Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dual Purpose Breeds

I spend a lot of time here on my blog and in my book talking about different breeds of suburban livestock, and why we have chosen the breeds we've chosen. For most of our animals, the type and breed were a conscious decision. Our pets are the exception. We have two dogs and a cat, and all three of them were given to us by another person or family who found that they could no longer keep the animal, for whatever reason.

What's interesting, though, is how well suited each of those animals are to our family dynamic, and how well, despite the seemingly random acquisition, they each fit in. If I were to be in the market to get a dog, for instance, I would never not in a million years have chosen a beagle as our breed of choice. He's made a place in our home, though, and he fits well.

Similarly, if I had researched and sought the perfect breed for my family to purchase from a breeder, I would never have chosen chow-chow (which is our other dog). Our chow could be considered a "rescue" dog, although we can't be credited with the rescue. What happened was like - the guy who had her, wanted a dog, until he got a girlfriend, and then the dog was simply too much to bother with, and so a mutual friend told him that either he would take care of the dog or she would find a new home for it. He liked the idea of not having to be responsible - either for the dog or for finding her a new home. And she found us.

It wasn't until after we had given her a home and had moved halfway across the country, that we started hearing bad stories about chow-chows, and how aggressive or ill-tempered they are. We never had that experience with our chow, who has always been an amazing companion and completely loyal to us. Other dogs beware, but people? She loves people.

We've had her for more than a dozen years, and in that time, we've realized that we couldn't have found a better companion for our family. Not only has she proven an excellent watch dog. She's just large enough that many people, both young and old, are a little intimidated by her. I used to feel just a tad bit more comfortable when we had repair people come to the house, because she would position herself between me and them or between the girls and other people. She wasn't threatening, exactly, but it was pretty apparent what she was doing.

She's also a fantastic "farm" dog, in that she keeps a really close watch on her "flock" - the rabbits, the ducks and the chickens, and she will be and has been aggressive with other animals that come into her yard. She also warns the cat and the beagle to stay away from her flock and will get between the chickens and the beagle if she thinks he might be plotting mischief.

Interestingly, the chow was a better mouser than our cat. She can catch mice who venture too far out, because she's just fast enough - or was when she was younger. Unfortuntely, she's also pretty big and can't fit into small spaces, which really seems to annoy her, because she'd very much like to catch mice ;).

Although she's too old now, there was a time when we were teaching her to pull a wagon, and when the girls were younger, they traveled by dog-drawn cart on a couple of occasions :).

Best though, is the use for which not many people think her suitable. Deux Ex Machina has a friend who enjoys spinning yarn. For almost two years, she's been asking him to bring her some of our dog's fur so that she can try spinning it, and as far as I knew, he still hadn't. On Mother's Day, my daughter presented me with a scarf - this gorgeous, chocolate-brown, very fuzzy scarf, and Deus Ex Machina told me that his friend had carded and spun the dog's fur into yarn, which he brought home and all stealth-like gave to Big Little Sister, who, in the wee hours of the night, when she was supposed to be sleeping, was knitting a scarf for me out of dog-fur yarn.

What an incredible gift from all three (four if you count Deus Ex Machina's friend) of them!

And now, I know, that if we ever decide to get another dog, it will be a chow, because they are a very versatile breed, and when one has a limited amount of space to accommodate family, house, garden, and animals, one must have all things serving more thn one purpose. Chow-chows fit that need very well ;).


  1. Please post a picture of your new scarf!

  2. Chows are traditional temple guard dogs. Ive had chow-shepard cross that had the exact dispasition. Her Bane was rabbits.Each winters end she lost about 8 in. in width, the super fine hairs came out in clumps, that a sheep would admire.
    On whole I've found your blog and book interesting, a bit short on specifics. But some leads that are panning out. My only complaint is its a bit to niave and Idilic. If(when) things colapse as/at day 22. Do you think our modern day barbarian hordes (Bloods, crips,kingsman and hells angels) will not consider you a resource to expliot. A dogs great for scaring homeless tramps and loners. But these guys are raiders, they only fear repercusions from stong intities.when things hit day 22 they will come, they are mobile, they are armed and they are only loyal to themselves. They exploit people now. With no goverment and Law enforcement, villages and small communities will be taregeted. Have a personal defensive plan and a community plan! Historically only strongly defended walls and a counterattacking punitve strike kept raiders away. God help us. Most of your plans are for day 23,24 etc. Which is more important. Without developed self reliant skills theres nothing to defend. Just remeber that the homesteading farmer kept the rifle loaded above the mantle and strapped to the plow. The cabin walls where thick and they bugged out to the local fort when the church bell rang.
    On whole, I think your on a good path with a lot of common sense ideas. I noticed that you live close to the ocean, but make no mention of exploiting it. wood boats can be built even by amuters, its a great way to escape, fish (theres easier and more food in the ocean than hunting) or trade with other groups.
    Good harvest to you and yours.

  3. got me thinking...I saw an offer on freecycle for a brindle female pit bull. I know a lot of pitty's, and they aren't all vicious like the media portrays them to be (in fact, my baby brother used to teeth on a pit bull - she just sat there and let him. Too cute!). I don't know how confident I would be about taking a dog from an unknown source though...