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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Della– A Carolina Dog

Written by  Dr. Tony Calo

Connor and I have a dear friend named Betsy who we hadn’t seen in several months. She was coming over to our house for dinner to catch up. Since we’d last seen Betsy, she’d adopted a dog. She asked if she could bring her new companion with her. Happily, our Violet, Daisy, and Henry are generally accepting of visitors– both human or canine– so we said sure.

When Della arrived at our home, several things struck me about her – firstly her unique and beautiful appearance. She was medium-sized, extremely thin, and extremely muscled. She had sharp angles on every part of her body. She was the color of cream. Her eyes were the color and shape of almonds. Her eyes gave a clear look into the depth of her soul. It was a quiet soul that was as old as time. The best part was the extremely big erect ears on the top of her head – saying “serious” and “lighthearted” all at once. I was captivated.

It turns out that Della is a Carolina dog. I’d heard of this breed but had only met a few. Della’s personal story was that of a rescue dog. She was found in a shelter in South Carolina. The shelter did not have a “no kill” policy so she was taken by a rescue group in Westchester, New York. One of Betsy’s friends saw this dog and knew that Betsy and Della would be a match made in heaven. With that, Della moved South again but this time to a permanent home in Maryland.

The history of her breed is no less interesting. Carolina dogs are considered a primitive breed, which means that they have been only minimally effected by the presence of humans. In general, dogs of the primitive type, are a product of natural selection rather being bred for a certain purpose or a certain look as is the case with modern dog breed. Primitive dogs are as close to wild dogs as possible without being feral. Other examples of primitive dogs include the Dingo in Australia and the Basenji in Africa. Carolina dogs lack genetic markers of European dogs. They are most closely related to Asian dogs – which has led to the speculation that these dogs crossed the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago, closely following humans from Asia into North America. These dogs then spread across the continent and settled in the swamplands and pine barrens of southeast America.

The Carolina dog then gained more widespread recognition in the 1970s when it was “discovered” by a research ecologist at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Lab. He initially found these dogs working at the Savannah River site. As he studied these dogs, he found entire packs in the isolated swamp and pine areas of South Carolina and Georgia. The dogs were taken in by the humans that first found them and eventually breeding programs developed. Although there are still many wild roaming Carolina dogs, it was these breeding programs that allowed for these dogs to become pets and companions.

The wild origins of the Carolina largely account for the characteristics of being shy and suspicious of strangers. They can be somewhat aloof. Despite this, they are extremely loyal to their pack. In modern terms, their pack is their family unit. They are also extremely active. They make perfect companions for runners, hikers, and campers. This is why Betsy and Della are soulmates. They are both avid runners and they both love being in the great outdoors.

It was amazing meeting Della. She is a wonderful example of the Carolina dog. If you or someone you know has and loves a Carolina dog, please write to Violet to let her know all about it.

Please feel free to write Violet’s Vet with any pet questions– This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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