Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mixed Bred vs. Purebred
by Gale Fennell
Dog lover for 41 years and LCD reader

I have never owned a purebred dog. When I was a child in the seventies, people didn’t have their pets spayed or neutered. Our dog Sandy, who was a cross between a Pekinese and a Pug herself, only had one litter of puppies before my father came up with his own solution to the problem. My father was from the old school that used good ole ingenuity to solve any problem that would otherwise cost him hard earned cash. He decided to put Sandy on the roof every time she went into heat. I know, that’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard of, but it worked. There were plenty of trees to provide shade for the roof of our single story ranch. The chimney made a perfect spot to prop her doghouse. We had a very large Mimosa tree right outside our kitchen window and every night at feeding time, my brothers and I would take turns climbing up to give her food and water. You cannot imagine the looks and comments we got from passers by whom happened to notice there was a dog on the roof.

It goes without saying if my father would not spring to have an animal “fixed”, he certainly would not spring for a purebred. But not a problem, I have never had trouble falling in love with any puppy. I got my first puppy when I was about ten years old. He was a cocker spaniel and poodle mix. His name was Smokey. (Since Smokey came from the SPCA, he was already neutered when we got him.) Smokey was a free spirit that ran the streets until I was a freshman in high school. He was my best friend. Smokey looked just like Benji. Remember Benji, that loveable mixed breed whom all of America fell in love with? Why would anyone want to pay for a purebred when they could have Benji?

When I was ready to get my first dog as an adult, I wanted the cute little white shih tzu for a mere three or four hundred dollars (this was during the eighties). My husband, not all that unlike my father, insisted I first look for a free dog to see if there would be one I liked. I think he knew what he was doing. Of course the first puppy I saw was love at first sight. He was a mix between cocker spaniel and terrier; a cute white, fluffy dog, not all that different from a shih tzu. Needless to say, I loved that dog as my own child, for sixteen wonderful years. His name was Mickey and we just lost him last summer.

When Mickey was just one year old, we adopted another mixed breed named Pepper. Pepper was our neighbor’s dog and she was the most beautiful and wonderful dog that could ever have been created. We were never able to determine exactly what breeds she came from. We are pretty sure she had some English sheep dog and terrier, maybe Yorkie, in her. Her disposition was that of the sweetest, gentlest kind. And her beautiful white flowing fur, precious paws and eyes that you could barely see for the long bangs, made her a sight to behold. If ever I were to clone a dog, it would be Pepper. There could not be a pure bred in this world more precious to me than Pepper was. Pepper only lived to be twelve years old. Losing her was like losing a dear friend.

Several years after Pepper’s death, we decided to get another puppy for our young son. Living in Miami, we visited several animal shelters before finding our dog. Yes, again we chose a mixed breed. This time we were looking for something in the beagle/labrador family. She is a beautiful white dog (we had to stick with white so the shedding would match that of Mickey) of about sixty pounds. Her name is Jackie and she is quite a bit bigger than Mickey and Pepper. The largest dog we have had yet. Jackie has the physique of a statue. Her posture and sleek body are absolutely stunning. Being of labrador descent, she can be quite hyper and has a very loud bark, but mind you, we love her every bit as much as if she were a purebred.

And finally there is Lilly. After Mickey’s passing, my daughter insisted on her own dog. Desiring to once again have a white dog (to match Jackie’s shedding) we visited the SPCA here in Mt. Pleasant, every day for two solid weeks before we found her. When I opened the door and saw her beautiful black eyes staring at us from that itty-bitty bundle of white fur, I knew she was our dog. She was so shy and timid, I couldn’t bare to leave her there another night. We hadn’t planned for another dog that soon, but she was the perfect fit. And she has been the perfect addition to our family. She and Jackie fell in love right away. They are like mother and daughter with a stunning resemblance to one another. We haven’t even had Lilly a whole year and yet I can’t believe we ever lived without her. She is truly a joy to have in our home.

Each one of these dogs represents a melting pot of breeds. Each one is unique in physical qualities as well as personality. They have brought an individualness to our lives that couldn’t be duplicated. I could have gotten a pure bred so that I knew exactly what the dog would look like when it grew up, and maybe have some guarantee to the personality it would have, but I can’t imagine that we would have loved it more than the dogs we have had. It couldn’t have been anymore accepted into our family than our beloved mixed breeds.

As an adult myself, I have decided its worth my hard earned cash not to put my dog on the roof. As a passionate citizen concerned for the plight of so many unwanted animals, I wholeheartedly believe in spaying and neutering, at whatever the expense. I understand this practice will eventually eliminate mixed breeds. However, there are so many unwanted animals, something has to be done to reduce the population. I say consider an alternative to purebred dogs; adopt a mixed breed and spay or neuter them. Give generously to your local shelters and sponsor spay or neuter procedures for dogs whose owners wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise.

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