Indian dogs:
I mentioned that a dog in the contemporary United States is far more likely to be the result of a rational mating choice than is a human.  In humans, mating choices generally are based on social issues, emotional issues, financial issues, common interests or a host of other things.  Genetic issues may figure in, but not as seriously as with a dog.  With dogs, when a human makes the choice, the genetic issue is the only issue.  The genetic advantage of the puppy is the only consideration.  A child by contrast, if blessed with the temerity to challenge a parent’s mating choice, can expect to receive: “If I hadn’t done it, you wouldn’t exist, so there.”

Most people who breed dogs come in one of two forms.  There are the owners of “puppy factories” that breed dogs for commercial purposes, for sale in pet stores.  They have only the genetic makeup of the puppy at heart also, the only problem being that they may not invest much effort into either the mating choice or the environment of their dogs.  The others breeders are the true dog lovers, who take an interest in the pedigree of the dog.  They are willing to invest an enormous amount of effort in making the right choice.  And there choice is usually to maintain scrupulous blood lines for the breeds.

It is easy to poke a little harmless fun at the dog lovers.  They make a big occasion of showing their dogs.  Ribbons are awarded.  A lot of money goes into buying a dog with a good pedigree.  But there is no question that they love their dogs.

As a child, one of the things we used to do was to look at a dog and guess its breed.  Most of the dogs running around our neighborhood in those days were not recognizable breeds.  They were all mutts, and I assumed that was the way of the world.  There were people who owned dogs with breeds. One neighbor had hunting dogs.  One had a bulldog.  One had a German police dog.  But mostly they were just dogs. 

We would look at dogs and if they had no breed try to guess what kind of cross they were.  My friends would speculate that an animal was probably part this and part that.  But I always had a mental reservation.  If our neighborhood was typical and had always been typical then why did they have to be mixes of any true breeds at all?  Maybe they had been mutts all the way back to the dawn of time. 

Our own dog seemed to be of no breed I had ever heard of.  She was a magnificent beast.  If people are caricatures of their dogs, then I ought to be good natured, high spirited, energetic, indestructible and prone to doing absurd things.  I am not so sure.  From time to time I would notice a dog that reminded me of ours, and I developed the conviction that there really was or had been some regular breed to which the dog was closely related.  I fancied that she was descended from the ward dogs of the Spanish conquistadors.  That was in line with my belief that there had always been mutts.  I later learned she was a pit bull. 

Sadly it now turns out I was probably wrong.  Mutts do not go all the way back.  Living dogs are breeds or mixes of breeds.  Unless the breed is maintained with resolve, the line dies out.  I can see that now.  Dogs are just like folks. 

One kind of dog has vanished that I feel very badly about.  The lore when I was a child was that the Florida natives would rather fight a conquistador, armor, gun, horse and all, than fight his dog.  But there were dogs in America before the Spanish.  Now they are all gone.  DNA analysis has not revealed a trace of them.  I read that they were, “deliberately allowed to die out,” although documentation of the assertion was lacking.  It may not have been any sort of ill will.  It may just have been the fact that nobody took an interest in breeding them.  The natives had enough problems of their own, and the Europeans didn’t happen to take a fancy to them.  That left them with no career choice except mutt, and mutts do not survive for an indefinite number of generations. 

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