Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014 - 'A'

My A-Z posts this year will be about dogs I have known, dogs I talk to and some I would love to meet. Regular visitors to my blog will recognise some of them I’m sure. Hopefully you will find links to literature – fact and fiction, films, famous dogs and even a dog owner or two. As usual I am expecting to cheat for some letters of the alphabet; I’m sure you will see why.

A – Airedale, Alsatian, Afghan

I must start with the first dog that I remember, that ‘King of Terriers,’ the Airedale. I was very young, I’m not sure that I was old enough to go to school. The only photograph (now lost) that I saw of my father was him kneeling on the front lawn with Punch. Punch was our Airedale with a simple attitude to cats – he hated them. Mind you he took it to extremes when he killed the landlord’s cat for being on his lawn.

Feisty was probably the best word to describe Joe, the Airedale Terrier I used to meet on walks in the North Yorkshire village where I live. He was sure that he was in charge. Like all Airedales Joe was happy to work with you but he never let you think he was working for you.

Joe - an Airedale Terrier
At home Joe often occupied a chair where he could see out of the window and bark at passers-by in the deep voice characteristic of his breed.

Joe on guard

His  bark was the best burglar alarm of all. In the middle of the night it would get you up - to dispose of any large spiders that had appeared. He had warned you of their presence so it was job done. You had to get rid of them.

If you didn’t know Joe that well you might think he was aggressive or bad tempered. Feisty may be the word for him. He was actually affectionate but on his own terms, and underneath all the feistiness he was a very sensitive soul. (You can see more about Joe at north-yorkshire-village-dogs-joe.

Airedales originated in the valley of the River Aire, near Leeds in England and were bred by crossing an Otterhound with a now extinct terrier. In WWI they carried messages in the trenches; Airedales were also one of the first breeds to be used as police dogs in Germany and Britain.

They were a favourite with Presidents of the USA. A statue of President Harding’s ‘Laddie Boy’ is in the Smithsonian Museum..

President Harding and Laddie Boy
(Press photo - National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)
Edgar Rice Burrough’s dog was appropriately named ‘Tarzan’ but I couldn’t possibly say why Bo Derek called hers ‘Harum Scarum’. If you have every wondered why John Wayne was nicknamed Duke – it was name of his Airedale; they were known as ‘Big Duke’ and ‘Little Duke’.

Today German Shepherd dogs are more well known as police dogs than the Airedale. Of course the German Shepherd and the Alsatian are the same breed with German Shepherd now the accepted name but I felt justified in including an ‘Alsatian’ in this post just so that I could show you this.

A young Alsatian (German Shepherd) takes a nap

I have never actually seen an Afghan Hound but have always thought it an elegant dog. A member of the Greyhound family, it’s said to have been one of the animals aboard Noah’s Ark

An Afghan Hound - Taziban Ozarq from Austria
(wikipedia commons; upload Zwoenitzer, de.wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0)
I would have taken them with me too.


Marc Latham said...

Nice photos and info Bob, especially as I'm now in the Aire Valley.

Our dog used to like looking out the window too, wagging its tail or growling/barking!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - well we're not worrying about matching castles this year!

Fun facts and Airedales I've always rather liked ... Interesting they were bred originally near Leeds - I'd no idea ..

Love the photos .. happy memories too .. cheers Hilary

Alan Burnett said...

I am very fond of terriers of all varieties. My own Soft Coated Wheaten seems to share many of the qualities you describe about the Airedale - as feisty as a ferret on the surface and as soft as melted ice cream on the inside

R. Mac Wheeler said...

You always have my attention when you post critter pictures :O)

Bob Scotney said...

Alan. I will have a Wheaten under W.

Veronica Sicoe said...

I love dogs! Great pics, and great (accurate) descriptions of their tempers! :D

- Vero

Kristin said...

I haven't known enough dogs to do an A-Z like this but I thank you for identifying my favorite stuffed animal from days gone by. He was an Airdale. I had a friend who rented an above the garage apt. to a woman with two afghans. They were very strange looking dogs.

Jo said...

We used to have 3 German Shepherds when I lived in the UK. I was very involved in obedience work in those days.

Have a friend here who breeds Afghans. Lovely animals.

Didn't know much about Airedales before.

Bish Denham said...

I'm very fond of mutts... but Airedales are the only dog breed I've ever thought about wanting to own.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Duke was nicknamed after his Airedale? Never knew that.
I'd heard Afghan Hounds were really laid back.
Joe looks like a character.

ScotSue said...

I am going to enjoy your Challenge theme - great photographs and great stories.

Glenda Cates said...

Lovely pictures and all nice dogs but if I could I would take the German Shepard. I love them.

Anne Young said...

I really enjoyed learning about Airedales. They are very elegant dogs. I associate Afghan hounds with the 1970s and remember that they were not very smart.
A great start to the AtoZ challenge.
Anne from Ballarat

Whole Foods Living said...

What a fun topic! My cousin had an Afghan dog for years. He was so cuddly and cute! When you get to W, please consider Weimaraners! ~ Angela, A to Z participant from Web Writing Advice ( and Whole Foods Living (

Shail Mohan said...

Afghan Hound goes that way back?!
I love Joe' attitude to life :)

Lisa said...

Oh I'm so glad I found your blog on A to Z. I didn't grow up with dogs, but now have had two wonderful ones. Our first, Laydi, a black Lab/Border Collie mix was perfect for raising with children. She was sweet-natured and loving. Our current love Bonaparte, an 8 pound Dachshund/Maltese mix has shown me, once again, why people like having dogs around...