Sunday, February 6, 2011

rescue dogs and purebred dogs

This morning Jon Katz posted an interesting piece that discusses the disservice we do to dogs by only viewing them as wretched creatures who must be rescued. He points out that while rescue is a vital and needed operation, there are many great points to responsible breeding of dogs - after all, where do border collies come from? Finally, the view of dogs only through the prism of rescue puts them in a subservient position where we are their god-like benefactors, and thus we limit what they can be and do with us.

I find all of these to be good points, and ones that more people should think about. I have four dogs, three of which are purebred (the fourth probably is but we'll never know), one of which was semi-rescued, and one that was rescued. Viewing Jadzia only as the pitiful product of a rescue would do a great disservice to her, as even with her quirks and issues she is still a phenomenal dog who is the whole reason we now have four dogs and are involved in flyball. Sure she had a rough start in life - being abused and abandoned before a year of age isn't the greatest - but she's overcome most of the scars from that treatment with ease. She's probably just as purebred as the other two border collies, judging by her instincts around sheep and her particular quirks, but that doesn't really matter to us in the end as we're not sheepherding, we're playing flyball with our pets.

Phoebe is our other dog who might qualify as a rescue, as we took her from a person who was no longer able to care for her. She never spent time in a kennel or pound - apart from one night after she got lost and was picked up from Animal Control before we got her - but she had her share of worries and issues when we got her. The stress of an unstructured life, especially with regards to food, had left her with no hair on the backs of her legs or her tail as well as with a nearly pathological obsession with people fixing food for her. She is a terrier, so who knows how much of that would be innate behavior, but while the hair has grown back in full on her lower half she's still obsessed with food and how she can get it at pretty much all times.

Our other two dogs, Ezri and Curzon, are both purebred border collies that we got from breeders, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. Curzon is from southern Oregon, and I got him as a birthday present for Chris six months after we got Jadzia and she decided she was MY dog and not his. We spent a cold weekend in December driving down to pick him up and bring him home, and his sunny temperament has been such a contrast to Jadzia's neuroses throughout his lifetime. He's from a long line of herding dogs and is USBCHA registered, with one of his brothers in Oregon herding sheep and the other in Idaho herding cattle. Curzon has a lot of herding drive, almost too much, as we have had to break him of trying to herd by forming a solid wall of dog by racing around the flock.

Ezri is from a sport border collie breeder in Illinois, and she was specifically bred for versatility and pet characteristics while still retaining her border collie qualities. She does have herding drive, although it's not as pronounced as Curzon or even Jadzia, and she has drive for sports in buckets. I flew to Illinois to pick her up and bring her home so she didn't have to be shipped by herself, and she spent most of the trip sleeping on my lap after crying her heart out to get out of the crate. That early experience was just a clue to her personality - she is very bonded to me and wants to be near me just about all the time, and in fact while I write this post she is snoozing next to my chair.

We love all of our dogs (even including Phoebe, at least most of the time!), and I wouldn't trade any of them for any reason. Will our next dog be a purebred or a rescue? I can't answer that right now, although with our experiences with the wonderful breeders who produced Curzon and Ezri I'm admittedly biased. I won't be against a rescued dog, but I won't take one just to rescue - that's where the danger that Jon Katz spoke about comes in, where the act of rescuing is more important than the dog you save. My dogs are all important to me for who they are, not where they came from, and I plan to keep it that way.

(all photos taken by Artis Photography)

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