Today I’d like to talk to you about Podengo Pequeno, Berger Picard and Lagotto Romangnolo, all of which have been in the news lately.
Let me start with a quiz: The items named above are…
- Sports cars racing on the Formula One circuit.
- Characters in the latest Quentin Tarantino movie.
- Breeds of dogs.
- Dishes recently prepared on a Food Network show.
- The latest in a long history of shortstops from the Dominican Republic who have signed Major League contracts.
The correct answer is 3.* And the reason they’ve been in the news is that these breeds were recently recognized by the American Kennel Club, much in the same way the United States might recognize a country, only with a lot more drama. Because, hey, this is really important.
The Chinook was also recognized by the AKC, despite the handicap of only having one name.
You might wonder where these new dogs are coming from. Well, the answer is, they’re not new dogs at all. They’re just breeds that the American Kennel Club hasn’t previously noticed for one reason or another, like, for instance, because hardly anyone in America had one. Yes, that’s right–these are immigrant dogs who have crossed our borders to take jobs away from American dogs!
For example, according to the Lagotto Romangnolo Club website (motto: “Let us tell you what you can do with your Bouvier des Flandres”), the breed is good at sniffing out truffles. Of course, so are some kinds of pigs, but they don’t have curly hair and “the restrained character of the true country dog.”
On its club site, we are informed that the Podengo Pequeno (Spanish for little podengo) traveled around the world on the caravels of Portuguese explorers, “keeping the ship’s food stores free of rodents and protecting the sailors from vermin-born disease.” It doesn’t, however, inform us what the hell a “caravel” is, but I’m going to assume it’s not delicious soft-serve ice cream.**
The Berger Picard is a herding dog, and is so rare it almost became extinct at one point. Thank goodness it was saved because what would the world be like with only 176 AKC recognized breeds?
And the Chinook, in addition to being both a helicopter and a fish, is also the state dog of New Hampshire. That is one versatile canine! But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how a dog can be common enough to become the dog of an entire state and yet still not be noticed by the AKC.
With some of these dogs coming to America for a better life, I think it’s time we changed the poem on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your sired, your paws,
Your hounds and mastiffs
Yowling to breed free…
All of these new dogs have avid clubs which lobby the AKC on the breed’s behalf, touting its innate characteristics and noting the advantages of having as many dogs as possible adhere to very precise specifications such as you might find on a Request for Bids for a stealth bomber.
The Chinook Club lists 15 points for the breed standard, carefully examining the skull, muzzle, teeth, ears, eyes, neck, body, forequarters, hindquarters, feet, tail, coat, color, size, weight and gait, each with possible faults. For instance, faults for feet are “Splayed toes. Long, injury-prone toes. Cat feet or hare feet.” So I guess you can’t qualify as a perfect chinook unless you first qualify as a dog.
My requirements in a dog are a lot less stringent. I prefer the head to be attached to the shoulders. There should be four legs. The forequarters should be roughly equal to a dollar.
Of course, the way you get to the breed standard is to pick out a dog and say “There! That one looks pretty good. Let’s make all the rest look like that!” So you keep mating that dog until it cries out “Enough already!” and then you breed that dog’s offspring together, and then you breed their offspring together, and eventually you get just what you want, like, in the case of pugs, a dog that can’t breathe.
I have nothing against purebreed dogs, by the way. I have one and we’re the best of buds. I do have something against dog shows, though.
After all, who are humans to determine perfection in any other species?
See you soon.
*For a good time, see if you can match the photos in this post with the four new dog breeds mentioned.
**Just kidding. Of course I know that a caravel is a small sailing ship, especially now that I looked it up. I bet it tastes great with a hard chocolate shell.