by Judy McFadden
Mutts were like Rodney Dangerfield. They got no respect. That’s changing now. National Mutt Day is celebrated on July 31 and December 2. The main focus is to foster awareness of the many mixed-breed dogs available for rescue or adoption. Mutts deserve respect and recognition for their uniqueness on a special day and every day of the year.
The Westminster Kennel Club added an agility competition to its dog show and opened it to mixed breeds, but they are still prohibited from competing for Best in Show. A dog named Roo! made history by becoming the 24 inch agility champion in the Masters Agility Championship. Panda placed fourth in the 20 inch division. Other mutts did their stuff and made their owners proud. The Westminster Kennel Club elects to refer to mixed breeds as “All American” dogs. I wonder how the Scottish terriers, Chinese Shar-Pei, Irish setters and others feel about that. Personally, in my book the affectionate term “Mutt” will never be replaced.
I grew up in Beeson Works, a coal company patch town in southwestern Pennsylvania. Mutts were as much a part of the landscape as the coke ovens and coal mines. Throughout my childhood all we ever owned were mixed breeds. No one in my neighborhood had a purebred dog. The last two dogs I’ve owned were purebred, McDuff, a Scottish terrier, and Dawn, an English Springer spaniel with champion bloodlines. It’s been my experience that mixed breeds are every bit as smart as purebreds and much hardier as they are without the genetic complications of so many purebred breeds. I believe that present day dogs, purebreds and mutts, wouldn’t have lasted very long in Beeson. Modern day readers may not realize how hard it was for some dogs back in the “old days.”
Today’s dogs have a lot of goodies that the Beeson mutts didn’t have. Some dog owners get out boots, hats, and turtlenecks to keep their friends warm in cold climates. My mutts stayed outdoors in the cold Pennsylvania winters and in the sizzling summers. McDuff and Dawn lived inside with me. Danger lurked outside for Dawn and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t protect her from it. Dawn was allergic to fleas. Allergic to fleas! The Beeson mutts’ BFFs were fleas. McDuff slept in the bed with me, his back up against my leg. My Beeson mutts never saw the inside of the bedroom.
McDuff and Dawn got Kibbles & Bits and doggie treats. My mutts got table scraps and thrived on any kind of bone they could get. No doggie dental appointments were scheduled. When the coal miners went out on strike, they were lucky to get bread soaked with bacon grease. Dogs in Beeson had stomachs and digestive systems made of cast iron.
When I think of the things the poor Beeson dogs missed out on, I pity them. No pet hotels, TV programs, pet therapists, veterinarians, facials, massages, designer clothes, seat belts and restraints, sitters, puzzles, acupuncture, and doggie parks. They didn’t go to pet spas and groomers with shampoos, blow dryers and perfume. We made an appointment at the nearest creek and tossed them in when they got too stinky. Now I admit that I indulged McDuff and Dawn in some of the activities mentioned. A lot of dog lovers do that nowadays.
Have you ever seen the look of pure ecstasy on the face of a dog with his head protruding out of the back window of a car? Teeth exposed and jaws flapping in the breeze. The reason for their extreme delight is the mouthwatering scents floating in the air. According to experts, a dog’s brain is one-tenth the size of ours, but a dog’s sense of smell is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive. For example, Bloodhounds are referred to as a nose with a dog attached. They can track a cold trail twelve days old over a wide range. And even over water. So do you see why dogs get such a kick out of riding in a car with their heads hanging out of the window? They are feasting on a smorgasbord of delectable and intoxicating smells.
That’s the only way a dog traveled in a car during my childhood and most of my adult life. Simply because dog car restraints and seat belts didn’t exist for them then. Now many states legislate that they be used. But despite the hazards of an unrestrained dog in the back seat, lots of folks don’t have the heart to deny their buddies the unbridled joy they so obviously experience.
Mutts are not going away. They comprise 53% of all dogs in America. I’m glad there is a National Mutt Day twice a year and that the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is welcoming mutts to participate in the newly created agility competition. And I’m ecstatic that mutts are finally getting the respect and recognition they deserve.
If you are owned by a mutt, feel free to share in the comments!
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Check out KRL’s review of Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog by Judy McFadden. And you can find more pet related articles and stories in our Pets section.