bigger than the pet.
Beary is beautifully behaved, sitting on his chair and talking nicely to a besotted waiter who is clearly a firm friend. After being told he’s beautiful and a good boy, Beary barks to be picked up by his dad.
“Right, I made a training mistake,” Chan says instantly. “When he first arrived, I carried him when he barked. Now I have to unlearn that with him.”
As Beary yips, a shrill sound for attention, Chan says no and sits with arms crossed firmly. When Beary gives up and sits down, I can see his dad count determinedly to a hundred to make sure there is no link between the bark and the attention. Then he picks up his pet and the two snuggle.
At this point, I’m wondering if Target would really object to having a Pomeranian as a brother, so I ask if they’re easy pets to take care of.
Beary has a double coat: a black inner coat that’s barely visible and an outer coat of gold. “He needs professional washing, drying and brushing once a week,” Chan shares. “And you have to brush him all over at least once a day.
Even then, they shed fur everywhere, so you need to travel with a lint remover.”
Can you wash and brush at home?
“I’d say no,” Chan says. “The double coat makes it very hard to maintain.
“But,” he adds cheerily, “when he’s a year old, we will give him a teddy bear cut. It’s easier to keep clean.”
Will it mean less frequent professional grooming?
“No,” Chan says. “But it will make it easier to clean his feet after he’s been for his walk.”
Apart from costing a bomb at the hairdresser, Pomeranians also have very fragile little bones.
“They need extremely delicate handling,” Joseph says. “It’s not a pet for a household with kids.”
Not a dog, then, for a casual pet lover. Beary is a bought dog, a pure bred but unregistered pedigree. With Syrup and Garfield, this is a departure from the rescue pets at home.
“It’s the first time I’ve bought a dog,” Chan confesses. “I’ve always had rescues. But I wanted a Pom because of Ruffie.”
Some 14 years ago, Ruffie was an abandoned Pomeranian. “He was in a bad way,” Chan sighs. “When we met, I was exhausted. I said hello to him and lay down for a nap. Ruffie jumped on top of me and that was it: we just clicked.”
Ruffie passed away five years ago and, in all that time, Joseph never forgot his friend.
“Pomeranians are small but they have tonnes of character and they’re big hearted,” Chan says enthusiastically.
“They’re cute, of course, but they are also incredibly loving.”
Are there drawbacks to the breed?
“They get barky so you need to manage that,” Chan admits. “You can’t leave them alone, either. When you have a Pomeranian, you have a permanent shadow. Beary is with me most of the time. I work from home a lot but, when I have to go out, he stays with my parents. A lonely Pom is miserable – and noisy!
“They are also full of energy. I need to tire Beary out during the day so he sleeps, otherwise he spends the night playing with his toys and keeping me awake.”
Beary is teething – his adult teeth are coming in – so he has five chew toys specially for teething pups. Even so, the little dog has decided that chewing the bathroom towels is better.
“It’s not a big deal,” Chan says, with a shrug. “He’s a pup; he’ll grow out of it.”
Are these little pets good for apartments or do they need to run around outside all day long?
“They can be paper-trained but they do need walks,” Chan says. “And if you have a garden, you can’t leave them unsupervised because they’re so tiny that they can wriggle through the tiniest fence hole.”
At which point, Beary wriggles and yips, signalling he wants to come and sit on my lap. Being covered in golden strands of fur and given dozens of wet doggie kisses, I’m glad I went. Pomeranians may be my new favourite dog breed.