Owning a Rare Breed of Dog Can be Very Rewarding,
The pitfalls and rewards of owning, or being owned by, this esoteric breed of dog.
But it Can Also be Hard Work
Some years ago I had a dog who had had puppies. She was that rare and esoteric breed, the Norbury Mudhound. Owners of this rare and endangered Species will be the first to tell you how desirable they are, and consequently what a great responsibility it is of the owners to make sure that the strain remains pure.
Long before they were born, I had wanted to keep one of the puppies; preferring that puppy to be a bitch; believing that dogs are more trouble than bitches.
When I had walked proudly with their mother, Dulcie, on Streatham Common, there were many people: dog owners and otherwise who would approach me and ask what breed she was, and tell me (as if I didn’t already know) that she was the most beautiful dog imaginable, “And when she has puppies… Please let me be the first to know. I would love to have one of her adorable babies!” So I was set. Dulcie would have had to have given birth to at least a dozen offspring for all of these prospective owners to be satisfied.
So, of the five puppies, I had only named one; the bitch, as I had decided to keep her; I had named her India. The dogs were unnamed and “ready to go”. Unfortunately, they may have been ready to go, but where to?
As I have stated my bitch (Dulcie) had given birth to five puppies. Each was a purebred example of this amazing breed. Of the five of them; four were dogs and there was one bitch. They were born on 21st October, so by the end of December of that year, they are active; wholly active; and into everything. I loved them dearly, but there were times when I was heard to moan that I felt like drowning the lot of them… naturally sparing the mother, a wonderful dog named Dulcie, and I most probably would have spared the sole bitch in the litter, India.
Standard Norbury Mudhound - Barney
It is the Responsibility of the Owner to Keep the Breed Pure
So Dulcie had become pregnant; not a clandestine, casual affair with just any old hound, but a carefully selected suitor; chosen for his beauty and his similarity to Dulcie herself. He, Barney, was a typical Norbury Mudhound; a breed both esoteric yet eclectic. Eclectic in the random quality of his genes, as was Dulcie, yet esoteric in that he was one of the original Norbury Mudhounds; a breed known for its beauty, loyalty, steadfastness and all the other qualities that make up the character of the true, British Boy Scout.
The Attributes of the British Boy Scout
Do I hear someone say that the British Boy Scout is also noted for his fearlessness in battle and that he carries the seed of greatness somewhere about him; or perhaps a Marshal’s Baton in his knapsack? Ah! Here the similarity tends to peter out, if not, perhaps to end.
The Marshal’s Baton in his knapsack? Not very likely. Dulcie, especially, would be more likely to pack a Marshal’s Baton in her knapsack only if there were room enough after she had packed a good supply of sandwiches.
Steadfastness? Yes, when necessary.
Intelligence? Well, on occasions.
Bravery? I’m afraid not.
That bit about the fearlessness in battle; or in any other fraught situation, seems to be a poor description of your Common or Garden Norbury Mudhound. Norbury Mudhounds, if the truth be known, are completely lacking in the bravery gene.
Intelligence is relative - an Example
Intelligence is relative, obviously, and I cite an example of this.
Dulcie, several years ago, due to her extraordinary beauty and sense of style, was persuaded to take to the boards. Well, not actually take to the boards, but to appear on screen.
In London we have a well known and popular series that has been running for years. It deals with a fictional police station and its comings and going. The series is entitled ‘The Bill’. The Director decided that he required a dog for a particular scene. An “Animal Actors for Film and Television” agent was approached and she enquired locally; hoping to find, and perhaps “discover” a new Star. Our local pet shop told her that there was an incredibly talented and beautiful Norbury Mudhound residing in the vicinity, and the upshot was that she (the agent) approached me; I conferred with Dulcie, and she was signed up immediately. So Dulcie had her own agent: Gladys
Let me hasten to add, at this juncture, that Dulcie is not RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) trained, but has a natural flair for acting. She is more Stanislavski than Jonathan Miller in her approach to roles, but the end result is wonderful.
So the episode of ‘The Bill’ was scheduled to be filmed. Dulcie had a walk on part, and Gladys elected to walk on with her; Dulcie at one end of a lead, and Gladys at the other.
The scene was quite simple:
Scene: Block of flats in South London: First floor walkway:
Middle aged lady (Gladys) walking towards camera with dog (Dulcie) on lead. A Police Constable and a WPC (Woman Police Constable) rush from a stairwell, cutting in front of lady and dog. Camera follows them around to a door to the right of the walkway. They bang on the door, calling out,” It’s the police. Open up”.
End of scene.
So they rehearsed the scene. It went well.
The director said, “That’s fine. No trouble. We’ll film it”.
This time they filmed it but the WPC was a little slow.
“Let’s try that again,” said the director.
They filmed it again, but this is where the quick learning abilities of the Norbury Mudhound came into play:
Scene: Block of flats in South London: First floor walkway:
Middle aged lady (Gladys) walking towards camera with dog (Dulcie), but just after the scene had commenced, Dulcie turned towards Gladys, and said in a voice as clear as a bell, “If you watch carefully, two Police are going to run up those stairs and cut in front of us and…”
“Cut!” called out the Director, “Let’s try that again”.
They tried that scene several times more, but each time Dulcie would stop and say something like: “Here they come again”.
So they eventually had to use the scene where the WPC was a little slow.
Dulcie was in another television series, that one was about a Victorian Lady Doctor, but she was only in one scene:
Victorian slum street, London. Dog tied up on street corner.
Norbury Mudhounds became unfashionable in television series after that; Black Labradors or Golden Retrievers looking good on set, but also were not so likely to upstage the other actors.
Norbury Mudhounds come in two decidedly differing types.
Norbury Mudhounds come in two decidedly differing types. The devotee of the breed will tell you that the Norbury Mudhound is particularly easy to spot in a crowd. Their beauty is outstanding, obviously but it takes the true aficionado or enthusiast of the breed to recognise the sub-groups so easily. The females are decidedly different from the males inasmuch as the bitches resemble Tibetan Terriers whereas the dogs lean more towards that well known working dog, the Border Collie.
Shown at the Summer Exhibition by the Artist Sir Ian Hughes R.A.
By serendipity, that well known graphic artist, Sir Ian Hughes R.A. who was obsessed by the Norbury Mudhound as a breed, during his short but tragic life, made several pen and ink sketches and pencil sketches of Dulcie when she sat for him in his studio in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. These are real collectors’ pieces and are highly valued, being worth many thousands of pounds when they come up for auction at Sotheby’s and Bonhams, the Great London Auction Houses.
There is the Male Norbury Mudhound which looks like this:
There is the Female Norbury Mudhound which looks like this:
Exercise is important, but it has its drawbacks
Of course, having a rare breed one must make sure that they have sufficient exercise to keep them healthy and to make sure that they have a nice healthy colour in their cheeks. There is no sadder sight than a lacklustre Norbury Mudhound without that spring in his step or a healthy glow to his complexion (what part of his complexion is readily visible beneath his outer coating).
It is whilst exercising these delightful animals that the owner and the dog may be prone to many disagreeable situations. Many has been the time that I have been exercising my charges and have been approached by other dog walkers, or even civilians unattached to canines of any description, It is usually a case of someone wanting to tell me that my dogs are delightful (I know that), unusual (I am fully aware of that) or beautiful (It’s obvious). But on occasions I have been approached by (usually) large and aggressive females who will, firstly, ask me what breed my dogs are, and then when I tell the large and aggressive female that they are Norbury Mudhounds, they will reply, using a phrase I always find most irritating: “I think you’ll find that your little doggies are Tibetan terriers (or Old English Sheepdogs or some other breed of dog which they certainly are not)”.
In my opinion, and my friend Judi, who was the proud owner of a Norbury Mudhound, so she should know, will agree, that anybody who uses the phrase, “I think you’ll find…” should be garrotted on the spot. No excuses!
Another danger: Theft
One of the many dangers of owning a very rare breed of animal whether it is a very expensive racehorse capable of winning lots of money for its owners, a unique gecko from Afghanistan noted for its jewel like skin, or especially, a Norbury Mudhound, is theft.
Some unscrupulous people will go to no amount of devious and nefarious ends to steal a rare animal or whatever. It shames and embarrasses me to have to tell this little cautionary tale:
As I pointed out earlier; when Dulcie had her first litter, I was at my wits' end, and had been heard to say that I felt like drowning the lot of them (with the exclusion of Dulcie, and the one bitch). I had even named the bitch, India, as I aimed to keep her.
On the Christmas Eve following their birth, my dear friend Judi visited me to wish me the compliments of the season (as I thought) and to just give the puppies and their mother a little pat.
This is where this tale becomes quite horrific in the retelling.
Judi casually (Ha!) asked me if she could borrow India for the evening, as it would take a little of the stress of having six Norbury Mudhounds from my shoulders for a few hours. I trusted her. I said, “Yes”.
So she took dear little India and returned to her own home. And she never returned her… Never.
And how did she cover up her theft?
When she arrived at her home, her husband and their son, Andrew, were putting the finishing touches to dressing the Christmas tree. Let me say at this stage that Sid, her husband, although being a reasonable man, had told Judi that he would not countenance another dog in their home, Judi already had two, and Sid, in his wisdom had decided that two was enough. Let me also say that Andrew was a seven year old boy, with all the trust inherent in those individuals.
Judi walked into the room with India, the ten weeks old Norbury Mudhound, in her arms. Judi looked at Sid. Sid looked at Judi. How would she manage it? Would (or could) any woman be so perverse, so wicked? Sid had forbidden her to have another dog.
Gazing at her husband defiantly, Judi held little India out in her arms towards young Andrew.
“Happy Christmas, Andrew!” Wicked, corrupt woman.
“That’s a dirty trick, Judi,” said Sid, realising that the female of the species is craftier than the male.
Lost - probably stolen
Interesting side note: Andrew was not permitted to play with that Norbury Mudhound after Christmas. She had stolen it for herself and for herself alone. Judi renamed her Tally (Tallulah Blankhead) after the theft. No doubt to conceal her whereabouts. The dog is obviously a Norbury Mudhound. Sorry Judi, it didn’t work!
Judi "borrowed" Tally from me many Christmases ago and has never returned her. To my mind, that is Grand Larceny or Puppy Napping. I will have to look it up in my Glossary of Legal Terms.
Another danger that the owner of a Norbury Mudhound owner may experience when out and about with one of these delightful animals, is that large overweight Belgian females, usually of good class, may approach one and say something along the lines of “Your dog iss too fat”. Norbury Mudhounds are built for comfort, but can often reach an amazing speed if one (or all) of them happens to catch sight of a picnic basket or the odd sandwich which might be offered to her (them). They are more solid than fat.
This last observation concerning overweight Belgian females is based on personal experience. When told that Dulcie or one of the other Norbury Mudhounds “iss too fat”, I have always found it efficacious to reply, “And so are you… but you are also rude”. Works wonders!
Diet - and the Importance of Sticking to it
This leads me into diet: Dogs being dogs, and Norbury Mudhounds being dogs as well, it is important to feed them on a regular basis. Dogs, if given the opportunity to plan their eating routine would no doubt decide that lots and often would be a good idea. This might appeal to them, but there comes a time when one must put a brake on the amount that each and every one should eat. On the whole, one decent meal a day will suffice, and as Norbury Mudhounds are particularly omnivorous, there is little trouble in getting them to eat whenever one feels that dinner time has arrived.
Care should be taken with diet. Norbury Mudhounds, to all intents and purposes tend to be omnivorous, but also have their own particular preferences, or favourites.
Some in the sub sub group do tend to have particular favourite meals or snacks and these preferences should be addressed, mainly because it is nice to able to pander to their little whims and fancies now and again.
Zoki - Clementines and Chips
Dulcie has a passion for Bendix Bitter Mints (a passion passed down to her by her mother, when she lived with her former owners). She also is very partial to sandwiches if anybody on the Common, when she is out and about, is unpacking a picnic lunch. Her real favourite, however, is spaghetti bolognaise.
Barney, the father of this little pack of Norbury Mudhounds (and Dulcie’s de facto husband) lived with his owners in East Sussex, so I know little of his dietary requirements.
Malcolm - Chips and Curry and Rice
Zoki loves tangerines, clementines and chips (not necessarily at the same time).
Harry, when not asleep, eats everything and apparently likes everything. Not being a great conversationalist, one must assume that there is nothing that offends his palate.
Malcolm likes chips and curry and rice; together or separately, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Elisabeth is partial to everybody else’s dinner or snacks.
Semi (Semiramide) - Loves Pakoras so she is happiest at Eid celebrations
Semi (Semiramide) loves pakoras so she is happiest when pakoras are cooked during Eid celebrations.
Norbury Mudhounds are happiest in a family group
A quick rundown of the characteristics of each sub sub group
To put them into broad groups and name them accordingly:
The Dulcie sub sub group needs to be reassured frequently that there is plenty in the larder, and that the next meal will soon be on the table.
Tally (Tallulah Blankhead) possibly one of the loveliest of the Norbury Mudhound sub sub groups. Not noted for vast amounts of intelligence, but by virtue of this, one of the easiest to entertain. Tally resides on the Isle of Wight with Judi and is the apple of her owner’s eye.
Harry is pretty sanguine about everything and is happiest being in a comfortable position in the kitchen where he can sleep for about twenty-three hours of the day.
Elisabeth is happiest in the company of her owner... and if there is any mud involved, then she is even happier. But all Norbury Mudhounds have a predilection for mud and could find it anywhere … even in the middle of a desert. The Elisabeth sub sub group are pretty happy-go-lucky but met a large black dog once and was terrified of it. Fear of large black dogs could be counted as one of their attributes.
Semi is content to know that Zoki is safe and well (Semi thinks Zoki is the most amazing brother that any Norbury Mudhound could ever have).
Malcolm is possibly the kindest and most trusting dog in the world, and would like a cat of his own. He saw a cat once and hasn’t ever forgotten it. His two fears are getting his feet wet and going out into the garden after dark.
Zoki is quite unique; he is almost a sub group of a sub sub group. Zoki worries about everything and in his time has worried about ‘The Maastricht Treaty’, Global Warming, the War in Yugoslavia, Genetically Modifies Grains, the Economy, Postage Rates, High Cholesterol, UV Rays, and several other matters that he won’t even discuss.
Drawing to the end of this document, one must point out that, although your typical Norbury Mudhound is a cheerful little chap and seems to take the world in his stride (or her stride) he or she can have some deep-seated anxiety issues which must be addressed if one were to undertake to having a Norbury Mudhound as a companion and friend.
For example, they are happiest in a family group.
The Norbury Mudhound - a guardian for your property and a companion for life.
So, in a nutshell, taking on the responsibility of owning (or being owned by) a Norbury Mudhound has its pitfalls, but also can be very rewarding. Think long and hard before you take that step, for once taken, there is no going back.