Adopted: January 2014
Shelter: AWOL Mutts (VA)
Original Name: Shiver
Hometown: Washington D.C.
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When my daughter, Lucy, was born, our wonderful rescue dog Cosmo was already in middle age. After he died, my wife and I wanted to get a puppy so Lucy could have that experience. My wife really wanted a German shepherd because Cosmo, though a mutt, was one of the smartest, most well-trained (and easily trained) dogs we’d ever known. We thought a German Shepherd would be the mostly likely dog to follow in Cosmo’s enormous pawsteps (all that Prussian discipline!). But we also firmly believe in adopting rescues, because there are so many good dogs out there.
We scoured rescue sites for puppies on Petfinder and other sites. We finally found Shiver through AWOL Mutts in Virginia. She was named Shiver because she was found in the dead of winter with her brother, Sickle in Bamburg, South Carolina by the rescue group Mary Ann Morris Animal Society (M.A.M.A.S.). They said she was a German-Shepherd mix. And, she was adorable!
We picked her up from the back of a car in a Virginia parking lot that was part of a caravan of rescues from further south. She was scared and docile – but we assumed that was because everything was so new and frightening. We took her home and soon discovered two things. First, she had Parvo, a terrible disease that many puppies develop before they can be vaccinated if they’re separated from their mothers too soon (they get antibodies while nursing). She almost died from it.
The second thing we discovered after she got better: She wasn’t a German Shepherd Mix, but a Carolina Dog, a little known breed of “Pariah dogs” that live in the wild in the southeastern U.S., mostly in the swamps and woods of Georgia and South Carolina. Often called “The American Dingo,” Carolina dogs have some unique characteristics owing to the fact that they missed most of the deliberate breeding of the “normal” dog breeds familiar to most of us and have essentially lived in the wild for centuries.
And what a dingo she turned out to be! This was no German Shepherd, but a kind of half wild, critter-chasing (and critter-catching) handful. Carolina dogs are smart, energetic and, at least in Zoë’s case, extremely mischievous. Carolina dogs are fiercely loyal to their pack (two-legged or four), wary of human strangers, and even more wary of canine ones.
When we adopted Pippa, a sweethearted Springer Spaniel that a family member couldn’t care for anymore, Zoë was very reluctant to welcome a new dog to her pack with open paws. But now they are inseparable friends.
It took work to transform Zoë from the Carolina swamp dog we got by accident, into the endlessly fascinating and loyal family member she is today. I don’t want our story to dissuade anyone from adopting a rescue, because we don’t regret our choice at all. And rescuing a dog is one of the most rewarding things someone can do.
But Zoë’s story is an instructive one. No matter what kind of dog you get – rescue mutt or purebred show dog -- will require work and love but that work will be rewarded ten times over and that love will be returned even more.