Don't Buy This Dog. Please.

Julia Hubbel, Walkabout Saga, Horizon Huntress

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Let's think before we impulse buy

In the first weekend of football season in 2017, an ad for State Farm insurance featured Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his dog Rigsbee playing frisbee on the beach.

WAY COOL DOG.

Wow man. I want oneathem.

Rigsbee is an ACD, or Australian Cattle Dog. Yeah. They ARE cool. But they are definitely not for everyone.

Don't do that. Don't be like all those lemmings who condemned tens of thousands of Dalmatians to euthanasia after Disney's movie 101 Dalmatians because Mummy and Daddy had NO CLUE how athletic Dalmatians were.

There was an eight-fold increase in the purchase of Huskies from the time Game of Thrones debuted. Animals that are huge, athletic, shed epic amounts of hair, and end up dumped by the thousands in shelters because people weren't prepared for the simple fact that they are working dogs. Huge, powerful, demanding working dogs. Not couch potatoes. Far too many of them ended up in shelters or euthanized or dumped. Not their fault.

Unless you are a serious athlete, at least fairly active, unless you run cattle or sheep, you probably don't want a Heeler either. I see ACDs dumped in shelters everywhere. They are not everyone's dog.

But don't take my word for it.

From the dog breed website:

Standing between 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder, the Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, hard-muscled herder of strength and agility. The ACD is born with a white coat that turns blue-gray or red. Both coat varieties feature distinctive mottling or specking patterns. ACDs have immense work drive and excel at hunting, chasing, and, of course, moving livestock. Their boundless energy and supple gait make them excellent running partners.
ACDs are true-blue loyal, famously smart, ever alert, and wary of strangers. If an ACD isn’t challenged, he easily becomes bored and gets into mischief. It is recommended that ACD owners participate with their dog in some work, sport, or regular exercise to keep him mentally and physically fit.

This is the Australian Cattle Dog, the uber-athlete, the marathoner of the dog world. Yes they are cool. They will tear your house and your life apart if you do not work them, all day, all the time. These are working dogs. SERIOUS working dogs. Not all are like this, to be sure. However this is the breed type, and while any gaslighter can tell me about how HIS heeler ain't like that, get a grip, guy. Everyone has an outlier story. That's not the breed.

Back when the movie Mad Max first came out, the New York Times commented drily on the "mangy mutt" that was Mel Gibson's sidekick in this post-apocalyptic hit. Said mangy mutt, as any Aussie grazier or drover or Western cattleman can tell you, is an AKC-registered purebred.

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Right below the border collie on the doggie IQ level, Heelers are brilliant, funny tricksters. They will give you the stinkeye, consider your commands, and decide whether to follow them. They are funny, loyal and determined. Half dingo, half ancient Border Collie, they were bred to work the Outback for 18 hours a day with minimal water.

From the time their eyes open, they will herd anything that moves all around the house. That includes kids, cats, other dogs, goats, ducks, anything. You.

This can go from really cute to extremely annoying real damned fast. If you are a beer-drinking couch potato, it makes no sense to get this dog just to "be like" Aaron Rodgers. Because this dog will drive you crazy with his brains, his demands, his need for constant exercise. A twice a day walk is a joke to a dog like this. Are you kidding me man? Go play in the yard. WHAT? IS THAT ALL?

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Julia Hubbel. The author collects a kiss on a Costa Rican beach.

They take hundreds and hundreds of hours not only of dedicated training, but then after that, of daily exercise. Constant daily exercise. They can be inexhaustible. Ask anyone who owns one- especially a purebred. You can run thousands of steps with a dog like this, and when you're near a heart attack, your ACD is just warming up.

Try putting that in your house while you're at work all day. Bored and alone. Just imagine the trouble they can, and will, get into. Not their fault. Yours. Not a couch dog.

A working dog. Again. An aged ACD may be slow, an abused one may be terrified. As with all living things there are variations. But the breed type is intense, it's bred to be intense.

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It is horrible habit in America that when we see something new (a mini pig, a mini goat) it's "I WANT ONE" without much consideration for the breed, the demands of that breed, and what that animal is going to require of us for the rest of its life. This inevitably ends up with thousands upon thousands of innocent animals dumped in shelters and often euthanized through no fault of their own. Only the thoughtlessness of people who impulse-bought a living creature.

Once a breed becomes trendy, this is what happens. Or a mini horse. Or a pangolin, with diastrous environmental effects. You see where I'm going.

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Julia Hubbel. My Heeler Cooter with my best friend.

You a couch potato? Nothing whatsoever wrong with that. Consider adopting a cruelly-discarded senior dog. Give it the best years of its life right next to your warm butt. Not only will that animal not exhaust and annoy you, you will be rewarded with untold treasures of love and affection.

Please do not buy a Heeler...unless you have a farm, love to run, and have room for them to do their endless zoomies and ball and stick retrievals. They are, like border collies, breathtaking at agility competitions. If you happen to be a marathoner, he'll keep up. All the way. And when you're done he'll eyeball you and wait for you to go again. He'll be right on your Achilles tendon, nipping away. That's his job. You may find a senior ACD who only wants to lap cuddle. But do not expect that of a puppy or a young ACD.

Just ask any Western cattle or sheep rancher who owns one...or several. Or those of us who have owned and are passionate about this intensely powerful breed. We hike and climb and run stairs and camp and run and our Heelers push us to the limit. And then some.

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Julia Hubbel. My ACD with a "stick."

Heelers are not bred for houses. They're for athletes, cattle farmers, sheep farmers. For once, let's not condemn innocent animals to death or shelters because they happen to be featured on TV and we think that's gonna make us look "cool."

If you are an athlete and you're looking for a great hiking, running, working buddy, there are thousands upon thousands of unceremoniously-dumped superb companions who are waiting for their -forever home. Don't go to a breeder. Go to a shelter. Let's save other people's mistakes.

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Welcome home. You are HOME if you like irreverent, smart, funny, in-your-face writing. You are HOME if you like stories about interesting people of all ages, cultures, stripes, backgrounds, beliefs doing amazing things because they made different decisions. You are HOME if you wanna learn about aging vibrantly, being in the outdoors, getting and staying fit no matter our number. You are HOME if, on occasion, you like to laugh so hard you spew your drink of choice on your lap cat/dog/gerbil/centipede/soon-to-be ex. I work hard, ride fast horses, do lots of sports, fly high and still leap out of airplanes. Yeah, really, and I am 68. And yes I love, respect and appreciate feedback, including stuff that's hard. Because hard is the recipe for resilient. Wanna play? Let's. Please. Pull up a chair. There's room by the fire. In summer, there's room on the patio. (Okay so I don't have a patio. I made that up.)Get comfy. Bring a towel for your lap. Welcome home.

Eugene, OR
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