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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jess A BS: In Praise of Mongrels (55* d) RE: BS: In Praise of Mongrels 23 Sep 08

I love threads like this one, so thought I'd add my own experience of living with a much loved mongrel. This has turned out longer than I expected....

Nelly was my dog when I was 10. We got her at 6 weeks because her mother and siblings weren't being very well cared for, and first night in our house I slept in the kitchen on a camp bed with her curled up on my chest to stop her crying. Our very friendly (male) cat adopted her and they'd curl up together with him grooming her ears and her making a little noise in the back of her throat that sounded suspiciously like an attempt at purring.

She was an odd mixture her mum looked like a short legged black and white border collie, her dad we never knew for sure but probably something with Labrador and staffy bull terrier. She had the smooth lab like hair, in chocolate brown with collie white markings, and great big ears that flapped back against her head rather than drooped down like a spaniel. She was quite small though, only knee high (to me), with quite a deep chest but fairly slim hind quarters and legs. I've never seen another dog quite like her, she didn't even look the same as her siblings.

She was bright and inquisitive always wanted a job to do. Proably the collie in her. Took it upon herself to keep my mum & dad's 3 acres clear of birds and wildlife by chasing and barking, and would carefully escort neighbours' sheep off the property if they ever escaped over the wall. She once killed a rabbit but seemed a bit shocked by the experience after that she'd chase them but never *quite* catch them. We had guinea pigs in a run in the garden who she viewed as her own personal responsibility. They needed bringing in at night to protect from foxes and she'd come and remind us it was time to bring them in when dusk started to fall. We wondered if she viewed them as her offspring because on the one occasion when one of them escaped she carefully tiptoed behind him keeping a careful eye until we recaptured him back into his run.

We never let her have pups, had her spayed when she was old enough. She had a phantom motherhood once though not an actual phantom pregnancy, but she was given a small rubber alligator with a plaintive squeak and appealing eyes, and decided it was her puppy. She'd carry it round, make nests for it, try to suckle it, come running when we squeaked it, and fiercely ward off any approach from the cat. This lasted for several weeks, until eventually some overzealous grooming made a hole in its leg and the squeak stopped working. She lost interest after that but never quite regained her trust of the cat.

When I was still living at home but my sister had already left home for university, she became very excited when my sister came home for a visit, which my sister was quite touched by as she'd always really been 'my' dog rather than my sister's. On one occasion though she was so excited that she played too violently with a bone, slamming it against a stone step and breaking her jaw in two places. (Two clean breaks across the front of her lower jaw, one on each side). It was a bank holiday and while the vet examined her straight away, he couldn't open the surgery and wire her jaw together until 2 days later. In the meantime she was given pain killers and we were told to try and keep her still. Ever tried to stop a dog from licking the inside of its own mouth? The only one of us she'd listen to was my dad, who she very much viewed as her pack leader. He put her bed next to his and spent all night preventing her from licking or pawing at her mouth. When she eventually did get to the vet's, the breaks had already started to knit cleanly because she'd been so good about not moving. We had to feed her liquids for several weeks but otherwise she just healed by herself.

Every morning while I was growing up, my mum would let her up the stairs to my attic bedroom and she'd try and make me get up, but when I was (usually) too stubborn to stir, she'd jump on the bed and curl up against my legs. When I left home to go to university she had to stay behind. My mum said the first few mornings she was upset and confused by going up to my room and finding an empty bed.

She was gentle with adults and converted several dog-hating or dog-fearing adults that we knew to the realisation that not all dogs were bad. She couldn't be trusted with toddlers though, due to a bad experience when she was fairly young. A friend's toddler pursued her through the house and, once he'd cornered her, pulled her whiskers. He was apparently used to a family pet which didn't mind this! Nell bit him (not hard, no broken skin) which caused him to scream and her to cringe with guilt. Thankfully the parents of the toddler were understanding, and after that we were careful to warn people that small visitors needed supervision around her. She always growled plenty of warning and would retreat rather than attack she'd only snap if pressed.

She lived to the grand old age of nearly 17, eventually succumbing to some kind of cancer. She gradually got slower and less enthusiastic about life until it was obvious that she was in pain and had had enough. I drove home in time for the vet to arrive, and she was given her final injection with all her family around her. She eventually died in my arms and I'm tearing up now thinking about it, even 7 years later. I still miss her enormously. I can't have a dog with my current lifestyle so just make the most of friend's dogs for now. One day I'll get another though and when I do it'll be another mongrel!

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