My little Ray-ray Raider is turning five years old soon and it surprised me.
It surprised me because I could not believe that much time had gone by. I had to sit down and reflect on the years that transpired to confirm that length of time had actually gone by with this little mixed breed heartthrob in my life.
The reminiscing brought me back to a conversation I had with a training colleague, during the first week Raider was in my home.
She took one look at Raider and asked, “What kind of mix-up breed is he?”
I smiled at what I thought was her attempt at humour and said, “Well, probably a border collie mixed with an Australian cattle dog or Australian shepherd or both, maybe more.”
“Huh,” she grunted and rolled her eyes, “I guess he will make a good farm dog.”
Taken back by her obvious dismissiveness I asked defensively, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, you can’t really do anything with him, he can’t improve your status as a professional trainer!” she exclaimed.
My smile immediately faded away at her insult and it was an insult, because she is a purebred snob. She is a trainer who only owns purebred dogs with extensive pedigrees that do well in competitions, pedigrees that win her ribbons and admiration from her peers. Pedigrees that are eligible for abbreviated words after their names representing the competitive titles they have achieved. Titles and competitions I have never had an interest in participating in regardless of what it might do to improve my professional dog training career.
Later that night, as I allowed Raider to curl up beside me in bed, I inhaled his glorious puppy smell and told him that I was ending my friendship with that person because she was obviously ignorant to the true working value of a farm dog.
A good farm dog might not win an obedience title after practising the repetitive sanctioned routine for six months straight, but a good farm dog is the most loyal animal on the farm, often willing to give their life to keep their pack safe. A good farm dog may not run a fault-free agility trial, but a good farm dog keeps a barn free of rats and mice, herds the sheep, cattle and even chickens more efficiently than six humans. A good farm dog may not win a title stating he has perfect conformation, but a good farm dog is a perfect companion, trotting alongside a horse and rider, keeping the seat of a tractor warm or riding shotgun in a pick-up truck.
Raider has been a very good farm dog but he is also a very good dog in general, regardless of his “mixed-up” breeding.
Dogs like Raider, with their questionable parents, often get overlooked for flashier purebred or designer bred dog cousins and I wish they didn’t. Dogs like Raider aren’t fancy looking with unique coats or markings. Dogs like Raider haven’t been glamorized in television shows or movies or commercials. Dogs like Raider will never be the latest dog breed trend. Dogs like Raider are, however, depicted guarding junkyards, covered in dirt and looking dejected. They are portrayed as unwanted cast-offs.
What is also overlooked, due to their lack of recognizable breed conformity, are dogs with a whole lot of personality. Because you can’t label a mixed breed with specific traits and expectations like you can with a purebred or designer bred dogs, these dogs’ personalities tend to be as unique as their physical characteristics; often expressing the best and healthiest qualities of all the breeds they are mixed with.
Since I share my home with both mixed breed and purebred dogs I can say that there is absolutely no difference in their abilities to perform their duties as family companion, loyal friend, hiking partner, emotionally supportive cuddle-buddy, shotgun rider and bed hog.
Give a mixed breed dog a chance, shelters and rescues are full of them. They may look different on the outside and be difficult to label or classify, but on the inside their hearts are exactly the same, faithful companionship full of unconditional love.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at email@example.com