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Thursday, January 28, 2016

In Other Words: Putting Wow in Bow Wow

So I admit to this deception - I make up dog breeds. Why? Well, a mutt needs a little dignity and this gives them a little instant heritage. I love dogs and I have a soft spot for mutts. The muttier the better.

We had one dog, Buddy Einstein the Genius, who looked like he was assembled by a sensory deprived committee - long and lean body, big ears, colored like a shepherd, top knot like a lab, a huge snout, but the eyes, ah, the eyes.

One was blue and the other was marbled blue and brown. It really was a striking characteristic. They always photographed red and green. Christmas eyes.  But he was loving, smart, and gentle. I mean, he would share his dog toys with small children.  Yep. He would often select one of his toys and deposit it in front of a child and then he would drop into play mode.

As Buddy took my wife and me on a stroll around town, a woman stopped us and remarked upon the unique physique of Buddy Einstein the Genius. He sat politely still as she commented upon his eyes. “My, what interesting eyes he has.”

I took this as my cue. I said, “Yeah, it’s unique to his breed. You will probably see more of them as they grow in popularity.”  At this point my wife walked way - fast.  She knew what was coming.

I went on. ”He’s a South African Race Hound.  You see, they run the track one way during the day and the other way at night so he has a day eye and a night eye. He is a remarkable pup.”

He wagged his tail and looked so innocent.

I added, “His brother is here in town so you might see him too.”  Which was true. And they had matching eyes. I am glad that Google wasn’t around then.

Another time I told someone that Buddy was a de Gaulle Truffle Hound and that his rather large snout was an advantage to rooting out valuable truffles in the French countryside.  Again, my wife just walked away.

I even made up breeds for friends’ dogs.  Some of my favorites include a Gallaudet Sight Hound, a Liverpool Blackbird Retriever, a Guernsey Herder, and a New Brunswick Pin Headed Terrier. It’s really simple and fun. Combine the dog’s personality, a place, and an activity and/or a physical characteristic and you have instant heritage. It’s goofy dufus fun.

Ken Fecher plays this game too. We have been making each other laugh with this game for a few years now and he has invented some fantastic names and background stories. For example his friend, Wayne Turner, brought a dog back from his tour in Iraq so Ken dubbed it  “The Australian Prairie Dingo.”

Ken says, “Our previous dog, Maggie, was a New England Deerhind Prancer.  The region was off the top of our head, but she had a white furry rear end like a deer and she pranced when she walked. A friend of ours had a "Northern Thura Darter.”  Again, the region was irrelevant, Thura is the Greek word for door, and the dog was an escape artist.  If you cracked the door to outside, the dog was gone. There's the "Marian Elder Shepard,”  a name I gave our neighbor's dog who lives on Marian, is elderly and and has found herself alone since her husband went into the nursing home.  The dog is her new companion.  And the Belgian Siren Howler (obvious reasons). The trick is, the dog has to be a mutt.” And after a little thought he added one more. “There's the Albanian Snow Bitzer. A Bitzer is a term used in certain parts of the country for the word mutt.”

But it’s just a game. What’s important is the character of the dog.

Pet owners buy expensive DNA tests to discover their pet’s genetic background. The dog doesn’t care. All it wants is a warm house, food, affection, and fun. Heck, I would supply quite the colorful background for the same money. I don’t care about the dog’s pedigree and I don’t care about a person’s pedigree. What’s important is character. Is the dog kind? Smart? Loyal? Plays well with others? Affectionate? I look for the same characteristics in dogs as I do in people.

Buddy Einstein the Genius taught me well.  After all, we are a nation of mutts.

Chuck Keller. 


  1. Chuck...this is the first time I've read you and said to myself "right on!" I am in absolute agreement...but I hope this extends to mixed breeds who look like pit bulls but are really just mutt and mutt (which I agree is always a perfect combination). It's never the breed or the fancy name -- it's whether or not it's a good dog with loving, responsible owners. Thanks for the article!