We’d never had a bitch. We both grew up with dogs, but none of them were bitches. And when, as a couple in our own houses, we started to home rescue dogs, they were always male.
But Tosca was a bitch. That was clear from the extended nipples, indicating she’d recently had pups.
I asked a good dog friend who’s had bitches about any noticeable differences. I was primarily thinking about anything around when they come, or start to come, on heat. Hopefully, we would manage to get her spayed before that. (We did.)
Both my friend, and another experienced dog person, agreed they could see no difference between bitches and dogs.
And yet, the rumour mill has it that bitches are more affectionate, more loving, more loyal, better natured than dogs. Are we so hung up on gender as a society that we project our constructs of men and women onto animals?
Tosca and Snowy are the same breed, although different varieties within the Podenco family. He is smaller. Unsurprisingly, as the larger dog, Tosca usually wins the fight for possession of toys. As hunting dogs, they play hard. They growl, snarl, and (play) fight. They chase each other. Neither gives any quarter.
They both like affection and attention and like to lie next to their people, resting their head on shoulder, chest, arms, legs, feet. Snowy, being the smaller dog, will often jump up to sit on a lap.
Both are good guard dogs. Sometimes they take it in turn, sometimes they guard and bark together.
The only visible differences we can see are – surprisingly? – down to their different backgrounds. Nurture not nature in this case. Snowy came to us as a tiny thrown-out puppy, at four or five weeks old. He’s led a very spoiled and pampered life. Tosca followed Partner and Snowy home one day and our vet reckons she’s around two years old. She’ll have had one or two hunting seasons before she was thrown out. And, her trained hunting habits are evident when we go out. Snowy has the senses (scent, hearing, eyesight), but lacks the experience. Plus, Tosca is sensitive to loud noises, ie those that resemble gunshots. Snowy stands up at the window to watch firework displays!
Otherwise, they are two dogs, each with different life stories, each with their own personality. Similar behaviour. Similar intelligence.
Without the obvious anatomical differences, how would one determine which was male and which was female?
We treat the two dogs exactly the same. Why can’t people do that with each other? Why do we have to create artificial differences between men and women? Why do we insist on ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ behaviour, dress, and appearance?
Tosca has whiskers on her chin. Most unfeminine. Does anyone care? She’s a wire-haired Podenco, and that’s one of their characteristics. Yet, women are expected to shave numerous parts of their body. Legs, armpits, pubes. Why?
Those who don’t, are regarded as: unconventional, unfeminine, lesbian, ugly, unattractive. Not only that, appearance – of women – affects pay and career. It’s some years ago now that I read a book that disappointingly pointed out research showing that women wearing make-up were a) more likely to be offered jobs and b) offered salaries up to 20 per cent higher. (Clairol in America, Jouhar and Graham in Britain. Source: Spillane, Presenting Yourself, 1993.)
Not only that, but a three-year study carried out by the Center for Creative Leadership found that of women attempting to break through the glass ceiling, more than a third were rejected due to ‘poor image’.
Do men get rejected for ‘poor image’? Or have to wear make-up to get jobs or higher salaries?
Should I get judged on my ability to apply make-up rather than my intellect? Apparently.
Why should women have to conform to different standards than men?
Society needs to change.