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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters:Another Neighborhood Upgrade

Monday, October 6, 2008


Some weeks ago I bragged a bit in this column about my high-class neighborhood where I am privileged to live just across-lots from the elegant and talented drug-sniffing dog, Shiloh. Well, another very special member of the canine community has just moved into the residence between mine and Shiloh's.

In contrast to her sleek black coat, the newcomer's is a glistening white. His name is Levi and he is a Samoyed. These exotic animals are named for the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. Those nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with the herding, to pull sleds when they moved, and to keep their owners warm at night by sleeping on top of them.

Nansen reached the North Pole using these dogs and Roald Amundsen used a team of sled dogs led by a Samoyed named Etah on the first expedition to reach the South Pole. These beauties have gotten around.

At one point they were almost extinct in Siberia but Nansen and Amundsen had brought enough of them to Europe to establish the breed there and then in this country. DNA analysis has established that they are among the most ancient dog breeds, having been bred and trained for at least 3,000 years. Fur traders brought the first Samoyeds to the US in 1906.

I am not a "dog person" as you may have heard me say, but between Shiloh and Levi, I could possibly be converted. I find the advent of Americas' passion for dogs interesting and a bit puzzling. Many years ago when my husband and I visited in Germany we were amazed at the number of dog owners we encountered. Beloved pets on leashes accompanied their masters everywhere, a phenomenon we weren't used to here at home.

Now the same pattern has taken over in this country and I would like to know why. It's been suggested that with families decreasing in size and stability, a pet, most probably a dog, could be fulfilling the need for love and companionship that is somehow lacking. From the perspective of a child, other experts claim that the warmth and complete attention afforded by a dog fills a need which parents, or often a single parent, are too busy or preoccupied to provide.

These are sociological and psychological issues I am not equipped to analyze, but they have set me to wondering.

Now back to my elegant new neighbor--Research on the Internet reveals why a beauty, such as Levi is an ideal house dog. Samoyeds do not shed constantly as other dogs do. Instead, they lose their heavy fur annually in a process called "blowing" their coat. It takes just a short while and owners may help this process along by brushing. These spectacular dogs have another admirable trait, in that they have almost no doggy odor.

So without smelling or shedding, it is not a problem keeping them inside which is particularly desirable when there is air-conditioning, during our warmest weather. Another charming characteristic of these dogs is the way their black mouths turn up at the corners so they always seem to be smiling. In fact they are commonly known as "Smileys" in some areas.
As I indicated earlier, I am living in pretty classy company and it has been my pleasure to introduce you to my elegant neighbors.

Shiloh has her own enclosed run, so you are not likely to meet her out for a stroll, but Levi, on a leash, constantly smiling, is seen being walked quite frequently. If you happen to meet him, return his smile, and I don't think he will mind if you give him a friendly pat. It will give you a chance to feel that remarkable coat of his, and discover why in some places a Samoyed's blown off fur is spun into a yarn that rivals the finest angoras.

Oh yes, while you are at it, tell him "hello" for me.