With tobacco’s fortunes declining and indigo unnecessary, the ever-resourceful South has found a new export: dogs.
Southern animal rescues are over capacity, so they’re sending their excess dogs to New England, where demand exceeds supply. This leads to an uncomfortable, region-baiting question: Why do they have so many strays, and we don’t? A year ago, the founder of a Boston no-kill shelter said it’s because “animal rights are not favored in the South” and Southerners don’t spay and neuter their pets. This is like telling a friend she’s gotten fatter. It may be true, but must not be said. To keep the Union intact, wag more, snark less.
Say what you want about Southerners, but they’re savvy enough to pull one on us. They’re beginning to foist a homely mutt on unsuspecting New Englanders who believe they’re getting an exotic new breed called the “Carolina dog.”
There is, in fact, a Carolina dog, also known as an American dingo. It’s light brown and has pointed ears and a curly tail. If you’ve got one, and can prove its ancestry, you can register it with the American Rare Breed Association and the United Kennel Club.
It’s unclear, however, why anyone would want one of these dogs. The UKC calls it a “pariah” breed, on par with feral dogs of India. And this is the pedigreed version.
Most canines called “Carolina dogs” are just mixed-breed mutts. In the South, where they trot along rural roads, grinning like jack o’lanterns, they’re as common and bland as grits. New Englanders, as a rule, are impervious to grits, but we appear alarmingly susceptible to Carolina dogs.
“Up in the North, they have a lot of designer breeds. They’re looking for something different,” Donna Casamento, the adoption director of Pawmetto Lifeline, a South Carolina rescue, recently told The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. “It’s the Carolina dogs that tend to get left behind in our shelters, and we wanted to create a program that addressed that problem,” she said.
Translation for those of you who don’t speak Southern: They’re keeping all the cute dogs in Dixie. They’ll be sending the ugly ones up here.
This proves that the South’s genius is not limited to biscuits and gravy, but to high-level marketing worthy of Newbury Street. These are the same people who rebranded the cockroach as the “palmetto bug,” making the loathsome, crunchy creatures seem cuddly and precious. Unless we pay attention and guard our borders closely, we’ll soon need Carolina dog exterminators, too.
Besides the aesthetic issues involved in populating New England with dogs the UKC says resemble “small jackals,” there are serious risks in the business of trafficking dogs across state lines, as the manager of a shelter in the western suburbs found out.
Earlier this year, Sue Bennison lost her job at Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton, after a Georgia hound and her puppies came down with distemper. Because the dogs had not been quarantined, another dog contracted it, too, and all had to be euthanized. The shelter shut down for three weeks and was fined $1,000 by the state.
Massachusetts requires groups bringing dogs here to register with the state, and imported animals must be isolated for at least 48 hours. The state’s Division of Animal Health lists approved groups on its website and encourages people to check for compliance before adopting. Still, with about 10,000 dogs brought into Massachusetts each year, the most well-meaning of people will make mistakes; we all know no good deed goes unpunished.
But for families who have attempted to adopt a dog at a Boston shelter, only to be turned away because of their bank account, their unfenced yard, and the lack of an advanced degree in veterinary medicine, a Carolina dog may be the only option. Politeness, however, requires that we, as a region, repay the gift of excess Southern strays.
Give us your tired, your poor, your snouty brown mutts, and we shall reciprocate and send you some cats. Yes, they look like ordinary gray-and-brown domestic shorthairs, but they are actually purebred and exotic. They’re Massachusetts cats. Came over on the Mayflower, you know.
Jennifer Graham writes regularly for the Globe. Her website is www.jennifergraham.com.