While wandering around Three Castle Head in Ireland this summer, we were venturing among the foggy cliffs when we saw a sudden movement in the rocks.
A border collie had crouched down, with a stick in front of her, and was eagerly awaiting our presence and potential to play fetch with her.
We weren’t able to get much closer, because a young family appeared shortly thereafter, and the kids were engaged in playing with her, to her intense delight. One of the many enjoyable things from our European summer was how often we ran into delightful free-range dogs like this collie.
While in Ireland, we got to visit the spectacular Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
After rounding a bend and looking at the watchtower, we were suddenly approached by this spunky, sprightly little shepherd mix.
She came running up to us eagerly and had a fragment of a tennis ball in her mouth. We couldn’t resist playing with her for a few minutes.
I’m not sure who her person was; I didn’t see anyone around who seemed to be claiming her. She had a collar on, however, so she clearly belonged somewhere.
But she made us laugh and reminded us so much of Eden. Because this is exactly what Eden would be doing if she were a free-range Irish dog: Stalking around a busy tourist spot, hoping that someone, anyone, would stop to play with her.
I love that personality trait so much in dogs: the endless playfulness and energy. Even if it can drive you crazy sometimes, it is so charming to be near an animal who is so full of drive and joy.
During a recent visit to Barley Cove, a beach in southwest Ireland, I was surprised and dismayed to see this sign posted at the boardwalk to the beach:
I have heard about such blatant breed discrimination before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it myself. As you can see, German shepherds are on the list, along with many breeds that have acquired a negative public perception, thanks to decades of media hype and stereotyping.
Obviously, if you have a people- or dog-aggressive dog, you shouldn’t bring her to a public beach and let her off leash, regardless of breed. Which is why this ruling is so irritating to me. Dogs of ALL breeds can be dangerous. Yes, an aggressive chihuahua is going to do less damage to you than an aggressive akita, but the presumption that particular breeds are, by intrinsic nature, dangerous, could not be further from the truth. Dogs are individuals. A fear-reactive golden retriever could be much more dangerous to the public welfare than a well-socialized pit bull. By passing legislation like this, towns only further reinforce negative stereotypes about certain types of dogs.
To me, the irony of this ruling (breeds on this poster have to be leashed and muzzled) is that a dog who was on a beach like this, watching every other dog run around off leash, would be likely to be more reactive if he was the only dog leashed and muzzled. I know my dogs, who are on this list of banned breeds, would be immensely frustrated and probably act out if an off-leash dog ran up to them while they were constrained by a leash and muzzle.
Also, the crossbreeds addendum (the ruling applies to all dogs on the poster and their crossbreeds) is ludicrous to me. People, myself included, are notoriously bad at guessing breeds. Even shelter workers are just as bad at guessing which dogs are “pit bulls” and which aren’t. You simply can’t conclusively know a dog’s heritage by looking at him, and even if you could, the breed background wouldn’t tell you anything certain about the dog’s temperament. Our dog pal Howie is a great example:
Howie is half-lab, half-German shepherd. His mother was a purebred German shepherd who came into the rescue, but he bears hardly any resemblance to his mother’s breed. This sweet, shy pup would qualify as a “dangerous crossbreed” according to this legislation. But anyone who looked at him would think he was just a slightly leaner, leggier labrador.
Again, dogs are individuals. Our two purebred German shepherds are as different from each other, personality wise, as night and day.
It makes me sad to think we haven’t moved past this in the 21st century, and especially in a country thought to be as progressive as Ireland.
I fell in love with a dog at the shelter a few weeks ago who was described on the SPCA website as an “Irish wolfhound” mix. Like Irish wolfhounds, this dog was quite tall and lanky, but that was where the similarities ended. I found the description a bit humorous, since it’s not like there are a ton of Irish wolfhounds roaming the countryside and impregnating strays. These dogs are still fairly rare in the United States, even though most people could probably correctly identify one. Wolfhounds don’t look like a lot of other breeds.
The Irish wolfhound’s claim to fame is that of the tallest dog breed. They don’t necessarily weigh the most, but they are very leggy. With this height, unfortunately, comes a tragically short lifespan. Your average wolfhound will live to be seven or eight years old.
Like many giant breeds, Irish wolfhounds have a history of being very gentle and mild-mannered indoors. They can be spirited puppies, however, and prospective owners are cautioned about keeping breakable items scattered around the house. I love the look of this breed, but its comparative rarity and short lifespan lead me to think that it might not be the best for us at this time. But how great would it look to have one of these gorgeous giants on your hearth? Or waiting for you at the farm gate? I can imagine it now…