Over the years, quite a few dogs have passed through my life. Lady, my cocker-spaniel/retriever mix, was with me for eighteen years. I found her – or more accurately – she found me while I was working at a small animal shelter just outside town. One look into those big, brown eyes and I was hooked. Other dogs, like Missy, a wire-haired beagle and daschund mix, were mine to keep for only a few months before they found their permanent homes.
Most of the dogs that I have had the joy of knowing have come into my life purely by accident. They showed up at the shelter or in my yard. Someone knew another someone with an extra puppy. Or, in the case of my sister’s dog, Francie, they turn up in the middle of a hayfield. Francie was dumped by her previous owners. We saw the car stop. But, the good-natured little pooch didn’t even realize that her owners had abandoned her. When we scooped her up she was busy chasing late summer butterflies, her whole little body wagging with joy at being outdoors.
Francie was a very lucky dog. She was fortunate that we saw her quickly and brought her inside. Small, bright white Lhasa Apsus do not survive very well in the great outdoors. I don’t think coyotes, lynxes, or other predators would’ve been very impressed by her rhinestone collar either--although Francie is adorable. She’s small, delicate, and very friendly. She likes to run in a circle for hours and enjoys carrying caps, bracelets, and small dolls and squirreling them away in a nook she has under the bed. Purebred dogs are, generally, quite beautiful. They have been, after all, bred over the years to secure a certain look or personality. Unfortunately, this breeding often results in lovely animals with health (and sometimes personality) issues.
The miniature daschunds’ long, lean frame makes him ideal for hunting small game. But, he is also prone to degenerative back problems. Cocker-spaniels and other floppy eared dogs are often plagued with ear infections. Cockers also are more likely to develop hip and heart problems. Many pure white breeds are prone to deafness and some to blindness. Generally, problems such as these are bred out of a species over time. Nature is a cruel mistress and the truth is that only the strongest animals survive. They, in turn, pass on their strengths to the next generation. But, when dogs are bred to bring preserve a certain characteristic, such as floppy ears, a perfect coat, or curled tail, bad genetic traits and flaws are also preserved.
Nature isn’t a snob. In the wild, wolves breed with wolves. They don’t turn up their noses at a wolf that doesn’t have a fine pedigree and a velveteen collar. They don’t check for AKC references or ask for a list of awards. Wolves seek out the strongest in the pack. And, it is through this selection that wolf packs become strong. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I have to admit that I’m as weak as the next person when it comes to a pair of pedigreed puppy eyes. But, in the end, it is better for the dogs and better for you if you take home a mutt.
There are plenty of homeless dogs that would love to curl up on your couch or porch and lots of pooches that are just looking a place to call home. Pedigreed dogs, though beautiful and distinctive, would not exist without man’s intervention. The African wild dog and the Australian dingo are, really, the evolutionary path that the dog would have (and some say should have) taken had humans not taken a fancy to the smooshed face of the pug or the leonine grace of the Chow. Seen in that light, your average mutt is a proud pioneer, a forerunner, if you will, of all that is best and most doggy, in the dog.
So, if you’re looking for a dog with a lot of personality, health to rival a horse, and a heart as big as the whole outdoors, you can’t do better than a mutt. Sure, his coat may be a little wiry, his ears a bit lop-sided, and his paws a bit too big for his body – but that just makes him more loveable. After all, it was the scruffy Tramp that stole Lady’s heart, wasn’t it? Let a tramp of a dog steal your heart today.