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After nearly two months we've finally discovered our new 8-pound fuzzy ball of affection and mischief belongs to the mixed breed known as taco terriers.

Named for a blend of Chihuahua and toy fox terrier, his lineage is accepted by the American Kennel Club, says the Internet. I'd never heard of these mini-canines before this one was placed, shivering, in our arms at the Boone County Humane Society.

Of course, his pedigree really doesn't matter a Pup-Peroni treat to us. But it's been enlightening to read about the characteristics of his breed and what to expect.

And this charming little fella checks all the boxes, right down to how he prefers to eat a little at a time, a love of burrowing beneath covers, and fearlessness when threatened by a dog 12 times his size.

We've also discovered taco terriers are deeply affectionate by nature, instinctively curious and love to explore, which is why he keeps continually outsmarting us by escaping from the fenced yard.

With each breakout we'd quickly seal off his latest route by watching him. Such opportunities are more apparent from 10 inches off the ground.

When frolicking like a spring Monarch through the neighborhood, we've been able to find him quickly, usually searching along fence lines of surrounding neighbors with dogs.

Interestingly, when we approach he playfully sprints away from Jeanetta when she calls. And he is lightning fast, even on spindly legs. When ol' Dad shows up, he sprints toward me, flips onto his back and furiously wags his tail.

It's apparent Benji just wants to match all the unseen barks with the faces and smells that occupy nearby backyards.

It took a week to receive his identification tags and get him chipped; should he locate an eighth way out, whoever finds him will know where he belongs. Several years had passed since either of us owned a dog, so we've had to get back in the groove and responsibilities of dog ownership.

The good folks at the Harrison Animal Clinic have seen a lot of Benji, between his dry cough, three loose teeth that had to go, ridiculously long nails and itchy ears. Then there was discovering the right food and making certain his meds were thoroughly ground up with dinner. Whew!

Although devoted and loving, he found himself in deep doggie doo the other day after spotting a deer while walking with Jeanetta. He yanked the leash from her grip, then bolted pell-mell into the adjacent woods and down a ravine.

Twenty minutes and a steep climb down, then back up, the overgrown crevasse, he was successfully reattached, tail drooping, then lectured for several blocks during the walk home. He's still foremost a dog who does doggie things.

I did ask him what he planned to do with the deer had he caught it. Eat the thing? Ride it? He just licked the tip of my nose.

We laugh out loud at his diligence in reshaping his blanket on the couch. He always takes several minutes of rasslin' and pawin' before finally plopping down in satisfaction with a sigh, then arising and beginning anew.

More than anything, Benji has reminded us what a positive difference the presence of a dog can make in our spirits. The joy he already has brought can't be measured by a yardstick or tape measure, but only within our hearts.

Speaking of that, we've lately found some interesting behavioral characteristics shared by most dogs, including Benji.

Here are several from Animal Reiki's Kathleen Prasad. I suspect, if you are a dog owner, these canine behavioral findings will prove as interesting and relevant to you as they have for us.

Dogs can easily read our emotions, whether angry, happy or sad. The emotional centers in their brains light up in response. We regularly see those qualities in Benji.

They are curious and respond best to new toys and situations. As intelligent creatures, they are interested in everything new including fresh smells, tastes, shapes and textures. One study found dogs respond more positively to new toys than to familiar ones.

As with humans, the bonding hormone oxytocin spikes when dogs and humans share a mutual gaze, which explains why, when we meet eyes with Benji, it feels we're bonding closer than ever.

Their yawns are as contagious as ours. I tried it the other day by yawning long and wide. Sure enough, Benji followed suit. Dogs also can tell the difference between real and fake yawns.

They actually align with magnetic fields when using the bathroom. Benji prefers his special spot in the backyard and arranges his position just so. Studies show they routinely align themselves on a north-south axis.

We often leave Benji home alone with classical music. It just seemed like a good thing to do to keep him more at ease. A study shows many dogs are calmed by classical music because they are sensitive to it.

Finally, Benji absorbs affection like a puppy pad, constantly craving scratches and rubs. He's no different than fellow dogs who, by nature, would rather be petted than praised.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 04/19/2020

Print Headline: Taco terrier

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