Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Close encounters of the malinois kind

Subtitle 1: They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere

Subtitle 2: A funny thing happened at the gas station

Episode 1: When I pulled into the gas station over the weekend, a dog in the back of the car at the adjoining pump caught my eye. It looked like a malinois but I couldn’t be sure. It’s not every day you see people driving around with a malinois in their car.

When I got out to pump my gas, I asked the woman, "Is your dog a malinois?"

She laughed and looked puzzled.

“I don’t know,” she said, “but people keep asking me that.”

She let Lucy, the mystery dog, out of the car and she greeted me with an exact carbon copy of Phoenix’s ritual greeting: head lowered, diving in straight at my knees, flipping around at the last minute and presenting her butt for scratching. I laughed out loud.

The woman had adopted Lucy from a shelter in northeast Iowa where she'd been turned in as a stray, no history.

Lucy was a little smaller than Phoenix, with his same lean, sleek build. Her coat was honey fawn and she had a black mask and black ears. Big black ears.

I didn’t have Phoenix with me so we couldn’t do a compare and contrast but Lucy certainly appeared to be of the Belgian persuasion. The woman and I had a nice visit without ever exchanging names. Who needs people info when you have dogs to talk about?! Lucy loved people, was reactive around other dogs and rather insane around cats. Sound like anyone else you know?

Episode 2: Last summer, I pulled into a gas station in Iowa City. Phoenix was with me. I parked under the shade of the canopy, rolled down all the windows and pumped my gas. I went into the convenience store to get a pop and when I came out, a Johnson County Sheriff’s Department cruiser was parked at the adjoining pump and a uniformed officer was studying my van with interest.

It’s generally not a good idea when law enforcement is too interested in your vehicle and I truly hoped Phoenix was being a good little dog in his crate and not doing his shrieking car alarm imitation. The officer was standing at a respectful distance, though, and Phoenix was studying him with interest in return.

“Is that a Belgian?” the officer asked, when I approached.

Turned out, he was one of the K9 handlers for Johnson County and his partner was a malinois. He had his dog with him, although he said they’d been “out on an injury.” I didn’t know if he was talking about himself or his dog.

He let his dog out and I was surprised to see he was smaller than Phoenix. (Can’t remember the dog’s name.) I’d always thought most “working” mals were bigger than Nix’s less than 24”, approximately 52 pound stature. We had a pleasant exchange and went on our merry ways.

By now you may have seen the mali who has a role on "Person of Interest" (on CBS, I think) and there were several mals on an episode of NBC's "Grimm" last fall.

They really are everywhere.


  1. There was a Mal (and Cesar Milan) on an episode on Bones a few seasons ago. The dog was very awesome. Sad episode though, if you're going to go watch it. :p

  2. The only ones I've seen at work were working dogs. Other than that I've only seen them at dog events.

  3. How WEIRD. Loki does that EXACT greeting too. except he'll leave his head/long snooter between your legs (not at the croch) and hope that you scratch the top of his butt or back. Even with new people he's greeting. I always have people asking me if he's mixed with Mal. No. but he sure acts like it. cracker. a hit with people who like "crackers."

    Sorry about your days like "those" on the last post!

  4. In France, Malinois are used almost exclusively by the "Sécurité Civile" which is the equivalent of the National Guard. As a rule, they are not very big at all.