Saturday, December 24, 2011

Talla, Q and A

Q: What kind of dog is Talla?

A: Talla is a street dog from Sonora, Mexico. While she is not a purebred (a selectively bred animal with a recorded pedigree) she is still a distinct type of dog. Many breeds started out like this - Canaan Dogs, Thai Ridgebacks, and Basenjis, just to name a few. The Mexidog can be classified as such:
A medium sized, short coated, slender dog with long legs, a curved tail and prick (or semi-prick) ears. Average weight is 35-55lbs. The head is dry and wedge shaped, with dark brown or black eyes. Body shape is reminiscent of a sighthound, with decent ribspring, depth of chest and a defined tuck-up. Front legs turn neither in nor out, and the legs are long and refined - yet strong. Front is well angulated, and pasterns are only slightly let down. Rear is moderately angulated with sufficient turn of stifle. Topline is level, and the croup is slightly rounded. Coat is short but surprisingly dense, with slightly longer coats less common. Feet are oval shaped, with well arched toes. Many have functional fifth toes on their rear feet, which resemble dewclaws but are actually extra toes - complete with pads and normally-sized & fully developed carpal bones. The most common color is tawny-gold with a black mask and white toes, but other colors (such as black, sable, tricolor, and brindle, all with or without white markings) are seen.

Temperament is social, intelligent and biddable, but somewhat intense. They are active and athletic, but have definite "off switches" as adults. Belligerence towards other dogs is rare - this is a type that usually gets along well with other animals. They are decent watchdogs, but not a true guardian breed. They generally do not bark unless there is reason for them to do so.

If raised away from the streets, they are generally quite healthy and hardy. The weak, the unsound and the sick rarely live long enough on the streets to pass on their genes.

Three examples of tri-color Sonoran Street dogs

Example of a less commonly seen phenotype - brindle, with a longer coat

Q: How big will Talla get?

A: Our best guess is about 35-40lbs, and 15-17" at the shoulder. As of right now, she's 13lbs and about 10" at the shoulder.

Q: How old is Talla?

A: We estimate her birthdate to be somewhere around Halloween (10/31/11) or perhaps a week or two earlier.

Q: Why rescue a dog from Mexico? Couldn't you rescue an American shelter dog instead?

A: The short answer? Because I wanted to, and No. The long answer is a bit more complex, but I'm beginning to realize that I need to fully and concisely explain my decision.

I didn't want just any dog - I had a very specific list of requirements, and the only dog I could find (without spending years scouring Petfinder on the offchance my dream dog would appear, and then having to apply for said dog and possibly be turned down for any number of asinine reasons) was the Sonoran street dog. I did not "take a home" from an American shelter dog - if I couldn't obtain a Sonoran street dog, I would have saved up and imported a dog (possibly a Portuguese Podengo Medio) from a breeder overseas anyway.

Many American shelter dogs that matched our physical requirements do not have the temperament I need. I did not want a terrier, but many similar American dogs are Rat Terrier or Miniature Pinscher mixes. I did not want a small pit bull, and I did not want a typical sighthound - but those breeds also are somewhat similar in appearance to the Sonoran street dog. Since we already have three dogs (and usually a foster as well) we have to be very particular about what we bring into the house. In our minds, the Sonoran street dog is as much a "breed" as our Dobermans and our Corgi - we knew what we were getting in Talla.

The cost of flying her to Iowa was no more than an average adoption fee for a single dog from a breed-specific rescue.

The stray dog of Mexico does not share the American shelter dog's "luxury" of a humane death by euthanasia. The only way for a stray dog to be humanely euthanized in Mexico is if someone pays for it, and that is a rare occurrence. Most puppies die - only the clever ones survive their first year. They are either killed by other dogs, hit by cars, eaten by predators or dispensed by human beings who believe them to be a nuisance. Of course, many just starve to death. In Sonora, 50% of adult strays die from an aggressive venereal cancer and sarcoptic mange. If their odds aren't bad enough, poisoned food is often set out for the strays.

The Mexican government offers no financial assistance for shelters, spay/neuter programs or humane organizations. Some municipalities have "perreros" - essentially rudimentary dog pounds - and if they're lucky, they have enough money to humanely kill their dogs. Most house strays outdoors in large pens until they are killed. Perreros in poorer areas have been known to kill their dogs by electrocution via car batteries, since the drugs used to humanely euthanize animals are either scarce or too expensive.

So really - when you stop to consider the world Talla was born into, and what her fate could have been - it seems preposterous to question the motives for those of use who rescue these poor dogs. I hate to be harsh... but American shelter dogs have it made in the shade compared to the estimated 20 million stray dogs of Mexico.

Lastly, I do my fair share for America's unwanted dogs as well. I extensively foster, volunteer and transport for Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus - which is an amazing organization that has also taken in "imported" rescue cases from South America. I'm sure Diablo, Bernie, Allicyn, Ned, Riley, Katie, Autumn and Tucker (my fosters from 2011 alone) wouldn't mind me extending my kindness to a Mexican stray. So before anyone criticizes me (or anyone else) for adopting a Mexican street dog, I ask that they think about what they have done for rescue this year... and if they haven't had eight or more fosters, or put 5,000+ miles on their car this year for American rescue dogs... I politely ask that they STFU.


  1. You are making me want one. Stoppit :p

    Talla is adorable, and I freaking LOVE her fetching tag and her EARS. :D

  2. Congratulations on your new addition!

  3. I'm so glad I happened upon your site!

    We recently adopted, what I learn now to be, a Sonoran Street Dog. Our little girl (Etta) is just a few months older than Talla (a mystery really, but we're calling Sept 1/11 her birthday). We live in Victoria BC, Canada (Pacific Northwest?) - a city with a super high dog adoption rate, and a relatively mild climate, so there are many mexican dog rescues that bring pups to our area (mostly from an SPCA in Puerto Vallarta).

    I'm wondering where you found the information you quoted in this post? When I search "Sonoran Dog" I only find links to a heartburn inducing street food from Arizona.

    Hope your cutie is as sweet to you as ours is to us - they're nearly identical!

  4. She's adorable and needed a home and you wanted her. A perfect fit. It shouldn't matter beyond that. I hear similar comments about why we went to China to adopt our daughters. I tell people all children deserve a home and my girls are just as deserving of a good home as any others. Congratulations on your pup.


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