Our favorite Malt has been complaining of late that he does not receive the respect to which he believes he is entitled by the accident of his birth. The problem is that he has been condemned to a short stint in the Cone of Shame due to excessive ear scratching which led to a small infection. He will be fine but hates being the center of comic attention as he walks around bumping into everything in the condo.
But what about this issue of Malts deserving respect? Perhaps we should look back into Malt history.
It was none other than Charles “Chuck” Darwin, who said that Maltese originated about 600 BC thus qualifying the fluff-butts as one of earth’ s oldest holders of Canidea status. But even Chuck could never settle on just one name for the beast.
At one time or another, the Maltese has been called the Maltese Terrier, the Lion Dog of Malta, Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta, Melitaire Dog, the Roman Ladies’ Dog, the Spanish Gentle. The Shock Dog and The Comforter.
All these names hint at the breed’s long history traipsing around the ancient trade routes of the Mediterranean. The names “Maltese” and “Melitaire” suggest that the pup hails from the island of Malta. Aristotle said that the breed was living there during his time (384-322BC).
But Ari could have been wrong. There is good evidence that the Maltese is not really an islander at all but rather a dog of the mountains that started out in Switzerland. Other evidence points to Egyptian origins or perhaps Phoenician.
Maltese dogs appear in art and literature as early as the fourth century B.C. They were treasured by both Greeks and Romans of old and kept at the courts of Turkey and China. A Maltese appears as a symbol of fidelity in one of the renowned fifteenth-century Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
In Elizabethan times, the Malts were called “Comforters” in the belief that they could relieve pain and cure illness simply by snuggling under the bedclothes next to the sufferer.
And if the dogs didn’t really have a medicinal effect, there’s no doubt that having a fluffy and sympathetic bedmate to warm your toes or provide a consoling lick on the hand when you’re not feeling well can’t hurt.
The “Shock Dog” appellation does not relate to the reaction of owners when presented with the grooming bill, but for their “shock” of long hair. Buying a Malt in the early 1600s would also be a shock – they sold for a five-figure equivalent price.
Rival queens Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, both owned representatives of this breed, and it was one of her Maltese that accompanied Mary to the axeman’s block, hiding under her skirts until after she was beheaded. The faithful pet, its white coat now drenched in its mistress’s blood, was finally rescued by one of the executioners.
Happily, it was spared the Queen’s gruesome fate and (after a bath) lived out its life with a French princess where no doubt it enjoyed a tastier diet and then pooped on the sidewalk like every other French dog in existence. But I digress.
In the 19th century small Maltese were all the rage and bred to be the size of a squirrel. The tiny doglets spent much of their time burrowed in the billowy sleeves and ample, heaving bosoms of their mistresses’ clothes.
The breed continued to draw admirers near and far, especially among the glitterati of the time. Queen Victoria (of cruise liner fame) wrote a letter of condolence to the Duchess of Kent upon the passing of the duchess’s Maltese, Lambkin, indicating the high esteem with which this dog was regarded by its royal acquaintances.
In 1877 the Maltese made its debutante appearance at the Westminster Dog Show. Its popularity as a “trophy dog” in the 19th century helped promote similar breeds such as the Bichon Frise.
Maltese are still celebrity dogs whose owners include folks as diverse as Lindsey Lohan whose dog is named Chloe and Britney Spears who calls her fuzzbutt “Malt Liquor.” Oh wait, there’s no diversity there at all and Brit’s dog is not really named Malt Liquor either, but her fuzzbutt is.
Eva Longoria has a famous Maltese named Jinxie. Elizabeth Taylor had a Maltese named Sugar. Heather Locklear has a Malt named Harley and Halle Berry has 2 Malts: Straw Berry and Blue Berry. Nope, lieing again, their names really are Willy and Polly but I like my version better.
Other well known owners of the little white dog are/were Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Lee Remick, Kristin Chenoweth, Mia Farrow and Star Jones.
Leona Helmsley’s (The Queen of Mean) Maltese dog named Trouble, was left a $12 million dollar trust fund. Her will declared that the dog was to be buried alongside her and her late husband in a mausoleum. Leona also left $3 million for the continuous care of that mausoleum. A judge later overturned this, and the dog was given only $2 million dollars. They say late at night at the mausoleum you can hear her dead husband still crying over Leona’s financial decisions.
We don’t pay much attention to our favorite Malt’s noble lineage. He’s only as good as his latest tricks. Speaking of which, here is a short video of Max doing a few tricks. The (cough) “film” was produced and directed by the AJF who is normally computer-averse. She is inordinately proud of this epic and I’m smart enough to keep my trap shut.