Monday, October 15, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: "Of Pedigree Unknown"

"Nothing spoils dogs like shows. Scientific breeders have exaggerated superficial appearance, often at the expense of stamina and courage and brains, until many modern showdogs are but miserable caricatures of the original animals which made their breed famous." - page 1, Chapter 1, Of Pedigree Unknown

Thus begins a fascinating, spellbinding tale of a lifetimes' adventure with real working dogs.

Beginning with Mick, the bull terrier mix ratting companion of his youth, Mr. Drabble introduces his reader to the arts of ferreting for rabbits and rats. As he grows, his tastes in sport mature and the excitement of netting gives way to lamping and coursing hares with the fleet lurchers.

Along the way he shares the struggles and trials of working dog breeders and players, the sad fate of the pit bull and vanishing of working whippets. In the real working dog world, ability is the key, not pedigree, and many workers pick their best dogs out from the animal shelters.

"They were not quite like the modern show whippet, which is a hunched-up, weak-looking creature, tail tucked so tight between its legs that it appears to be trying to ward off the worst effects of chronic colic." - page 78, Chapter 5, Of Pedigree Unkown

When Mr. Drabble wanted a replacement for his pedigreed german shephard, with the showdog hips that cut short her working years, he went out to a 'backyard breeder' ad in the local paper. The female was chained, the male (from an animal shelter the owner said) was penned and both were as threatening and intimidating as could be. The pups were carousing with the human youngsters and Mr. Drabble was pleased. A wise and experienced working dog owner, he knew what he was looking for and he knew what he saw. The boistrous little girl he picked out of that litter turned out to be one of the best dogs he ever had.

Phil Drabble was never a libertarian but his early involvement with working dogs developed a true appreciation for the natural relationships between hunted and hunter, an appreciation that doubtless held at bay more emotional sympathies for the anti-human activists.

If you want to learn the thrill of the hunt, feel the excitement of the dogs and breathe the crisp dale morning air, Phil Drabble provides a solid afternoons diversion with dogs 'Of Pedigree Unknown'.

Ms. X recommends: Get it. Read it. Live it.

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