Whatever a man seeks

A dog in Iceland. Creative Commons license, via photopin.com.
A dog in Iceland. Creative Commons license, via photopin.com.

“As soon as he halted the dog came fawning upon him. She stuck her slim muzzle between his hard paws, resting it there and wagging her tail and all her body, and the man gazed at the animal philosophically for a while, savouring, in the submissiveness of his dog, the consciousness of his own power, the rapture of command, and sharing, for a second, in human nature’s loftiest dream, like a general who looks over his troops and knows that with a word he can send them into the charge. A few moments passed thus, and now the dog was squatting on the withered grass on the bank before him, watching him with questioning eyes, and he replied: ‘Yes, whatever a man seeks he will find — in his dog.'”

Independent People, Halldór Laxness

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’m currently reading this novel, and I’m struck by how much the main character, the farmer Bjartur, depends on his dog, Titla. Titla is presumably an Icelandic sheepdog, and she’s essential to the operation and success of his small sheep farm. The novel is beautifully written, but it’s also been a great reminder of how much dogs have helped humanity progress, even on the base level of mere survival.

Happy weekends to all!


Farm dogs

We (sans dogs) recently attended a three-year-old’s birthday party, which was held at a large, beautiful farm in the nearby countryside.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

The young farmer brought out some baby goats and lambs for all of the kids to pet, which was a huge hit with the little ones. It’s fun to be reminded that most tiny children instinctively love animals — and that they also have no instincts on how to be gentle. Watching those toddlers maul those baby goats made me grateful that (1) the goats were very easygoing, and (2) the goats do not have sharp teeth. While I loved fraternizing with the babies and the baby livestock, my attention was naturally drawn to the dogs. Of course.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

First, I got to meet the actual sheepdog, this handsome 3-year-old border collie. He was soft and sweet, but very agitated by all of the toddlers, so he had to stay on leash. I mistakenly judged him for an English shepherd first, because I think the ticking and brown points on his coat threw me off.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

Then, in the barn, there was a pair of precious, adolescent Great Pyrenees. Here’s my friend greeting them:

Leah's 3rd birthday party

They were so gentle and friendly. These big pups were also great with all of the little kids who wanted to come stroke their noses. Having two high-strung dogs always makes me marvel at these dogs who have this natural calmness, who seem unperturbed by everything, just take it all in stride.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

Leah's 3rd birthday party

And then, there was THIS fellow! Guys. Totally mystified by his breed. He is all white, and I guess he could be a Great Pyrenees, but have you ever seen one with hair that grew like that? I haven’t. But he was so cute and muppet-y.

A shaggy sheepdog | Doggerel

It’s fun to see dogs in their working environments and to be reminded that dogs fulfill so many purposes, even now, in 2014. It’s easy to forget when you’re raising two dogs in the city.

I wondered what our dogs would do if they met the farm animals. Some of you live on farms, I think, but have your dogs ever encountered livestock? How did it go?

Pup links!

Bring on the big dogs. Source: LIFE Magazine.

A lot of interesting, dog-centric links from around the Web this past week:

Getting the Most from Dog Training Classes. These are really helpful and insightful pointers about how to get more bang for your buck in a training class. I wouldn’t have thought of many of these things, and I’m glad I read this before signing up for a training class. (Oh Behave!)

Surprise! These (pretty adorable) photos of a border collie pup are proof positive that breeds have strong, inborn instincts. (Alta-Pete Farm Tails)

Wrapping Up the 2011 Budgeting Project–Onward to 2012! If you ever wanted a seriously comprehensive glimpse of pet finances, look no further than M.C. and her Bows. This is a really helpful year overview and it’s inspired me to keep track of my own purchases for my future dog. (The House of Two Bows)

Love ’em and Leash ’em Challenge. Take Paws reviews their favorite leashes, many with flexible uses and purposes. (Take Paws)

Finding a Purpose for a Pup. A success story of a sheep-killing German shepherd turned drug-busting police dog. Just proof that every dog has his proper place, if only we’ll give them a chance to find it. (The Bark Blog)

Happy Birthday, Edith Wharton! A collection of photos of one of my favorite American novelists, Edith Wharton, and her beloved dogs. (Dog Art Today)

A Lovely Being: Heavy Petting. Classic starlets in black-and-white with their pooches. (Honey Kennedy)

The Cookie Look. We’ve all seen this intense gaze before. I love these photos; their bated breath and intensely focused desire comes across so clearly. (Paws on the Run)

DIY No-Bake Healthy Treats for You & Your Pooch. These look like pretty gourmet snacks, but I’ll probably try them at some point, because I’m addicted to oatmeal. (Pretty Fluffy)

Bull City Pet Sitting: A Day on the Job. My favorite wedding videographers (one, sister to our much-beloved wedding photographer) created a video to promote a pet sitting business in Durham, North Carolina. It’s such a fun video and they did a wonderful job with it. What a fun promotional tool! (Inkspot Crow Films)

Intermission: A Dog’s View of Dogs Playing. Another great video! Ever wondered what the dog park looks like to your pooch? Here’s an idea, in high-def, artistically rendered glory. (GOOD)

Breed Love: Belgian super-dogs

Sambuca (Buki)
This is a Belgian sheepdog, also known as a Groenendael; breed standards requires them to be all black. Source: Flickr, user 3blackdogs

Belgian sheepdogs are INTENSE. This trio of breeds (all pictured here) contains some of the dog world’s most energetic, intelligent, and athletic members. The Belgian malinois, for instance, has become the preferred dog of the U.S. military and local police forces for its determination, stamina, and intelligence. (Malinois are rapidly replacing German shepherds in this role because the breed has not been tainted by the popularity that plagues GSDs, which often creates poor, careless breeding.) It is reported that the dog who accompanied the Navy SEALs in capturing and killing Osama bin Laden was a Belgian malinois.

Interestingly enough, my dad grew up with a father-daughter pair of Belgian sheepdogs (the black variety, also known as a Groenendael). The dogs were apparently rather high-maintenance, however: the father was named Satan and his daughter was Satin.

Belgian Tervurens
These are Belgian Tervurens. Not that different from Belgian sheepdogs, except for their coloring. Source: Flickr

I don’t know a ton about these three closely related breeds, but what I do read about them is certainly impressive. Because of their relative rarity and working demands, I don’t think I’d ever get a dog from this Belgian trifecta of awesomeness, but I find myself content to admire them from afar.

Belgian Shepherd Dog - Malinois
Finally, this is a Belgian Malinois. Looks like a German shepherd, but isn't. Source: Flickr, user dominik_peters

Keep up the good work, Belgian super-dogs! I salute you.

Belgian sheepdog links:

Breed Love: Rough collie

Rough Collie named Jack
Rough collie. Source: Flickr user LesPaulSupreme

What little girl hasn’t dreamed of having her own Lassie? OK, so I haven’t stopped dreaming. I love rough collies. I love watching them move. Whenever I see one, I can barely resist the temptation to run up and throw my arms around its neck and bury my face in its incredible mane. I restrain myself–but only with the greatest exertion of willpower.

Thanks to “Lassie,” collies experienced an enormous popularity spike in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, for almost all breeds, popularity comes at a price. For collies, it was quite a big one. Irresponsible breeders who jumped on the popularity bandwagon nearly destroyed this breed by reproducing dogs with Collie Eye Anomaly and bad hips. Today, these congenital defects still run rampant in the breed lineage. The popularity of the rough collie has diminished steadily since its heyday in the 50s and 60s and today, these big, beautiful dogs are somewhat uncommon–even though anyone could identify one on the street and call it “Lassie.”

My mom’s family was one of the many American families who jumped on the collie bandwagon. When she was young, her parents brought home a rough collie puppy they named Missy. Mom spoke fondly of Missy, but her stories indicate that Missy was somewhat neglected and developed a worrisome stereotypy in the back yard. As soon as Missy went outside, she would run for hours along the fence in the exact same loop. Mercifully, my grandparents realized Missy was going insane and they gave her to nearby farmers, where she lived a hopefully happy and long life.

Our Rough Collie, Sadie
A rough collie puppy. Source: Flickr user Gary_Troughton

That sad story aside, I’d definitely consider a rough collie if the opportunity presented itself. I am very wary about the breed’s remaining health challenges, but I would pursue a collie rescue or puppy if that is what we decide is best for us. There are many appealing traits of the rough collie. Unlike most reserved herding breeds, collies are very friendly and outgoing. They’re intelligent and loyal. And almost always totally gorgeous. I should stop thinking about this right now. I’m really tempted to keep looking at these collie rescue groups (linked below) and all of the beautiful dogs who need homes…

Rough collie links:

Breed Love: Anatolian shepherd

Howard's Turk, R.I.P.
The majestic Anatolian shepherd. Source: Flickr, user mahaldo

I think I started noticing these gorgeous dogs because I was always searching for information on Australian shepherds, and Anatolian shepherds usually come right before them in any alphabetical listing. I suppose that’s a silly reason for gaining interest in a breed, but after I started reading about them, I became quite enamored with these regal working dogs.

From what little I do know about them, Anatolian shepherds come from Turkey, where they work with farmers to guard and maintain the flocks. They are still a relatively rare breed in the United States; the American Kennel Club officially recognized them in 1996. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few Anatolians in person. A champion breeder, who won best of breed at Westminster a few years ago, happens to live nearby and I’ve seen a few of these giant, noble dogs walking around town. Today, many Anatolian shepherds are working dogs on large farms.

Anatolian shepherd in field. Source: Flickr, user: mudranch

Although I haven’t personally interacted with Anatolians, my understanding of their temperament is that they tend to be strong-willed and independent, as guard dogs tend to be. Like the Great Pyrenees, Anatolians should possess strong territorial instincts about their flocks–be it sheep or people. They tend to be calm dogs who are somewhat reserved around strangers.

Because of their size and temperament, I don’t think I’d consider getting an Anatolian shepherd until I lived on a true farm. I’m also particularly interested in doing obedience and agility with my future dog, which makes the Anatolian’s ability to make decisions on its own not especially desirable. But I definitely harbor a fondness for these beautiful dogs and hope to have the chance to interact with some soon.

Anatolian shepherd links: