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mal-lee-a-bl adj. 1) capable of being hammered or pressed into shape without breaking. 2) able to be influenced. A Mel-leable Life: The one I'm living.

“Dog Town”, Another Barking Great Read

DogTown: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Redemption Stefan Bechtel

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The BlurbA national rescue organization with more than 200,000 members, DogTown is the area where dogs live at the nation’s largest companion animal sanctuary run by Best Friends Animal Society. This informative, inspiring book presents representative stories of dogs considered unadoptable by other shelters. They come from many backgrounds: some were abandoned; some prowled the streets as strays; others suffer from mysterious illnesses, serious injuries, or antisocial behaviors that discourage potential adopters. But good fortune led them to Best Friends and the dedicated people devoted to helping them recover and find welcoming homes.

These compelling, winningly illustrated true stories, each uniquely moving and inspirational, draw upon the experience of veterinarians, trainers, and volunteers to probe a range of tough, touching cases that evoke both the joy and the occasional but inevitable heartbreak that accompanies this work. Each chapter follows a dog from the first day at Dogtown until he ultimately finds (or doesn’t find) a permanent new home, focusing both on the relationship between the dog and the Dogtown staff and on the latest discoveries about animal health and behavior. We learn how dogs process information, how trauma affects their behavior, and how people can help them overcome their problems. In the end, we come to see that there are no “bad dogs” and that with patience, care, and compassion, people can help dogs to heal.

What I Thought:

Sometimes I avoid dog books because I become upset when reading of an animal’s suffering and the cruel things people can do to them. However, I’m happy to report that this isn’t one of those books that focus’ on the suffering – it rather focus’s on the dog’s recovery and it’s “happily ever after”. It is filled with life affirming moments both from the actions of the wonderful staff and the dogs themselves. Even when dealing with a death there is great solace that the dog found its way to a place where it could experience happiness, comfort and a fulfilled life.

After reading this I too want to pack up and head to DogTown to not only help out in caring for the animals, but to also meet the amazing, dedicated people who care for them.

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Rescue Dogs, Various Behavioural Issues

Tool(s) Used: Book Resource

Cost: I got the kindle edition from amazon.com for $5.79

Ease of Implementation: Not applicable. Though there were some really great tips in the book, these are aimed more at dog owners and inspiring them when things are tough, as opposed to a “how-to” guide.

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Effective mainly because it inspired me to carry on and realise that there honestly is a light at the end of the tunnel and that with time and effort I just know we’ll get there – she’s already made so much progress!

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Have you read the Dogtown book, or seen the TV series? What do you think of it?

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What is the Canine Good Citizen Test?

What is this Canine Good Citizen (CGC) stuff, anyway? Regular readers of the blog will know that as part of our hard work with Phoebe to overcome her fears and reactivity, we’ve been completing some of the Canine Good Citizen Tests. You can read about how well she did at the Bronze CGC Test in 2013, as well as the Silver CGC Test in 2014.

In the posts I tried to give as full a description of the test as possible, but words still don’t paint as great a picture as an actual video. This great YouTube clip shows exactly what the Bronze Level Canine Good Citizen entails for those who are interested in learning more about the test.

 

As you can see, the tests are all quite simple, but require that your dog and you have a great bond and that he listens to you, with understanding of expectations. When you see each item you can also see where each of these would become useful in everyday situations, like walking with sudden noises in a street, getting a veterinary / groomers examination etc – which is after all the main aim of the test.

For a dog like Phoebe to pass these simple, yet important requirements has made me so proud of her. With her unknown history and various reactivity and fear based issues these tests have made identifying goals and progress so much easier for us on our journey to recovery. We’re even busy practicing for the Gold Level CGC!

This test is one that I highly recommend that every owner should do – whether formally through an accredited tester, or even at home by reading the tests and practicing them all whenever you get the chance. Both you and your dog will be happier for the quality time spent working together!

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. To read the full “effectiveness” review you can refer back to the posts on achieving the Bronze and Silver Certifications I wrote up about Phoebe.

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So what do you think? Can you see the effectiveness of a qualification like this?

“But what IS Phoebe?”

Phoebe is many things. She’s a companion, a friend, a protector and above all else, a loved and trusted family member. But I know that’s not what people mean when they ask this question. What they really want to know is how to classify her and pigeon-hole her by her supposed ‘breed characteristics’.

The answer is that she is an AfriCanis. Most people don’t know much about the breed, and because it’s only recently been added as an “Official” breed by the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA), people still tend to refer to her as a “township dog”, or more generally just as a “mixed breed Rescue dog” even after being told about her breed history. She’s so much more than a hodge-podge collection of other breeds – she’s unique and fits the wonderful characteristics of the AfriCanis to a “T”.

Phoebe: Proud and Beautiful AfriCanis

Phoebe: Proud and Beautiful AfriCanis

 

I’ve briefly touched on her breed specifics before during on Day 11 of the Blogtober Challenge, but felt this deserved more information on the little known facts of this wonderful breed.

I was going to try to explain the breed in my experience, but I found this excellent historical summary from the AfriCanis Society that explains in detail in a way much better than I ever could:

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(This is attributed to Edith Gallant at the AfriCanis Society of South Africa facebook page)

“Subject: Revised draft of letter – Difference between AfriCanis and “township dog”

Let me try to explain the difference between an AfriCanis and a so-called township dog.

The AfriCanis is the traditional rural African dog found in traditional isolated tribal lands, such as the interior of Zululand, the former Transkei, Sekhukhuneland and Vendaland.

The apartheid regime kept such rural areas marginalized, and people living in these areas, notably in the former ‘Bantustan’regions, were relatively isolated. This isolation was extended to their dogs. From colonial times, white people looked upon these dogs with contempt, and any dogs found trespassing were shot. It is largely because of the isolation enforced by apartheid that these dogs, having been kept separate, still exist.

These dogs have also been called ‘Nguni dogs’ or ‘Bantu dogs’, because they migrated with the Early Iron Age Bantu-speaking people into southern Africa. They also occur in northern Botswana, Namibia,  Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland.

More information can be found on the AfriCanis Society’s website under ‘History’ (see http:// ………

The AfriCanis are not identified by standardised physical characteristics. They are a landrace and not a breed. They have not been selectively bred for their looks, but rather they exemplify survival of the fittest and are well adapted to the demands of their environment and their custodians. They differ from region to region, for example, they are generally taller in the desert and smaller in more forested regions. These dogs occur in a great variety of colours, as do the Nguni cattle. Genetic DNA research has found a specific DNA marker for the AfriCanis that differs from any other dog (see under ‘literature’ on the website). In the very near future we will be able to test individual dogs to see if they carry this marker or not.

AfriCanis are all-rounders. In the traditional tribal lands, each day they help herd boys bring the cattle to and from the grazing lands, and the dogs fiercely guard the animals in their kraals at the night. The dogs live alongside the farm animals, and although they are excellent rat hunters, they do not hunt large prey alone. Traditionally, they assist their owners when men and their dogs hunt for the pot.

Dogs in the rural areas are seldom tied up. Although they sometimes roam, each dog has an owner and each dog is named. Dogs are allowed to go to visit another homestead if a female is on heat. But if owners whistle for their dogs, they immediately respond and return home. Most commonly, the dogs are to be found lying around the homesteads, often keeping company with older women and children. This is a totally different environment to that of a township.

What is a ‘township dog’?

A legacy of apartheid, townships are urban or peri-urban residential areas housing people from different cultures and origins. Historically, under apartheid townships were zoned for Black and Coloured people. When moving to urban areas, people from the countryside did not usually bring their traditional dogs with them, leaving the dogs in the rural areas with their families. In instances where rural dogs did come to the townships with their owners, in due course they would breed with dogs roaming in the township areas. Dogs in the townships come from a variety of backgrounds and include a variety of breeds and cross-breeds of all shapes and sizes as well as some traditional AfriCanis. In the townships these dog interbreed and the ‘township dogs’ that result over time are not traditional Africanis dogs, though some can be described as the AfriCanis type or an AfriCanis-cross.

I hope the above explains the difference between an AfriCanis and a township dog, and that not all cross-breed dogs from the townships should be described as being AfriCanis.”

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For more information you can also check out the Official AfriCanis historical reference page here.

I hope this has given you more insight and a deeper curiousity for these wonderful dogs. I can truly attest to the fact that you will never find a kinder, gentler and more loyal companion than an AfriCanis, so if you’re looking for a new dog to add to your family I urge you to look for one of these amazing dogs!