Thursday, February 26, 2009

Re: Feral Dogs at the River

Someone questioned me about the possibility of searching out the owner of the Boxer also about my use of the terms "purebred" and "feral":

Actually, there is a way to "know" that a dog is "pure bred." Various breeders and some owners are obtaining genetic information about their dogs nowadays. Quite a lot is known about the canine genome. One of the reasons for seeking this information is to check on, and either avoid or prevent the passing on of genetic disease. But I recall reference to one lady (on a Cesar Milan program) obtaining genetic information of a mixed breed dog that had in its adulthood become aggressive. One of the mixes was Akita, which wasn't evident by looking at the dog. I don't recall the "markers" that distinguish the various breeds but presumably the experts who are making money doing DNA tests for dog fanciers do.

And no, I have no proof that the dog I saw at a distance was a purebred Boxer, but if it were mixed-breed, why would someone go to the trouble of docking the tail? This is a normal procedure for several breeds and they do it when the pup is young; so while it is possible, I would be surprised if this dog I saw wasn't pure-bred; which doesn't say a huge amount. "Back yard breeders" produce pure-bred dogs.

And down at the river there aren't any nearby houses to inquire at. North of the river is a finger from of the San Jacinto Mountains. A couple of miles up the river, to the north is the Soboba Indian Reservation. South of the River are various enterprises: something that has squared off large areas for water. I recall hearing this is some sort of "reclamation project." At one time I saw a worker with a couple of dogs, but usually no one is there. At another place is a huge nursery enterprise. People who are probably migrant farm workers from Mexico or further south work on it. None of them that I have seen has a dog. East of the nursery a mile or so is an old property where the owner has a couple of dogs, and years ago these dogs barked at us from a distance, but he kept his dogs at his property.

The nearest housing community is perhaps a mile south of the river. It is a gated upscale trailer park for retired people. Typically such people are allowed only small dogs weighing 35 pounds or less. Beyond that is a tract of houses, and while there is nothing to prevent a dog from making its way from that community north to the River, I can't imagine what its incentive would be.

In the past I have seen evidence that people who decide to abandon their dogs, sometimes do that at the river. Our local animal shelter will destroy an animal in a week or two if it looks as though it can't be placed and there is no evidence that anyone is looking for it. People who leave animals at the river may be assuaging their consciences with the hope that someone came along and rescued them, or that they learned to live happily with a pack of feral dogs.

Others find a likely looking neighborhood and abandon their dogs there. We have rescued four such dogs since we've lived in San Jacinto. We didn't keep any of them, but we did find homes for them. It is difficult, but possible. I suspect though that had the old dog I referred to followed me back to my Jeep, I would not have been able to find a home for it.

As to my ambivalence about the use of the term "feral," as you can see from the above, I cannot be sure how long a given dog has been at the river. The dogs I saw may have been there only a short time. My girls and I have been going to the river quite a lot recently and have never seen those two dogs before. This could mean that they came west from the Indian Reservation, or it could mean that they came East or North from mountainous regions, but it could mean that they were recently abandoned there.

I have seen dogs down there running in packs who were as skittish of us as a pack of coyotes, but the dogs we saw yesterday, especially the older one, didn't behave in that way. I most often use the term "feral" to refer to dogs we see down there, but I don't know how feral anymore than I know how purebred.

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