Lineage: Labrador Retrievers Need Not Apply
Our dog was in a litter being handed out for free from the back of a truck at WalMart in Galax. A kind young girl suspected that, given away indiscriminately like this, some of the young “Shepherd-Lab mix” pups might end up back in Humane Society custody after being neglected or abused, in households unprepared for the considerable effort and time it takes to contain a puppy while it grows to resemble an intelligent being.
So mom and pups were taken off the hands of the Walmart Give-away person, and effort made through the Human Society to find intentional homes for the 8-week old pups. The mother dog, the girl told us, was definitely “mostly German Shepherd” and one of the three pups she brought for us to see was shaped and had the longer, denser hair of a Shepherd. But not Gandy.
And though they were advertised as being probably fathered by a Lab, we’ve decided that misses the mark. We know labs, by temperament and form, and this dog sleeping under my desk just now knows nothing of the wanting-to-please, quiet disposition of a lab. There is something else under the hood here.
There are practical reasons to want to know. We need to order a crate that will fit this dog as an adult. How big will she get? (I’ve seen the rule of thumb to double the weight at 14 weeks. She’ll be about 25# by then, so 50#. But how tall?) And we’re puzzled by her temperament, energy level, curiosity, intelligence and persistence. Who is this dog going to be?
We’ve thought maybe boxer, given the build and the coat, but the face is not right. We’ve wondered about pit bull, but she is so long of neck and leg.
Last night I happened to pick up the latest National Geographic, whose cover story is “What Dogs Teach Us.” The centerfold is a display of breeds. I did a double-take.
“THAT is our dog” I said out loud to no one. Almost all features fit, even though Gandy is definitely not pure to the breed. The long neck, the dark muzzle, long legs, copper coat and wrinkled brow. She even, when alarmed, shows the distinctive “ridge” that was so startling when Ann and I first noted it. “It’s like a mohawk!” we both said. And it is characteristic of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, or African Lion Dog. The image above is of pure-bred ridgeback puppies. Look familiar?
Even the description of the dog’s personality is a dead ringer:
“They are strong-willed, exceptionally clever, and many seem to have a penchant for mischief. Owners report them teaching themselves (and each other) how to escape crates and kennels, open even ‘child-locked’ cabinets and doors, and especially behind-your-back stealing of food.
…Despite his athletic, sometimes imposing exterior, the Ridgeback has a sensitive side. Excessively harsh training methods that might be tolerated by a sporting or working dog will likely backfire on a Ridgeback. Intelligent to a fault, the Ridgeback accepts correction as long as it is fair and justified, and as long as it comes from someone he knows and trusts.”
Man, does this hit the mark. Gandy returns blow for blow. She is not penitent when she does wrong, and will only escalate her resistance if confronted with force or punishment. But then, she can be a dear. We have yet to learn exactly where the switch is, or how to remove batteries.