Finding Old Yeller

Carolina Dog / Bing Images

Read Part One: Outside of A Dog…

Gandy, a week before she died on Valentines Day last year, was able to jump into the back of my truck while we unloaded wood. She always helped by selecting her own piece to turn into wood chips. Then she lost ground rapidly. When the vet left the house after putting her gently to her final sleep, we vowed the pain was too much to think of having another dog in this life. A week later, we were less sure of that, and began browsing the animal adoption sites. We found Scout in April.

Months later, we were stalled mid-way between love and something else, so far as this wild-card rescue dog was concerned. He was not fitting in. We couldn’t get allegiance into his head. He certainly didn’t see us as the leaders of his pack. What would it take to make that happen? I frankly despaired, and will tell more about that in the third installment.

Who was this dog? What would it take to reach him, to keep him, to welcome him fully into our lives and love him like all his predecessors?

It was during this ambivalent wondering that Google lens spit back at me an image that was Scout. The caption: Carolina Dog. Wait. What? I never heard of the breed. But maybe if it helped us better know his pre-ordained disposition, habits, preferences and genetic tendencies, we could do better at winning him over. Or maybe not. 

And so I spent a couple of entire days reading everything I could find on Carolina Dogs–also called the American Dingo; or Pariah dog (a catch-all for barely or non-domesticated breeds in ancient times that have persisted in a semi-wild state.)

Scout’s first snow after coming to Goose Creek *click for short video

I compared pictures of other supposed Carolina Dogs (Yellow Dogs or Yeller Dogs) to Scout, and read about their temperaments and habits. More often than not, what I read described the mutt sitting next to me on the loveseat as I scrolled page after page on my iPad.

â–º Curved tail when alert, drooping horizontal when at rest: CHECK

â–º Snout Pits: CHECK (yet it seems it is usually females who do this.)

â–º Champion mouser: CHECK

â–º Coat soft, with dense undercoat. Immaculately clean, little shedding: CHECK

â–º Wary of Strangers at first: CHECK (especially MEN)

â–º Buries poop with the nose: Nope. He is inclined to bury any treat we give him with his nose in the snow or grass or soft dirt. He isn’t much for treats. More, anon. 

â–º Fiercely local to the pack, once bonded: Well the jury was still very much out on that one when we first began exploring Scout’s possible parentage.

And I’m not claiming that discovering his ancestry sealed the bond, but it helped us be patient with whatever legacy of biology or tolerant of prior abuse or failure of training he might have known, and give him space to BELONG to our pack. We despaired for months that this would happen. Spoiler: it DID!

So: Carolina Dog. Most have erect ears, while Scout’s flop most of the time. Most are smaller frame, but some are stouter. Scout was 55 pounds when we got him, and has gained a bit since, but still covers the ground just like the videos of American Dingos all over the Internet.

This is indeed a DIFFERENT dog from most other breeds, because it did not come over with the European settlers like most early American dog varieties. The American dingo accompanied the post-ice-age immigrants across the Bering land bridge from Asia some eight to 10 thousand years ago or before.

If you’re interested, rather than me reposting the wealth of information out there about Carolina Dogs, I’ll offer some of the links I’ve collected for your perusal. This was engaging, relevant and helpful reading for me, longing to make known as much as possible about this dog whose history was otherwise hidden from the other side of his crate at Angels of Assisi in Roanoke where we found him and fetched him home on April 19 of lsat year.

Seven months later, Scout was a dear soul inside the house, but still wanted nothing more than to escape if he accidentally got out the door or we let him off-leash outdoors, thinking every time, “this time he’ll want to stay with us.”

This dog needed to run–a lot, and every day. Maybe he doesn’t need to be the responsibility of two old codgers. There was no yard to be fenced, invisible or otherwise. He began to run down the road and bother the neighbors who have small children. This was making our lives miserable. The dog was to blame, even though it wasn’t his fault the Gum Ball Machine of life dropped him here on Goose Creek.

It was a long, grievous half year, I suppose for him as well as for us. At wits end, I wrote a couple of letters to humane shelters, asking if it were possible to “rehome” this dog, a creature that would never fit into our lives here. I never sent those letters.


Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Fascinating, Fred! I pride myself on knowing a lot about dogs, but never heard of a Carolina Dog or American Dingo. Scout is very lucky you and Ann care so much to understand him!