I'll never forget the day I met Hercules.
First to back up just a bit—we were in New Orleans for Mardi Gras about six years ago or so and in the elevator of the Ritz Carlton suddenly a tiny white dog popped his head up out of a woman's purse next to us. I asked, "What kind of dog is that?" It was a Maltese and so beautiful.
I had not had a dog since I was a kid—several Collies. We were living in a condominium at the time, downtown Orlando, on the sixth floor and this was a perfect size dog.
So, I got on the internet and found that there was only one AKC registered breeder of Maltese dogs recommended in Orlando, Christine Pearson. I called her and she had a brand new litter! I made an appointment and we went to her home.
When we got there she had 19 adult Maltese dogs, many of whom were very old and in diapers. I asked her, "What's with all the old dogs?" This woman is a saint! It seems that when someone doesn't want an old Maltese she takes them in! So we went to see the litter.
THE MALE RUNT
Now, we had decided we wanted the largest female before going over there. As I looked at the five or six pups I noticed one in the corner who was so tiny—and it appeared the other pups were beating it up (as best they could). I asked Christine, "What's going on there?" She explained that the tiny one was a male runt and might not live. Her eyes welled up with tears and she said, "I've never lost one in twenty years. But I might lose him. He won't eat." I said, "That's the one I want."
We had to wait a couple weeks during which time she fed him with an eye-dropper. Before we took him home she told us he would never get over three pounds—if he lived. We decided to just love him as long as we could. Something about him had called out to me in that litter. On the way home my wife said, "I want to call him BeBe." I said, "You can't call a boy dog that. He'll have a complex his whole life. He should have a manly name like Hercules or something." And so: Hercules he is.
BORN NEW YEARS DAY 2003
Well, it's over six years later (New Years Day is his birthday) and my friend Hercules is six and a half pounds and perfectly healthy—and I made sure he kept his nuts, too. I am a man after all, and I know how I'd feel if somebody whacked mine without my consent.
A FEARLESS BLESSING
What a blessing he has been to us. This little guy is fearless. He is friendly to small and medium size dogs—but big dogs he wants to attack them: to protect me. He is an expert watchman. He doesn't bark much but if he does—I guarantee you I'll look out the window and there is a person walking or riding a bicycle within a block or two. Actually, he hears them way before he sees them.
CHRISTINE PEARSON: CHAMPION MALTESE BREEDER
I just love my Hercules so much and he is a very loving animal. He travels with us wherever we go under the seat of the airliner in his pet carrier. Three of his grandparents and six of his great-grandparents were champion show dogs. Christine Pearson says Hercules is among the prettiest Maltese she has seen. He is a big boy in a little body with a huge heart.
THE DIMINUTIVE ARISTOCRAT
The Maltese dog is called the Diminutive Aristocrat. The breed has its origin on the Island of Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. (I wrote a Travel Hub about Malta.) There is a record of Maltese back to 500 B.C. (Before Christ). We can see them in art (and read about them in stories) sitting on the laps of royalty in Greece, Egypt and later Europe. They are a hardy breed of sweet, eager to please, companion dogs. The Maltese coat does require daily care to prevent matting—it's hair not fur. They do not shed.
Queen Elizabeth of England received a Maltese from the Sultan of Turkey in 1509 while still a girl during the reign of her father, Henry the VIII. At the time, it was believed a Maltese had healing powers and were nicknamed "the comforter" in the Middle Ages. I believe it.