Pet Set: Cameron Mathison

Animal Attraction: “Red, my Doberman, just turned 10. His birthday is the day before mine, so we celebrate our birthdays together.”


How did Red join the Mathison family? “My wife, Vanessa, and I have always been partial to Dobermans. When we first got married, there was a huge Doberman that lived right next to us and we were infatuated with him. We were trying to give motivation to [daughter] Leila to stop sucking her thumb, which she was having trouble with. We said, ‘If you stop sucking your thumb, we’ll get a puppy,’ and she did! We heard through a friend of a friend about a bunch of puppies that were about to be put in a shelter, so we went to see them. The one we liked had a red collar so the kids started calling him Red and the name just stuck.”

How is Red with the kids? “They basically grew up together. He’s really connected to both kids. Dobermans have a lot of energy and are very loyal and they’re such good family dogs. They look so intimidating, but they are unbelievably sweet. He’s actually the most shy and timid and scared member of our family, even though he looks so tough!”

But at the end of the day, is he your dog? “I mean, anybody who meets him would say he’s my dog. It’s pretty obvious he’s my guy. We’re so similar. We have the same kind of energy, we wake up at the same time, we like to play and have a good time but also take naps. I feel like we’re the same being, as bizarre as that sounds.”

How is he around other dogs? “He wants to play, but he’s very shy. He’s definitely not the alpha around other dogs! When he meets dogs on the beach, it’s actually sort of sad; a fluffy little white poodle can bark at him and chase him into the ocean. It’s really a sight to see this 90-pound Doberman getting bullied by a little white fluffball!”

Do you travel with him? “Yeah, we do road trips. I hate leaving him behind and he hates being left behind. We have a family home in Colorado, and Vanessa and the kids aren’t crazy about doing that drive, so now, they fly and I drive out with Red. We just drive for 12 hours with his head on my shoulder. It’s really sweet. We have a good time.”

Is Red allowed on the bed? “If it was up to me and the kids, Red would be allowed everywhere! But Vanessa, very wisely, does not allow Red on the bed or on the sofa. Vanessa is clearly the authority and I’m the softie, and sometimes when she’s not around, we’ll get him up on the sofa, but when he’s up there, he doesn’t move, he doesn’t breathe, he just sits there. He’s black and the sofa is black and he thinks we can’t see him [laughs]. He doesn’t move a muscle for, like, half an hour, which is so funny because that’s not his normal personality. Usually he’s very fidgety. But he knows damn well he’s not allowed on the sofa so he hops off as soon as he hears Vanessa.”


Have you ever attempted to put clothing on Red? If so, how did it go? “We put him in a birthday hat once, which was pretty ridiculous, and he has a winter jacket, but that’s about it.”

How is he at bath time? “I don’t think there is anything he hates more, other than us going on vacation without him, than getting a bath. He cannot stand it. It’s a full-on battle. We have not perfected it!”


What are your favorite activities to do with him? “Our favorite thing in the world — and what we did on my birthday, but it was for both of our birthdays — is go to the dog beach in Huntington Beach. That’s his number one happy place. He’s allowed to run around off-leash and go in the water. His second favorite place is right behind our house, a hiking trail where we also let him off-leash. The other thing he loves is playing with me in the yard. We call it ‘fetch’ but really, it’s one-way catch. I throw the ball, he catches it and then he doesn’t bring it back [laughs]! The part he likes is me running around the yard trying to get the ball back from him.”


What is the quirkiest thing about Red’s personality?  “Red gets claustrophobic sometimes, and he gets stuck — not physically, but emotionally — through hallways sometimes. It’s just random; we don’t know when it’s going to happen, but sometimes he’ll be walking through a door he’s walked through a hundred times, but this time, he won’t be able to get through it. He just can’t do it. We’ve talked to doctors about it, the whole thing, but anyway, we have to go get his dog bed, he’ll sit on it, and we have to pull him on the bed through the door or the hallway if he gets stuck. It’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever seen — this huge, scary-looking Doberman on his little dog bed and I’m pulling him through the hallway and sliding him through doors! I wish you could print a video of it. He’s such a sweetheart. I love him so much.”

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