“A Canine Heart Throb”
by Richard Beauchamp

If ever the greeting card industry needs a poster
Dog for Valentines Day, there is no better
candidate than the Bichon Frise ( bee-shawn
free-zay Unmistakably intelligent and
affectionate, bichons wield a bouncy cuddly
stuffed-toy appeal. They adore people, radiate
self confidence, and are easily trained.
Generations of dependence on human beings
have ingrained in them a strong sense of family
and a devoted entertaining spirit. Besides, they
were formerly known as the “love gift of the
seven seas” If this doesn't rock you Valentine boat, you're thoroughly landlocked.
Bichon puppies 
( Photo of Tejada Puppies  taken 1991)

On Land and Sea
According to toy-breed authorities, a small frequently white breed of dog lived throughout the Mediterranean area as early as 600 to 300 B.C. Their diminutive size and charming personalities made these little dogs the treasured pets of the ladies of the house. In time these lap warmers were crossed with a spaniel type water dog known as the barbet. The dogs resulting from this union retained their lapidary size while gaining in substance and constitution. As a result they found increased favour with the men of the family

Several small breeds descended from the lap-dog-barbet roots, including the barbichon, whose name was shortened eventually to bichon The bichons were not only excellent household companions and min-alarms they also became the comrades of many rough-and-tumble seafaring men, who fancied the bichon’s small size, hardiness and amiable disposition Moreover, the dogs served as reminders of home on journeys that often lasted years. Lest you think sailors were awash in sentimentality, you should know that they also traded their little dogs for goods on stops on the trade routes. And not always for dry goods Sailors did not fail to notice that their little dogs appealed greatly to ladies in foreign ports. Before long gentlewoman so far off as the , Cuba, Argentina. the Canary Islands and Teneriffe were waving goodbye to their paramours, tear in eye and Bichon in hand. (The stories these sailors concocted to explain their bichons’ absences upon returning home are among the more interesting facets of canine lore forever lost in the ages)

A Four Leaf Clover
Bichons, too, enjoyed shore leave, and from their fraternization with local dogs there emerged four distinct types of bichons. Those that had developed during their long stay in Cuba became known as the Bichon Havanese. Those that had become established on the Island of Malta were called the Bichon Maltaise. In time this branch became extinct, but some people believe these early dogs were the forerunners of the breed known today as the Maltese There is little proof, however, to document this belief

The bichons that developed along the Canary Islands and Teneriffe were reintroduced to Europe by Italian seamen during the 14th century. In Italy this group was segregated into two strains (bichon number three and four) One strain, the Bichon Bolognaise, lived in and about the city of Bologna. The other, which in the end gained the greatest fame, was called the Bichon Teneriffe. This dog ,many observers believe, had been introduced to the Canary Island of Teneriffe by Spanish sailors. The name Teneriffe, most sources agree, was retained because its slightly exotic nature enhanced the bichon’s value

The Bichon Teneriffe became as popular among the ladies of the Italian Royal Courts as its forebears had with the ladies of the islands. It eventually found its way to France(to be precise, its way was found for it) where it was highly fashionable during the reign of Francis 1 (1515-1547), the patron of the Renaissance. Its greatest success came in the court of Henry 111 (1574-1589), where the bichon was decorated in ribbons and perfume. Bichons also enjoyed popularity in Spain and the works of its artists, including several paintings by Goya

Street Life
Though they lasted longer than most fads, the bichons from Teneriffe fell from grace, By the late 1800’s, bichons were relegated to the status of street urchins in the major cities of France. The sturdy little dogs’ rugged constitution enabled them to survive neglect and two world wars. Their charm enabled them to catch the attention of organ grinders and peddlers, who were quick to realize the potential in the crowd-pleasing antics of the bichon. Soon the little dogs began performing tricks on the street corners and in circuses and fairs. While the bichon clowned about, pawing the air as though they were begging for money and applause, their owners reaped the financial benefits of this behaviour.

The street urchins’ appeal did not go unnoticed by dog fanciers, several of whom convinced the Society Central Canine in France in 1933 to write the first official standard for the breed. Perhaps in an attempt to make up for the bichon’s previous treatment. Somebody decided that the breed should be given the descriptive name Bichon A Poile Frise (Bichon of the curly hair), which was thankfully shortened to Bichon Frise

Darts To The Heart
The bichons entire history has been one of close and constant association with people. Small wonder the breed has developed an amiable disposition and a willingness to accommodate just about any conditions. As long as they include a kind and considerate owner. Affectionate and gentle enough for children and the elderly. The bichon is sturdy enough to walk for hours along a beach or a country road with the man or woman of the house. This irrepressible dog also makes friends with all other breeds of dogs and with cats, bunnies and even birds. Nevertheless, caution is in order when adding a bichon to a house already ruled by a larger dogs that’s capable of inflicting harm

Maintenance Required
The bichons non-shedding and relatively odour free coat is one of the many facets of appeal. Yet this is not a low-maintenance dog. Just because the breed comes in white only, do not assume it will stay that way for long. The bichon hasn’t been made who isn’t happiest when rolling in wet grass or digging in the garden (helping you with the landscaping) Nor does that non-shedding, curly coat stay clipped and brushed on its own. Indeed, maintaining the jaunty, tailored bichon shape is not an art that every owner is able to master. If you want your bichon to stay looking like a bichon. There will regular trips to the grooming parlor and thorough, in-house brushing conferences at least twice weekly. Finally, although the bichon does not shed and appears to be non-allergenic to most humans, the breed like many white dogs can be extremely flea sensitive.

Let Me Count The Ways
Though the bichon involves work and commitment on the part of its owner, there are few breeds more versatile and adaptable. The bichon is hardy and non susceptible to chronic illnesses It is not so small that it can be injured easily in rough-and-tumble play. Temperamentally, the bichon is just as content to sit by your side and help you read a book as it is to spend the day hiking along a mountain trail. It is more delighted to play games with you by the hour, but just as content to help you through a bout of flu by sitting quietly at the foot of your bed (or on the pillow if you permit). This is a breed in which males are just as loving and tractable as females. In fact many owners claim that males are much easier to housebreak and little more eager to please and more endearing than are females. Bichons are also a long lived breed. Many live well into their late teen years

The bichon frise is a born companion and entertainer. Its dark eyes, nose and lips (called “points”) and the black or dark brown pigment around eyes( called a “halo”) create a special bichon look – one that sparkles with inquisitiveness, joie de vivre and mischief. This look of perpetual liveliness is more often that not augmented by a perpetually wagging tail. One that seems to trace Valentine hearts in the air

Spanners In The Works
Like every other breed known to - and developed with the assistance of humankind, the bichon frise is bound by genetic compromise. Persons interested in buying a bichon, after answering a breeder’s questions should pose several questions of their own about prevalence of the following conditions in that breeder’s line of dogs: patella luxation, hip dysplasia. bladder stones( particularly in females) juvenile cataracts skin allergies or any other problems There are many who claim there dogs are free but suggest you ask for evidence that the bloodlines have been tested For information re the health in bichons go to
(Permission by Author- Richard Beauchamp for” Tejada” to reprint)

Richard Beauchamp, who breeds and shows bichons frises, is the author of several books on the breed. The most current being Bichon Frise A Complete pet Owner’s Manual, published by Barron’s Educational Series He is also a licensed judge with the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club Canadian Kennel Club All Breeds and F.C.I. All Breeds

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