In my opinion.
I LOVE this book. Sadly, it’s been out of print for a while. And, as my own paperback copy disappeared a long time ago, I’ve been lusting after it like a drunken sailor.
You can find it on Amazon listed for sale at ten times what I paid for it. Which is a LOT more than I was willing to pay.
This copy (see photo) turned up under the Christmas tree this year, rending me speechless.
It’s hard back WITH a cover, and it’s in mint condition. Be Still My Heart.
Despite the 1980 copyright, it’s still a fabulous book for What It Does. Which is to describe the temperaments of dogs with such panache that dog lovers, regardless of what kind of dog they have – cross-breeds, mixed breeds, mutts, and (ahem) purebred dogs – will be able to determine exactly what they’ve got to work with when they’re trying to figure out their dog’s behavior.
Wait. It’s out of print.
Which is hardly the point.
The point is this: years ago when Siouxy (pronounced Suzy) had come to live with us, THIS book helped me figure out 1) what she was other than what she looked like, which was a German Shepherd puppy.
But, if you really know the breed, there are things about her that will make you shake your head as to whether she’s purebred.
Which is still not the point.
However, I had to start somewhere to figure her out. What she looked like and books about what she looked like were my startiing point.
And, I was lucky. The Roger Caras Dog Book was still being sold in book stores.
Here’s part of what Caras writes about German Shepherds (pages 132 – 133):
“Intelligent, alert … careful with strangers, but not petty or mean –he is loyal unto death to his family and will do anything to protect family and children. That does not have to be built in, it is already there.”
Siouxy was pretty aloof with everybody outside of my family. And, time and time again, she quietly placed herself between my son and anyone she perceived as a threat.
” … requires a lot of exercise.”
“It is not easy nor is it inexpensive to locate a fine example of this breed. When you succeed, you have a superb dog. When you fail (and the exploiters win), you have a mess.”
(By ‘exploiters,” Caras meant indiscriminate breeders.)
So, I had something to go on, but I kept reading different breed profiles because even to my layman’s eye, I could tell that I didn’t quite have the whole story. I read even more books, talked with other dog lovers at obedience and conformation shows, and worked with Siouxy a LOT.
And, went back to this book to read up on husky breeds. When I read what Caras wrote about the Norwegian Elkhound, I knew I had found my Siouxy.
Here’s what Roger Caras writes (pages 92 – 93):
“He is a bold dog … packed with seemingly endless energy. He has a superb sense of smell, and his hearing is reputed to be better than that of many other breeds.”
Siouxy was a great tracking dog when she wanted to find my husband. One winter night during a snow storm, we went out into the deserted neighborhood for a walk. My husband back-packed our young son and took the two ex-racing greyhounds with him.
For some reason, Siouxy and I left the house after the they had all disappeared from view. She and I stood on the front porch watching the snow fall, listening to the wind in the trees.
Siouxy put her nose to the cement floor of the porch and started working her nose. And, I decided to give her some slack on the leash, just to see what she’d do. And, she tracked.
She kept her nose glued to the ground and, moving very quickly, she took off down the street. She took me down the street, around the corner and out into the middle of the next street intersection where she circled around for 3-4 minutes.
I could see her concentration – feel her working that intersection. Without lifting her head, she headed to the right and, five minutes later, she came up on the heel of my husband’s left foot. And at that point, she raised her head.
“… he is devoted to his master. He learns quickly and takes all kinds of training well, but he is also stubborn.”
Siouxy was a car chaser. Don’t ask me where she got this – it’s one of those unexplained behaviors that is ingrained into a dog’s psyche before they come to you. What’s not important is how it came to be. What is important, is how you work with it.
So. A car chaser. Even when she was a passenger, inside MY car, Siouxy was a car chaser.
How to fix this?
One day, when I had errands to run, I put Siouxy in the back seat of the car and gave her the command to sit. And then to STAY.
I draped her leash over the front seat so that I could grab it at any time, put my key in the ignition, and took off.
Each time Siouxy looked like she was “about to give chase” (Trust me. I knew my dog well enough to recognize her body language.), I made a noise that to her meant, “Don’t even think about it.” And, she continued to hold the sit, but she visibly relaxed.
“The Norwegian Elkhound can be aggressive with other animals … he is such a powerful and assertive animal and will march chest out into any kind of situation … he has great dignity and purpose … An ideal companion for those he knows and trusts, he tends to take life seriously.
He does not take friends, devotion, insults, or intruders lightly. He was put here with a job to do, and he spends the better part of each day attempting to fulfill his mission.”
Everything about this breed description resonated with my soul. I recognized Siouxy in almost every word. Having this framework made it so much easier to “get inside her head” when she and I were learning how to work together.
That was almost 20 years ago. Almost TWO years ago, when we adopted Tessa, I was scrambling to get my hands on Roger Caras’ book.
There was one library copy in the county library system and I borrowed it umpteen times as I narrowed the choices for what Tessa could be.
Which, finally, IS the point.
Half of the fun of getting a cross or a mix-breed dog is figuring out what their DNA mix is. You’ll never be exact, but you can come pretty close.
With Tessa, the woman who pulled her from the Indiana animal shelter, thought she was an Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher mix.
After completing a Beginner’s Level obedience class with her, and introducing her to two of my most dog-knowledgeable friends, their separate opinions were that there’s Pharaoh Hound in the mix.
Tessa leads with her nose before she’ll use her sight. She leaps – from a standing position – straight up in the air – easily topping my shoulder. She’s territorial around the house; she’s NOT dog aggressive. Like my Siouxy was, she can be a handful.
All 18 pounds of her.
She does fit some of the Miniature Pinscher breed description written by Roger Caras in The Roger Caras Dog Book (page 235):
“… a lively little devil with a high stepping style that marks him everywhere he goes … a natural showman … a show-off and assertive character.”
Not so much a show-off unless you count the times she would actually sit on her haunches when asked to “sit” in dog obedience class.
“… is best owned by people who are at least as strong-willed as he is. He is affectionate and loyal and a real participator. He is, given the chance, a bully and a brat.”
Not so much of a bully. She was a brat on leash when we first got her, but she’s improved quite a LOT.
“He is a perfect watchdog and will never let a stranger come near without giving voice.”
“… strong willed…”
Here is where I’d love an up-dated version of this book because at the time that Roger Caras wrote his guide to purebred dogs, Pharaoh Hounds were not recognized by the American Kennel Association (AKC).
So, they are, understandably, NOT described in his book. And, what I would love to get my hands on, is a breed description for Pharaoh Hounds that is similar to the kinds of breed descriptions that Roger Caras was so talented at writing.
Which would be my final point. [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]