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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Finland (or not) Dogs?

Finland, or not. (Dogs?)

I want to apologize.  I promised that I would post each weekend till I was finished with Finland. (wow, is that weird language/).  I have been having real trouble assembling factual information about the time following my daughter's departure.  In part, this is because I changed host families during this period, and had computer access only through my host's computer (with a Finnish Keyboard) and webmail through the University.  
(I was a bit embarrassed when I discovered that my host had a wireless connection, and that all I would have had to do -and eventually did , was use his connection with my laptop.)   Anyway, I have sorted through the messages and contacted some of the people involved,  but haven't had time to assemble the information.

On the other hand, there was a really fascinating article in the NY Times Magazine today about the breeding of "Designer Dogs", and the conflict breeders have with the American Kennel Club. (of AKC registered fame)  It was a really detailed scientific analysis of how "registered" dogs have  been bred internationally for shows and how "Designer" breeders have created "fad' dogs such as the Pekapoo, the Bagel, the Schnoodle,  the Puggle, the Labradoodle and a wide variety of other canines, many of them bred to make the poodle's non-shedding coat available to those who would rather have a less "poofie" pet.  (If I got it correctly the Pekapoo is Pekinese and Poodle, the Bagel-Basset and Beagle, the Schnoodle- Schnauzer and Poodle, the Puggle -Pug and Beagle, and --Well you get it)

I was vastly entertained the machinations of the kennel club to try to establish all the designer dogs as "Mutts", and the careful manipulations of genetic characteristics to create both the "registered pure bloods" and the "designer dogs".   One of the truly strange parts of the article dealt with the breeding of purebred pugs.  It seems that, due to the features that have been bred into the "purebred" pugs, most of them can't "get it on" to breed naturally.  Most of them have to be artificially inseminated, and when they are, the birth canal is so small that almost all registered pugs are born through C section.  One breeder sniffed "You'll never have feral pugs."  I , for one, think that if humans have so manipulated a breed that it can't naturally reproduce, that it is functionally if not factually extinct.  The AKC begins to sound a little like the Nazi party for dogs.

My dogs, when I was a child were all mutts but one.  That one was a brown lab, which became ill almost before it reached maturity with something called "Chorea", which if I understood correctly was Saint Vitas Dance in dogs, and that the brown lab was particularly susceptible to the disease.  For some weeks my brother an I hand fed small strips of raw liver to the suffering beast (Prescribed by the Vet) until my dad took pity on him and had him put away.  

The dogs of my adult life have been mostly the product of purebred dogs gone astray.  One of our favorites was the son of a registered golden retriever who got mixed up with an English Setter (so I was told).  He looked so much like a purebred dog that we had some offers to put him out to stud.  (I suspect that he would have been disappointed in our reluctance to do so, but when I told of his lineage, the offers were withdrawn.)  Ali Baba (or Baba, as he was called by the kids) was a truly beautiful dog.  We got him in New York  where he lived in a kennel and a fenced yard, and seemed happy.  We took him with us when we moved to Georgia where we, at first, lived in a little farm house in a five acre yard where he learned to roam free, but, for some reason stay on the property and protect it against all strangers.  As soon as he was introduced to anyone, he became a friend, but until that time, he was a guard dog.  One of my most memorable experiences was to come home from the college and find my Department Head standing with his back against the front door, holding a two by four protectively in front of him as Baba crouched on the front stair, curling his lip and growling deep in his throat.  They had been, I discovered in that position for over half an hour.  I took Baba by the collar, asked the boss to put down the two by four (which he did somewhat reluctantly), introduced them, and by the time the boss left, he and Baba were fast friends, and I still had a job.  The field behind the house was his bailiwick, and anything that didn't run from him was usually brought home as a (dead) present.  This included some snakes,  a fox,  multiple rats, and similar critters, as well as, strangely enough a big grey thing that resembled a raccoon crossed with a possum.  I am not sure of the real genetics.  The one prey that he never was able to capture was his ultimate enemy the local motorcyclist.  A group of guys who rode cycles down our country road became aware of his watchful mein and began to tear down the road a high speed then swing up into the yard to plague him. He never quite caught one though he did catch some fabric from clothing a couple of times.

When I discovered their activities and made it clear that I would prosecute those who came into my yard, the game was so far afoot that they could challenge him just riding down the road.  (I have  often wondered about the result if some poor innocent came "putting " down the road.  I suspect it might have had grizzly effects)

At the end of the school year we moved into a small town called Brooklet, where he had a big yard and no one to plague him with motorcycles or a leash law.  One of the most vivid memories was when I was driving home I saw him chasing a squirrel across a field by our house.  The squirrel dashed up a convenient live oak tree, and Baba hit that tree head on.  It was like watching a "Road Runner" cartoon.  I would swear that he "accordioned  like Wiley Coyote in the cartoon.  He limped home with a bloody nose, and swollen eyes.  I have never before or since seen a dog with a "shiner".   All went well until school started.  The school was on our street, only a block away, and he immediately associated anyone on a bicycle with the motorcycle terrorists at our previous home.   All the children loved him and were loved by him until they rode by on a bike.  At that moment they became enemies to be dealt with.  Immediately, most of the children caught on, and would walk past our house,  and I began chaining him  (with a long chain, fastened to a wire that stretched from the house to a big Locust tree at the corner of the property.)  All went well for a couple of months, but he finally broke his collar, and chased some poor child until he knocked him off his bike.  Fortunately the boy wasn’t bitten, but the writing was on the wall, and that evening I took Baba to the Vet's to have him "put" to sleep.  The vet looked at him and said "There is no way I'm going to kill that magnificent animal.  Leave him with me and I'll find him a home."   I did, and a few days later received a call from a man whose last name, if I recall, was Tootle.  He told me that he bred Goldens and trained them for field trials.  Baba was a natural.  If I wished to see him, or bring the children to see him, I should wait at least a month until he was acclimated to training, and he gave me his address.

We talked about taking the children for a visit and decided that it would be too hard on both them and the dog, so we never went to see him.  I did drive by the address (way out in the country) and went home satisfied that he had a better home than he could have had in the town.  The successive dogs at our home were another Golden mix named Dammit (He really belonged to my oldest son, who had to leave town for some months and left him with us,  the son said he gave him the name because he frequently used the phrase "Come here Dammit", and decided he would legitimize the language as a name.)  Another was the progeny of a registered brindle bull who had gotten mixed up with a pit bull.  We received him when he was six days old, (they were going to destroy the litter) and we had to feed him with a bottle.  A third was  the progeny of a Pekapoo who mated with a wire haired terrier, and who was one of the loves of our life.  I'll tell some tales of them, and of Lady, the stray three legged beagle who was known at first as the dog behind the couch, and DD another dog with the same name source as Dammit, who was  the son of a registered pit-bull who found love (or at least lust) with a Black Lab.  Out of space for today.  I'll get the next Finnish Chapter done ASAP, and tell a few dog tales (tails?) along the way.


At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Justin said...

I agree with u completely. It is really gr8 to see the activities of pets

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

The AKC begins to sound a little like the Nazi party for dogs.

Yes, and the problem with purebreds is that their genetic defects are propagated ad infinitum. Give me a mutt anyday just not now - I've got four already - down from 6.

At 6:46 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

My very favorite pet was a long-haired black Dauchshund named Czuczi (Choochie), meaning "sweaty" in Hungarian. I had him for 10 years and he was my constant companion. He died over three years ago and I still mourn that wonderful dog.

I love this article you wrote on your pets. Thank you! I'm also very glad the vet didn't put Baba to sleep!


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