SHERRY KUGHN: Boston terriers wrap owners around paw

Austin and Abbey like to romp through the backyard and the house.

Around 2000, a Boston terrier became a member of my daughter’s family quite by accident. One day, while living in Georgia, they arrived at their church and found a Boston hunkered against a glass door, cold and hungry. They brought her home, tried to find her owners to no avail, and then fell in love with her. They named the dog “Baby” and discovered many things about her. The grooming shop told them her skittish behavior was that of an abused dog, which endeared her to them even more. It took Baby a year before she completely trusted her human parents; but, step by step, she warmed up to them and overcame her nervousness. All of us who visited in their home grew to adore her.

After more than a decade, Baby died; and, sometimes afterward, the family moved to Virginia. Since the children were missing their friends, my daughter and her husband remembered how much love Baby had brought into their home. They shopped around and bought, at no small price, a little girl puppy they named Abbey, the runt of a litter of Bostons. She became the hit of the neighborhood. Weighing about two-and-a-half pounds, Abbey attracted the attention of neighborhood children who would watch for the family to bring her out to potty or walk; and the call would go out. Soon, more than a dozen children would be in the yard waiting to pet and hold this adorable black-and-white puppy.

All of us family members agree that Bostons make fabulous pets if an owner wants a dog that does not bark, is easy to train, eats very little, is smart, likes to play and run, and curls up to sleep often, especially if it can find a warm spot.

Recently, while visiting in my daughter’s home, I cooked for the family. Abbey noticed that Maw-maw’s cooking meant scraps sometimes fell onto the floor, so she stayed underfoot. I was afraid I would step on her or that she would cause me to fall. I started telling her in a firm voice, “No.” I pointed in the direction of the den and tapped her behind as she headed there. She quickly understood my message. She now watches me from afar with great longing (probably for food) and seems to tattle on me to family members for scolding her. Repeatedly, she looks at them and then looks at me rather harshly, or so it seems.

She loves me, though. Whenever I am in a chair or typing on my computer, Abbey wants to climb onto my lap and fall asleep. If I wave her away, she lies down facing me and looks at me lovingly. I am not normally an affectionate pet lover, but she makes me laugh when something is going on in the house. She looks at all of us so intently and tilts her head from side-to-side as if to tell us something but cannot manage to figure out how to talk. She can, however, make baby-dinosaur sounds.

Abbey is funny in other ways. She scatters her dogfood on the floor. I found a 12x36-inch mat with a one-inch lip around it and placed her food on it. At first, she seemed incensed and would not eat for a while. Finally, she began eating again and now always seems to place one or two bits on the floor slightly off the mat. At least there are no longer 20 pieces on the floor.

Abbey loves to steal things out of trash cans, forcing us to keep them emptied. When she has an item in her mouth, she trots through where the family is sitting and then runs like the devil to hide with her treasure beneath the bed or couch, just beyond reach. My eight-year-old grandson laughs heartily when Abbey has a burst of energy and growls, wanting him to chase her. “She jumps around and looks like a bunny,” he told me after a spate of laughter.

Apparently, many pet owners love the Boston terriers. They were one of the first breeds developed in America, ironically, to fight other dogs. Almost certainly, some breeder from Boston, where the dog originated, got a rude surprise when his new breed wanted only to play with other dogs. Bostons do not drool, but they snore because they have a flat face. This feature also causes them to take in lots of air when eating; thus, owners will find it best to stay up-wind when these dogs are resting or sleeping. They shed very little, and just a brief brush with a dog comb will keep their short fur in check. Bostons love children, and they like to romp with them. Bostons love senior citizens, and they will adapt to a sedentary lifestyle. However, like all animals, they need some exercise.

I think the word “adaptable” is the best way to describe Baby, Abbey, and other Bostons I have known. They are smart enough to know how to procure the best possible lives for themselves: be nice, be fun, and be adaptable. Now, if all humans could learn these three traits, their lives would be as cozy as a dog lying in the sunshine, which is what Abbey was doing as I finished this column.

Note: I have a friend who rescues Boston terriers. Email me at, and I will link you with her. Beware, though, some Boston owners are picky about the type of family they choose. My daughter, while shopping for a Boston, was asked to fill out a voluminous questionnaire to determine if her family was fit for ownership. Later, a particular breeder called to say their answers had disqualified them. Heartbroken, my daughter called back and learned they failed because they preferred pets not to climb onto their furniture. Knowing how my daughter’s family treats Abbey — and how she charms them into allowing her to sit where she wants — that breeder could not have chosen a better family.