The Wonderful World Of Mutts

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"Before there were purebred dogs specifically fashioned to chase after game birds or herd sheep, there were mutts," said Steve Dale, contributing writer for USA Weekend.

But before there were mutts, there were wolves. The amazing variety of mutts has come a long way from those original wolves. We have tall and short mutts with long hair or hairless, big floppy ears or small upright ears, long tails or no tails.

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These three mutts love the opportunity to show off for special treats. Lester, left, is proud of his countless ribbons won in local dog shows and Spud bays to prove that he is a good part hound. These two belong to Laura Hammond of Strawberry. Kudo, right, a humane society rescue, is visiting.

Animal Planet featured a mutt dog show recently, "Nuts for Mutts" where mixed breed dogs competed in 30 categories and were judged by celebrities. This was an opportunity for people to realize the amazing talents of dogs, regardless of breeding.

In her new book, "The Complete Guide to Mutts" Margaret H. Bonham estimates that half of the 74 million dogs in the U.S. are mutts. I think the percentage is far greater, but does it matter? What matters is that there are not enough loving homes for all the wonderful mutts.

Some feel that mutts are smarter and tougher and healthier than purebred dogs. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that theory. Among the millions of dogs that end up on the street, are thrown out in the desert or dumped around our communities, the survivors have to be smart, clever and tough. They pass those traits on to their offspring.

The latest trend in the dog world is designer dogs. These are specific breeds of dogs bred with specific other breeds to produce an offspring that has the best characteristics of both breeds. One such cross receiving lots of publicity lately is the "labradoodle," a cross between a labrador retriever and a standard poodle. The resulting dogs are supposed to not shed and have the gentle nature of the lab.

A mix that has been around for a while is a "cockapoo." That is a cocker spaniel and "toy" or miniature poodle cross. hen there are "bagels" -- a beagle and basset hound cross; "schnoodles" -- a poodle and schnauzer; "st. berdoodle" -- st. bernard and poodle; "scoodle" -- Scotch terrier and poodle; and "puggle" -- pug and beagle, the list goes on.

The poodle is a favorite in most crosses because they do not shed. These designer dogs are very expensive, selling for more than $1,000.

Designer dogs are mixed breeds or mutts. To become a recognized breed, there must be an organized breed club, a written standard and enough generations to show that the new breed will breed true, according to the American Kennel Club spokeswoman, Lainie Cantrell.

Most cockapoos result from breeding a cocker to a poodle. To be a breed, there has to be at least three generations where a cockapoo is bred to a cockapoo. A litter of pups was recently born which are said to be purebred American cockapoos. It will be some time before the breed is recognized by the AKC.
"Scrupulous breeders of purebred dogs are duty bound to improve the line, which means they must never mate a dog with known inherited diseases and must never pair a dog of one breed with another breed," said Anne Rogers Clark, an AKC all-breed judge.

Serious breeders have been doing genetic testing for years and stand behind their dogs. Purebred dogs are more predictable in that their offspring will resemble them in looks and temperament.

Puppy mill breeders are only interested in making money. They care nothing about genetics or temperament. If you are planning to get a purebred dog, do extensive homework and buy from a reputable breeder. A poorly bred purebred dog from a pet store or puppy mill can cost as much as the best, and can bring a lifetime of health and behavior problems. Buy from a reputable breeder or go to the shelter and find a wonderful, lovable, lonely, homeless mutt.

The new Benji is a mutt and a very clever one at that. She was found on the back streets of Mississippi, abandoned, lost and alone. Taken to a dog shelter, she was noticed and reported to Joe Camp, the creator of Benji. Camp's criteria -- "We need a dog that could express genuine emotion, a dog who could show anxiety, fear, happiness, warmth and love... a dog that could literally act." She beat out all the competition in screen tests and has the staring role in the new movie, "Benji Returns Off the Leash."

This Benji is now the world's most huggable hero, having traveled around the world. This is the second animal to be inducted into the American Humane's Animal Actors Hall of Fame. Lassie was the first. This dog has twice received the American Guild of Variety Artist's Georgie Award -- as the top animal entertainer of the year.

Benji, the character is a male. This new Benji is a female. The original Benji was a rescue from the pound as well and it is believed that because of him, more than 1 million dogs were adopted from pounds across the country. I hope this new Benji will cause the same reaction.

I recently watched the original Benji movie -- very old. I am looking forward to seeing this new rescue mutt in "Benji Returns Off the Leash."

Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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