Today is National Roots Day, a day that encourages us to look into our heritage, families, family history, and ancestry. It’s also my brother’s birthday, the brother who took the lead in bringing home stray dogs and asking my overworked mom if we could keep them. She would always say yes.
I’m sure this day is all about people roots, but when I saw the calendar the first thing I thought about was our dogs.
All of the dogs from NEW PAWSibilities come from Hazzard, KY, the poorest county in this part of Appalachia. Very few dogs come with a pedigree. It’s usually the older dogs who have been purchased as puppies and lived with a single owner until the day when they could no longer take care of their companion. Those dogs then come to use with a single word breed; Chihuahua, Poodle, etc. We are thrilled to be able to find them homes pretty quickly.
But we don’t know the roots of the vast majority of our dogs. They come to the Kentucky shelter as strays, runaways, puppies born when a hunting dog drops a litter because she was not spayed due to finances, ignorance, or both. They are Hounds, and Shepherds, Retrievers, Black Mouth Curs, and any number of breeds I had never heard of before taking over writing the bios.
They are brought to safety, washed, examined, given shots, chosen, and transported to Wisconsin and eventually winding their way into our Algoma Blvd. Shelter. A lot goes into getting your future dog ready for a new home. First, comes the naming, something that’s done in Kentucky unless the dog was surrendered and the name stays with them. Next comes the breed, or the roots. We’ve talked before about the fact that it’s often an educated guess about all the different breeds in a dog. The predominant breed is often correct. But beyond that, it’s a guess they give in Kentucky and we aren’t allowed to change.
So here’s the question. Do the roots matter? Do they matter in people or dogs? Some argue curiosity, or medical knowledge in case something goes wrong. I think most of us care about our roots, or history, where our people came from so that we can look at old pictures of ancestors and see ourselves.
But in the end, does it change who you are? Last year I found out I have a surprising amount of Irish in me. But did that make me drink a whiskey or dance a jig? Did it change my humor or writing or cooking or compassion? No, it’s now a fact I like to throw out at a party to surprise people since I in no way resemble any of the Irish stereotypes.
And maybe the same goes for knowing the roots of our dogs. Yes, specific breeds have a reputation for acting a certain way. I’ve heard Hounds howl, Huskies hate being left alone and can be destructive, and that Chihuahuas bark incessantly and for no reasons. I’m probably wrong on all counts. But knowing that, when I came to get a dog I steered away from those breeds.
Now that I have lived with Coconut for over a year I can see that he is a Shepherd in the way he herds us all out of the house or tries to nose me down the stairs, always being the last as he protects us. It’s in his DNA.
Finding out the roots or breeds of our dogs is pretty cool. Knowing as much as we can is good for several reasons; health, understanding your dog’s purpose, how they could interact with dogs and people, understanding their behavior, and safety. Even better is choosing a dog that is the right size, energy level, and personality to fit into our household and then training them for your home.
So today, as we celebrate National Roots Day, why not tell others that knowing a dog’s pedigree is not nearly as awesome as being a superhero who saved a life. When you rescue a stray it’s not usually about the pedigree or the roots. It’s about looking into those eyes and forming an instant bond with a wonderful dog who will love you unconditionally. Trust me, they don’t care about your roots so why care too much about theirs?