The plan had been to get a female English Shepherd, last Spring... Y'all may remember that plan. However, that never happened. I had a deposit down on a lovely sable-colored girl, and she was supposed to be shipped to me in May. Everything seemed good to go. However, I had a continuing feeling of anxiety in the pit of my stomach about the situation. Something wasn't right... It took a few weeks, but eventually I came to the realization that I am simply not ready to have another English Shepherd. Not yet. Gyp was the best dog I have ever had, and possibly ever will have had. He was intelligent, loyal, had great instincts, and was always right where you needed him.
And that was my problem. I didn't feel like I could have another English Shepherd now because Gyp was so darn good! I was afraid I would constantly be comparing her to Gyp, expecting her to be like him, and getting upset when she failed to meet those expectations. That's no way to treat a dog. So I cancelled the deposit, and began researching other breeds for our budding farm.
I have researched so many possible breeds that I could probably be an impromptu AKC/UKC dog judge. Oy vey. It's been a lot. During June and July, it looked like we might get a Border Collie from a renowned breeder here in the states. The pups were born, we picked out a male that we liked... All seemed good. Then the breeder called one afternoon and said some other big wig breeder wanted a pup from this litter and she wanted to give him/her our chosen canine. What does one say to that?? I guess I could have held my ground and kept my deposit, but I figure if something's supposed to happen then it'll happen. Maybe this was fate's way of saying "No Border Collie".
Back to the drawing board.
In the end, it was probably a good thing about the collie pup. I am dying to compete in sheepdog trials, but if I'm truly honest with myself, I have to admit that I'm not in that stage of life where I can jump up and toodle off to some competition. Not with a farm, and young kids. Sigh.
It also probably worked well since Hubby and I agree that we really need a dog that has hunting/tracking instincts too. So now we were looking for basically a variant of the English Shepherd. A herding, hunting, guarding, companion kind of dog.
We need something that can track a wounded deer, keep a wild hog pinned in one spot (Hubby is quite smitten with hog hunting and is trying to get me into it; to which I said I would only do it with dogs!), flush rabbits and birds out of the brush, retrieve downed waterfowl and other small game, herd our growing number of calves (and soon nurse cows), help with adult hogs (if we decide to go the route of breeding), alert us of strangers on the property, and still be a dog I can trust around a toddler.
Yeah. Basically we need an English Shepherd on steroids.
I was eventually pointed in the direction of a breed that I hadn't considered before: The Catahoula Leopard Dog. Looks like a hound, but does whatever you need it to do. I've been around these dogs before, but I had only experienced poorly-bred, hyper, idiotic specimens. I got in touch with a breeder who had champions in the ring and field, and was shown that these can actually be very impressive dogs that come with an on/off switch. Bingo. The breeder is willing to put me on a wait list for next spring, but is asking $650 per pup. A price I'm willing to pay for quality, but then there's the other side of the pendulum's swing:
My husband does not understand paying that much for a dog. Neither does any of the family that I've found myself married into. Sure, they all like dogs, but to them a crossbred works just as well as a purebred. I'm hesitant. Using crossbreds for working seems an awful lot like playing with fire, or simply getting a grab bag of instincts. But then, I'm also willing to try something new before judging it; so I'll consider a crossbred.
There's a family an hour north of me who has a litter of pups from their working farm dogs. The sire is a Blackmouth Cur/Catahoula cross. He hunts, herds, and guards. The dam is a Blue heeler who works cattle. They've got seven pups up for sale in the next few weeks; asking price is $180, but they'll consider a swap.
I admit, I'm tempted by these pups. But still hesitant. Purebred or crossbred? What do you think? Which option would you go for?