Now Saffy and Tilly have settled in a little more, I’m left thinking a little bit about how wonderful the Moll is. She’s sitting looking at me right now, so I’ve got owner-guilt. Molly’s a Bassetts… Allsorts! She’s probably a bit ridgebacky, a bit bully, a bit of lots of other things. She’s such a kind dog, and such a caring dog. She’s very aware of her size and she’s very, very gentle. She is, however, totally spoilt where as it’s clear Saffy and Tilly know their place, sitting in their baskets and staying there. Probably as much comfort as anything else – it must smell of home.
It’s clear they have been loved – they’re both a little plump, though Saffy’s through illness – but as to what’s happened recently, I don’t know. Lack of money, no doubt, rather than lack of care. Both have fleas and ear infections and conjunctivitis. They’ve been around the world. Saffy seems to have come from Lancashire, then gone to Florida then come to France. Tilly was bought in America and then has come to France.
It’s hard not to be judgmental – especially when it’s animals. I know I’d be upset if I found a child at school who’d been coming to school with nits and ear infections and eye infections, but of course it’s cheaper to treat children than dogs. But that brings me to the whole ‘pedigree’ issue.
Apparently, although I’d missed it, the Hope Association had two dogs named Scruffy and Alex. Scruffy is such a sad name for a dog! They were cross-breeds, and it was apparently a lot harder to shift them than these two lovely dogs. Mutts don’t have the same appeal.
Yet, having done some writing for Defra and the Kennel Club, I’m intensely aware of the difficulties of a ‘pure-breed’ dog and would rather, if honest, have a cross-breed Moll. Although we had a pure-breed spaniel, Ticker, a.k.a Little Lady Lovelace, she had all the typical spaniel problems – cataracts, deafness, eczema, dermatitis. My Nana had Westies, first Cracker, then Chip, before she adopted my uncle Geoff’s very lively American spaniel. Westies are fraught with leg and hip problems.
I have loved the dogs in my life – as Steve in his – his family are lovers of Alsatians – again, associated with mental illnesses rather than physical ones, and needing a good breeder.
I understand why, if you have working dogs, you might want a breed dog. Also, if you’ve got history with a breed, you want to keep that history going. Some breeds are ‘perfect’ for a particular situation or family.
BUT… they just aren’t as healthy as a mutt! Neither my mutt cat or our mutt dog has had problems caused by their breeding – and I for one am completely torn about where I stand on animal husbandry. On the one hand, Tilly, like Sunny – my Nana’s American Spaniel – is a beautiful cuddly (if smelly at the moment!!) teddy bear; on the other, she’s already got ear infections and conjunctivitis. It’s a shame. Breed dogs are a lot of hard work, and unscrupulous breeders should be shot (A little harsh, I know!) – my friend Carlo loves grey Staffies, but he’s trying to breed Earl, his stud staffie, and can’t find any breeding females who’ve been tested for genetic diseases!! All the breeders are really laissez-faire about the pups they bring into the world, and then charge £800 for! At the same time, I think of his older female, Macy, who is constantly ill. He’s got to sell his car to pay for her next bit of treatment. She’s constantly at the vet’s with non-life-threatening illnesses – and it’s just a shame. She’s a beautiful dog, but she’s an expensive one.
So… if you’re going to buy or adopt a breed dog, I’d suggest you need to have enough cash to keep them healthy and that you do thorough research and even blood tests on their parents. And, spare a thought for the Mutt. Scruffy, Alex and Molly might not be the most cute looking animals, but what mutts lack in looks, they make up for in health and happiness and loyalty. And when I say cross-breed, I don’t mean labradoodles or cockapoos or any other weird combination!!
Our Moll Heinz 57 is a credit to mixed parentage! But, God bless all dogs that need a home, and God grant them happiness and health and people who love them. A dog can make us a better person. It teaches us to care, to be altruistic, to think of others’ needs, to be selfless. It teaches us about loyalty and unconditional love. It teaches us to be responsible and we can often exhibit love for an animal in ways we British can’t show for other people. I think of the kisses and cuddles Jake and Steve lavish on the dogs, and in a way, it’s much easier to love a dog than a person! It teaches us to forgive too. I might not be as forgiving of Jake if he peed on the kitchen floor – or as understanding!! I think sometimes the way we love animals should be the way we love people too…
We put them first, we care about them, we brush them, we tend to them. They bring us intense happiness, and you can never be really cross at them, even if they chew your shoes. I think all families are improved by a dog!