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The day we brought Bubble home, she threw up in the car. Twice. On my lap, actually. She's chewed things up, she's annihilated the sofa, and she still raids the garbage bag and carries empty cans out into the garden.

But I wouldn't have it any other way. She's also the sweetest little lady who has ever graced the planet.

Some books claim that this breed originates in Dalmatia, which is Western Yugoslavia. I've also seen "Dalmatia" listed as a province of Austria! It seems there is some controversy about this; I even seem to remember reading something about Dalmatians in Ancient Egypt.

This article, though, is more personal and less academic. I thought that if I told you about our experiences with Bubble, you might generalise some of them if you are considering buying a puppy.

Sometimes Bubble can seem so stupid. We'd read that Dalmatians are sometimes born deaf and that you should check puppies' hearing before buying them. Sometimes we thought that she was deaf: we'd be yelling her name and she'd go trotting off in the opposite direction.

Sometimes, we thought she was just wilful. There were times, during her puppyhood, that we wondered if the mischief would ever stop. Experienced Dalmatian owners assured us that she would calm down, but we had our doubts.

In ways though, and don't laugh at me now, she has real wisdom. She knows about Universal Love.

The car-sickness phase didn't persist very long and Bubble was soon an avid motorist; while Saffron, our border collie continued to look more and more nauseous until she vomited.

As a puppy, Bubble was extremely inquisitive, extremely lively and sometimes maddeningly naughty. Even though she has calmed down substantially, even recently she removed a brand new swimming cap from the mantelpiece, and thoroughly chewed it up. If we leave her in the house, we still remove precious items from low tables.

Bubble loves eating. She's been known to consume cigarettes, potato peels, onions, faeces, pens and flowers. When she got big enough, she used to help herself to an apple from the basket on the kitchen table and then enjoy it in her basket. She seems hardly to chew food, and the only thing that will keep her busy sometimes is a large bone or chewy toy. We know we shouldn't give her sweets or chocolates, but sometimes we give in to her beseeching stares and she relishes a fruit gum or a piece of cake. She becomes very impatient if dinner is late.

She is also spectacularly beautiful, and attracts the attention of crowds with the bat of an eyelid. She looks like a princess sometimes; her big eyes staring meaningfully at you as you lift a potato chip to your mouth.

She is also filled with infinite love and happiness. You can be as angry as you like, and scream as loud as you like, and Bubble's tail will still be wagging, and she'll be looking at you adoringly.

Never have I seen a dog quite as generous with affection. I've heard Dalmatians described as "reserved", but this is hardly the case with our Bubble, who loves and greets everybody. Although we sometimes worry that she's going to jump up on and knock over a child, she has seldom done so, and seems to love children especially. I'd think, actually, that a Dalmation would be a very special pet for a (slightly older) child. What fun they would have!

Judging from our experience with Bubble, we'd generalize and describe Dalmations as loyal, poised and elegant.

Apparently, Dalmations were bred to run with horses. I'd read so many times about "the problem with a Dalmation is you have to exercise it so much." I was worried: our garden is not very large; it meant we'd be committing ourselves to these daily walks.

We took Bubble to a number of dog training sessions, and she learned to walk on a lead. But she was soon too big to benefit from our sedate walks.

I was patient. I did as the dog training instructor had demonstrated: pull the dog back firmly, force her to sit by pushing firmly on her rump while saying: "Bubble! Sit!", then praise.

She eventually started getting the hang of it, but we were just too slow for her. I'd have needed a bicycle to keep up with her.

Then we discovered a dog lovers' haven not too far away: a sprawling park where we could let the dogs loose and watch them run.

It was a pleasure to watch Bubble stretching her legs for the first time. She glowed enjoying the pleasure of this new freedom. The first time she disappeared behind the trees, we were convinced that was the end of her.

But no, a little while later, a galloping tumbleweed-like hurricane showed in the distance, and it was Bubble looking pleased as punch. Sometimes, after such a run, she has reached me with such enthusiasm that she hasn't quite been able to brake in time. Once, she knocked me quite off my feet.

Bubble is now more mature. I can see why the Dalmatian has been described as an "all-rounder". She's calmed down substantially, and although we have to keep reminding her to return to her basket, her behavior is much improved.

Here are some ideas regarding feeding, training and surviving your Dalmation.

If you want a pedigreed dog, then obviously you'll have to inspect the paperwork. Check the puppy's eyes and nose. You could always insist on a vet's inspection before you commit on the dog. Discuss innoculations and de-worming with your vet.

Up to two months, I was advised, you have to feed the puppy 5 times a day:
Breakfast: milk and baby cereal
Noon: a little minced meat (canned dog food)
Afternoon: milk and baby cereal
Evening: a little more minced meat
Bedtime: a little milk with some cod liver oil

Gradually reduce the number of meals until at the age of a year, you're feeding only twice a day. Then ease into one late afternoon meal a day.

Bubble likes variety so she gets meat, packaged and canned dog foods, toast, vegetables, eggs and cheese.

Ideally, Dalmations have to be rubbed down then brushed daily. Apparently, then, they hardly ever require a bath. We have to de-flea Bubble regularly.

The usual housebreaking techniques apply: catch the dog urinating or defecating where you want him to (perhaps initially on a piece of newspaper) and praise him lavishly. Take the puppy out regularly, especially first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

If you want to show your displeasure at the dog's relieving himself in an inappropriate place, you have to catch him in the act. Shouting at him twenty minutes later is pointless. Try to teach him the meaning of "No!" while he is attempting to carry your socks off into the garden.

If your Dalmatian tends to jump on people, encourage them to knee him firmly in the chest to discourage such behavior.

You'll have to be firm about the bed and the furniture, if you don't like the idea of dogs on them. Bubble is very sensitive to the cold, and there's nothing she loves more than curling up under the duvet with someone.

As I conclude this article, she's sitting in her basket. She looks like some exotic eastern princess. Sometimes she looks like a circus clown. What a sweet girl she is.

If you buy a Dalmatian, you might sometimes be frustrated. You might sometimes be driven to the brink of suicide. But you'll be getting yourself a memorable, wonderful breed. Good luck!