Last year, a lady walked into our clinic to make an appointment to have her dog spayed. While filling out the necessary paperwork, our receptionist asked her, “What breed is your dog?” The lady replied, “She is a canine.” Perplexed, our receptionist persisted, “Yes, ma’am, but what breed do you think the dog may be?” The lady again answered, “She is called a canine. They spell it C-A-N-I-N-E.” I can’t make this stuff up.
Without going into the difference between species and breed, our receptionist peered over the edge of the counter, and sure enough, there was a canine on the other end of the leash. A small, nondescript, scruffy Heinz 57 peered back up at our receptionist. “Terrier mix,” she wrote on the paperwork.
In life, we are quick to want to identify something with a bit of familiarity. We are often attracted to people who look like ourselves. Some people even have dogs that look like they do.
It is no different in the shelter world. In choosing a new family pet, people often overlook dogs they cannot readily associate with a breed and are drawn to those they can identify. “He looks like a Chihuahua/Pug mix.” “Is that a pure-bred Cocker Spaniel?” Compartmentalizing gives us the idea we know exactly what we are getting.
In other aspects of our lives, we look to more experienced people to help us decide or just follow the crowd. In restaurants, if I can’t make up my mind, I will ask the server to bring me his favorite entree. In making home repairs, I defer to the judgment of the contractor. I don’t know a lot about wine, but I know I like white. I usually order the house chardonnay. At coffee shops, the best-seller is usually the house blend.
The SPCA is full of house blends: small, nondescript, scruffy, lanky, smooth, black and tan, medium, snoozy, brindled, wiry, extra-large or energetic dogs. When people ask, “What kind of dog is that?” we reply, “It’s the good kind.” It’s just that we don’t know exactly what breed most of these “good kinds” are.
Sure, we have some pure-bred dogs. In fact, 25 percent of all shelter dogs are pure bred. This year we have taken in Shih Tzus and Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Coon Hounds. I’ve adopted a pure-bred Labrador from the SPCA. Now I have a couple of mutts, er … I mean … designer dogs, um … House Blends!
One of the blends is a Labrador/Dogue de Bordeaux mix from the SPCA in Charlotte, North Carolina – a “Labradogue.” The other is a three-legged-who-knows-what that the SPCA Albrecht Center transferred in from the Aiken County Shelter a couple of years ago. To me, she looks like a cross between a pit bull and a Shih Tzu. Let’s call her a “Pit Tzu.” (The alternative is befitting, but not printable.)
These are both great dogs. Loving. Playful. Sweet. Snugly. Attentive. Engaged. Blends. If I wasn’t a spoiler, they might also be obedient. My point is this: If you aren’t looking to enter competitions with your dog (in the immortal words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”), if you are just looking for a dog you can love and who will love you to the moon and back, consider an SPCA House Blend or an Aiken County Heinz 57 or a Molly’s Militia mix or a Great American Shelter Dog from any place listed on Petfinder.com.
Stop by the SPCA at 199 Willow Run Road in Aiken, and we will be glad to help you find your perfect companion canine.
Chrissey Miller, CAWA
SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare