My boys, Joe and Marty, are pretty special little guys. They are rescues from Afghanistan. But, when it comes to them, I have to ask, who rescued whom? Because these little boys have saved my sanity, if not my life.
I am frequently asked what kind of dogs Joe and Marty are. The answer is, “Afghan Rescue” or “Village Dog.” The fact is, even if I were to DNA test them using one of the commercially available products, the results would most likely come back as the ambiguous “Mixed Breed.” That’s because they are semi-domesticated dogs who likely exist through a natural selection self-bred process and not from Victorian-era breeding processes. There aren’t too many little guys running around like them in the United States, although thanks to the tireless efforts of The Puppy Rescue Mission and their generous donors, more are arriving every week.
Joe has been called a Shepherd mix and a Kuchi mix. A Kuchi dog, as you may have guessed, is not a recognized breed on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) list of 300 or so breeds. It is more of an associative classification. Kuchis, the nomads of Afghanistan, use dogs to guard their livestock. Joe looks like he could be from that stock, although their looks can vary significantly. Some get to be quite large, similar to a Turkish Kangal or an Anatolian Shepherd. Joe is nowhere near the size of either. I was once run down in an up-armored SUV by one whose head was even with the passenger side window. He wasn’t happy with us. I was happy the window couldn’t roll down. Many village dogs in Afghanistan have a similar look to Joe. Although, his eyeliner is a pretty unique marking. Joe has an underbite which makes his face appear a little crooked. Most people don’t notice. I think it’s endearing.
Joe is my pleaser. He tries so hard to do the right thing. He does everything in his power to execute any command I’ve given, even in the face of great temptation to do otherwise (squirrels). He follows me around the house, trying to keep an eye on what I’m doing, while trying to appear aloof. This is frequently accomplished by grabbing the nearest toy when he finds me and walking away quickly (though not too far) as though his intention was to find that specific toy all along. He picks up toys he hasn’t touched in weeks in order to accomplish this, only to discard them the minute I move to another area of the house. He wakes me in the morning by staring at me until I sense his presence. Then he moves in for some head pats and puppy kisses before curling up on the floor to wait for me to get up for his morning walk. He is all routine, all the time. He is the first to notice when something is amiss.
Marty has been called a Lab mix. It’s easy to see why. He’s black with tuxedo markings, and looks similar to a Labrador. Except he’s incredibly tall and thin (sometimes skinny, but that usually means he’s about to get taller. Again.). His build is decidedly un-Labrador. His face is quite long and slender. Some have said Field Bred Labrador, but he doesn’t look like that, either. He does look like several other dogs that have been rescued from Afghanistan (go figure!). The problem with calling him a Labrador, means that there would have to be Labradors in Afghanistan for breeding. There aren’t. There aren’t any known domestic breeds in Afghanistan for breeding. There are a few working breeds in Afghanistan, but they aren’t exactly out roaming the countryside spreading their seed. They are working.
Marty is all about Marty. Marty loves to be touched. He loves to have his belly rubbed. He loves to hear his own voice. He has a beautiful grown-up bark (and has from six months of age). He likes to bark to say “hello” to people he knows and likes. He likes to bark to say “back off” to those he doesn’t. He likes to bark when the wind changes. He likes to bark at plastic bags that have the audacity to blow down the street. Marty does what he wants most of the time, only occasionally considering the consequences of his decisions. He likes to test boundaries. But he’s also pretty good once he knows exactly where the boundary lies. He will always make what he thinks the best decision for Marty will be. Marty is a middle management dog. He does not have the confidence to be an Alpha, nor does he appear to want the responsibility. But he also does not want to be the low man on the pole. He sometimes tries (successfully) to provoke Joe into breaking the rules (temporarily), but he always (eventually) defers to Joe’s better judgment.
Both of my boys have webbed paws. I’m not sure what the benefit of webbed paws are to a dog in a landlocked country with very little standing water. Perhaps it helps when digging in the sand, or walking on the snow. Neither dog has shown much interest in swimming. They have their own Facebook page and are frequently the subject of Stubby Thumb posts.
The National Geographic ran an article this year about the village dogs of Africa. It’s worth reading. While Afghanistan and Africa aren’t exactly close neighbors, it does a great job of explaining how these guys might exist. I hope to find out more one day.