25 April 2020

Let's adopt a rezdog!

A few years ago the Internet introduced my wife to the plight of the abandoned pets at Dead Dog Beach on the island of Puerto Rico. As her awareness and concern for mistreated and misbegotten mongrels grew, she and my daughter both became occasional volunteers at a local no-kill shelter.  It was a short distance between this formative experience, helping in the recovery, care, and re-homing of unwanted animals, and the adoption of our own first rescue-pet, an adorable-but-feral little black puppy. She had been found a few weeks prior by some travelers, wandering alone and mortally ailing on the roadside not far from the town of Kayenta, Arizona.  Her bowels distended and  infested with worms and infection, the travelers took her straight to an animal hospital here in Flagstaff where she received emergency surgery to repair her destroyed prolapsed rectum, and intravenous antibiotics for several days.  Her care was made possible by High Country Puppy Rescue, from whom we acquired her.  We call her Nellie.

Our younger dog and her sole surviving sibling were clever enough to be able to evade capture by the good people at the Tuba City Humane Society for several days after they were first reported as strays to them.  Just another set of feral black puppies scavenging, motherless, in trashcans near the center of town, but my wife and daughter immediately fell in love with them the day their pictures were first posted to the agency's website.  After a brief in-person get-to-know-you session, they brought the more gentle of the pups home.  As with our first rezdog, she's quickly socialized positively into our domestic life, though, because she's still not quite a year old yet, she continues to be inclined to be cautious and nervous when out in the world beyond our home. She is never far from Nellie’s side no matter where we are.  We call her Skadi.

The rezdog isn't a recognized breed by any formal dog-breeding association, not by any measure whatsoever. And, of course, that's just fine with us.  But I think, perhaps, those that find something integral and meaningful in identifying dogs by their common traits and breeding, might do well to consider the merits and appeal of the Native American reservation dog.

As descendants in a long, long line of self-sufficient survivors, and prior to that, in many cases, real working/herding/hunting/companion dogs, there are a number of compelling and endearing traits in both disposition and intellect that I suspect all rezdogs share, despite their sometimes feral origins and often broad and diverse differences in appearance. 

Native American people, including the DinĂ© (Navajo) on whose lands both of our dogs were born, have revered the dog for thousands of years.  And, while certainly many other standard-breed pets are likely to have been sold, abandoned, or lost on Native lands over the course of many years of colonization and tourism, we can be confident that the rezdog of today, despite the introduction of a wide array of dog genetics from far and wide, are nevertheless the direct descendants of the very same dogs who provided companionship and cooperative hunting and herding assistance to the native people of North American for many generations.  I think that's a very cool legacy.

Photo credit: White Wolf Pack
There aren't too many differences between raising a rezdog and raising a more familiar variety of pure- or mixed-breed dog.  Rezdog puppies can be pretty undomesticated and unsocialized when they first come into your home.  But, with consistent love, affection, and training they always come around and seem, to me at least, to bond on a very deep level with the members of their new family.

Also, rezdog puppies are always hungry.  For nearly the entire first year of their lives they seem to be almost insane for food, with each meal it's like they're trying to make up the calories they missed out on while they were homeless during their first weeks and months of life.  But eventually, they get their fill and begin to approach mealtimes with the same excited anticipation most other dogs have, but without wolfing down every morsel with the feral madness they once had.

Rez Dog - Navajo
Photo credit: White Wolf Pack
Aside from some occasional barfing and the loose stools that come with the always-hungry sampling of the many unfamiliar things growing in our backyard to determine if they're edible, neither Nellie nor Skadi has ever been ill or injured since they've come to live with us.  Rezdogs, I gather, have a good strong set of diverse genetics to sustain and empower them and their ancestors to survive in all sorts of adverse and challenging conditions.  I hope both of our amazing rezdogs will be a part of our family for years and years to come.

If you're interested in bringing a rezdog into your home (and why wouldn't you be?) there are several organizations that can assist you with the adoption process:


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey