I’ve been Googling rez dogs to see what is going on. After all, my previous two posts were really discussing the state of affairs 20-30 years ago. Sadly, things have degenerated a bit. An elderly man recently got killed by a feral dog pack. I watched a 45 minute video about stray dogs on Navajo.
It made me start thinking. I did not read the following somewhere, I am extrapolating from clues. The first clue is that some years ago the Navajo/Hopi land dispute was settled and a number of Navajos found themselves living on what was Hopi land. So, they had to move. Most of them moved into subdivisions. The video looks like it was filmed around Window Rock in a deary subdivision with no plants anywhere around.
Navajos have always been dog lovers and every home had a little pack, especially if they herded sheep. Before the land settlement, many Navajos living on the Rez lived in small family units which were widely separated by open land. Many fewer people live that way, now. When people moved into subdivisions, of course they brought their dogs. Something about subdivision living was easier on the dogs. They lived in tight quarters. Now a subdivision with a hundred houses takes up less space than one hogan surrounded by open space.
Few, if any of the environmental pressures on dogs living out in the country, like coyotes, wandering off, cactus assaults, extreme weather and variable food sources now applied. The size of the country pack could be limited by the food sources, plus many pups did not make it to adulthood because they made mistakes and got into trouble, so only clever dogs who figured out how to deal with the environment made it.
In the subdivision, life was easy for dogs at first, but some of the forces governing dogs in the country were no longer in play and so almost all the pups born from random matings survived. Before many years had passed, the dogs were overrunning the subdivision. A lot of the results of the random breeding were not keepers, they weren’t culled, but turned loose. Most of the subdivision culls (or what should have been culls) survived, with no selection going on over who they bred to. So they started self selecting so to speak. The more aggressive dogs had an advantage over the gentle dogs because they were not under human control.
The dog population absolutely exploded according to this AP article.
On the vast Navajo Nation, wildlife and animal control manager Kevin Gleason estimates there are four to five dogs for each of the more than 89,000 households — or as many as 445,000 dogs, most of which roam unchecked, killing livestock and biting people with alarming regularity.
“They kill everything,” Gleason said in a recent interview. “Cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, horses. We’ve also had people severely injured by them. We’ve had people with horrendous bites. We just had a case … where a man lost 37 sheep to a pack of dogs.
“We have that going on all the time. Our officers respond to more than 25 bite cases a month, and 25 livestock damage cases a month.”
While I strongly dispute those numbers of strays!!!- The rest of the article is interesting reading too.
Attempts to diminish the problem with round-ups by animal control officers, weekly spay and neuter clinics in Gallup, and ongoing efforts by small group of volunteers to ship a few healthy puppies and dogs to shelters in Albuquerque and Colorado have had virtually no impact.
“You look at the Sundance area where that gentleman was killed, we went in and removed 79 dogs after that and it looked like we never touched it,” Gleason said.
Dogs roam the sides of highways, restaurant, gas station and store parking lots and just about anywhere else they might find food. Their carcasses in various stages of decomposition litter spots along the sides of the main roads and interstates.
This is a nightmare state of affairs. According to the video, there are squads that go out and catch subdivision strays and feral dogs and euthanize them in huge numbers. There is one rescue agency in St, Johns called Blackhat Rescue. (I collected a couple of shelter dog photos at their site). It is hard to tell which dog is owned, because they all run loose. There aren’t too many fenced yards. They form packs and roam for food. They are turning into critters that compete for the garbage, and can attack anything that moves. All their pack instincts are still intact, though they lack efficiency and discrimination.
The way of living has changed,, but traditional views of dogs are still the most common ones. Neutering a dog is a shocking idea to many Navajo, and the mobile neutering units have not made a dent in either the belief system or the actual neutering. The unit in the video was whining and critical – and then they left.
Why wasn’t there a major dog population problem in years past? When traditions were intact, many if not most tribes killed bad dogs and ate the culled dogs. Now the idea is revolting, but that is our conditioning, not a Universal Truth. Some tribes, maybe many of them had special dog eating ceremonies. A Siouxish person I know told me about the Lakota ceremony. The ritual dog eating gave them a time and place to reiterate the meaning of dogs, and on what makes a good dog and which dogs you cull when young and which adult dogs you cull.
The dog eating tradition was alive and well in Mexican lands, when the Spaniards came. According to the doggy anthropologists like Derr and Schwartz, once they ate it, they loved it and actually preferred it to the point they reduced the dog population quite a bit. That is what everyone who eats dog meat says. “It tastes good”. I think of all the meat from the dead dogs from shelters, and I wish they could at least make it into cat food, or lion food or something. I believe that if you breed dogs, you have to cull all but the best in temperament and soundness. If you can’t take responsibility for what goes out into the world, and make them the best dogs you can, you shouldn’t breed dogs.
The situation is so bad on Navajo land, I think they have recently decided to take drastic measures. I think the measures are warranted. With just the sheer number of feral dogs, it would be impossible to home them all if they went to every state in the union. Plus a lot of them should have been culls in the first place.
Once the dog population is reduced drastically, I would wish for Navajos to decide on a Navajo landrace type dog like this one, perhaps, and or the ancient type in the top photo.
My wildest speculation is that the classic type in the top photo was the type the Athabaskan tribes brought with them as hunting and hauling dogs. They basically fit the Xolo’s Itxquintle types (The hairy version of the Xolo, which is far more ancient than the hairless mutation). It is impossible to tell how many European dog genes are in play, but both dogs are true to the landrace types.
I found this lovely picture on