Useful…not useful… that is not a question in my life

Yep, it is time to take another journey through the braincells of Melanie. Scary, I know.

I have to admit, I am an animal person, and it runs in my family. Right now, my daughter, my brother, and I share a duplex. Between us, we have six dogs and nine cats. My daughter is a dog hiker, so she works with animals all the time. That is not include the kittens I foster for a local rescue group.
Of our animals, Darcy is a certified mobility assistant service dog, though he is retired now. Dara is in training to take over for Darcy, though when we are at home, Darcy is still my service dog. The rest of the crew are more or less just family members.

Pipsqueak (foster failure)

There has been very little time in my life that we didn’t have animals. At one time, we had a dozen chickens, a turtle, two rabbits, as well as the dogs and cats (long time before the animals we have now, about 20 years ago).

Now, why do I tell you all of this? My family is far from being wealthy. Yet in the early 1800’s, it was the wealthy who could afford having “pets”. Usually, if you had a dog in Jane Austen’s world, the dog had a specific task to perform. Cats were primarily to assist in rodent control in barns and such.

Looking at breeds that were common during that time frame, it was interesting to learn what they were originally bred for. Of my dogs, Darcy, is a border collie/shelti mix, and Dara is an Anatolian Shepperd mix. These breeds were bred to be herding dogs. Anatolian Shepherds come from Turkey, bred to be independent and protect herds, without humans being constantly around. They are incredible climbers, almost like a mountain goat. Shelti dogs were bred in Scotland for herding. Even though these boys have not been used for herding (especially no mountain goats), it is amazing how they follow genetic breeding. Dara has a stubborn streak in him that could drive one insane, but I tell him that I have had many more years of being stubborn than he has, I can out stubborn him.

In England, during the early 1800’s, small breeds of dogs were bred to go into the mines, mills and sewers to catch rats and other vermin. There were regular hunting dogs and hunting dogs that were good swimmers to recover birds that were killed over water. Some breeds of dogs were for safety and protection.

Those who were not wealthy usually had no extra money to feed a dog or cat. If they had any animals, it would be a horse, chickens, or a cow, animals which could aid in working the farm or provide food such as eggs and milk. Having an animal that did nothing to aid on the farm or in the city was not practical for those who struggled to feed their family and putting a roof over their heads.
Some of the breeds originating in the UK are:
Border Collie – like Shelti, herding dogs for smaller animals, such as sheep.
Bullmastiff – bred to be guard dogs in warehouses.
Dachshund – bred to scent, chase and flush out badgers and other burrowing animals such as rabbits
English Cocker Spaniel – one of the oldest breeds of dogs, which can be found in art and literature for more than 500 years. There are different types of cocker spaniels, some which are best on land and others best in water. They were used to flush out any game, though not good for bringing the game back to the owner when it was killed.
Harrier – is similar to the English Foxhound, just smaller. It is in the hound family, only it is best for hunting hares and smaller animals.
Jack Russell Terrier – used for fox hunting, bred by a country parson named (shocking) Jack Russell.
Lakeland Terrier – originated from the Lake District. Was originally bred to hunt vermin.
Manchester Terrier – was bred to catch vermin, specifically rats. Unfortunately, the breed was used in rat baiting pits until it was outlawed in 1835. They are a cross between a Black and Tan Terrier and a Whippet.
Pugs – though they originated in China, they were brought to Europe in the 1500’s. Queen Victorian adored pugs. Pugs were bred to be companions to the Chinese royal families, Buddhist munks kept some as pets. Their devotion to their owners was incredible.
Yorkshire Terriers came from…YORKSHIRE. Shocking, I know. They were bred for vermin control, especially for mills (cotton and wool mills), then later they were used by miners to control rats.

There have been many other dog breeds that were vital to humans. Breeds like:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
English Cocker Spaniel
English Springer Spaniel
Labrador Retriever
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Welsh Terrier
And many more.

How do you feel about animals? Are you of the belief that animals are just animals, or are they a part of your family? My belief is that we are put on this world to be the care takers of the animal kingdom. Not only do we have our dogs and cats that are our family, I foster kittens for Best Friends. The ones I have right now I have had since they were a day old. Two of them had limb issues due to umbilical cord being wrapped around their legs. The one with the worst of the issues survived until she was almost 7 weeks old, before a bone infection took her life.

After last year, when we “foster failed” with 3 of the kittens I fostered (they were adoption successes, we adopted them), my daughter told me no more fostering. But she decided that it was ok, cause I can handle the special needs kittens. To think that people could not afford to have such loving family members unless they were wealthy breaks my heart. I could not live in such a situation where I could not have my furbabies. Have a great day and thanks for allowing me to ramble. And my all your furbabies be loved.

Left to right: Audi, Acura, and Chevy. I didn’t name them
Sweet little Tesla who we lost

8 responses to “Useful…not useful… that is not a question in my life”

  1. Regina Jeffers Avatar

    English springer spaniel is my favorite breed. I one in Darcy’s Passions and Darcy’s Temptation for Elizabeth, and there is one in an upcoming book, Lady Glynis and the Earl. I had one when I was younger. Smartest dog I ever saw.

    1. Melanie Schertz Avatar
      Melanie Schertz

      It is funny to see certain breeds and realize what they were originally bred for. I’m a big border collie and shelti fan (Darcy had me at bark), but also love bloodhounds. Long hair German shepards are awesome too.

  2. Regina Avatar

    Wow! Based on the wide variety of dogs described as rat catchers, they must have had a ridiculous number of rats in England during the Regency! I love stories that feature Darcy’s hunting dogs sometimes named the Beast. Shows us a side of him seldom seen by the Ton.
    Best of health to all your marvelous pets. They are lucky to have you.

    1. Melanie Schertz Avatar
      Melanie Schertz

      It is funny that dogs that were bred for rat catching are dogs we consider to be fru fru dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier. The modern Yorkie I can’t imagine running around to catch rats.

  3. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I love animals! We have a diabetic dog right now but we love him so much. I call him my special needs baby!lol He is a bichon schnauzer mix. We have always had dogs. My Mom had cats when she was young.

    1. Melanie Schertz Avatar
      Melanie Schertz

      Funny thing is, I’m allergic to dogs and cats. That is how I know if one is suppose to be in my life, even if on a temporary basis. When I pet them, if my hand swells, can’t do it.

  4. Bronwen Chisholm Avatar

    Great post! I’m allergic to animal dander as well, but that hasn’t stopped us. We had a poodle growing up and my sister loves Yorkshire terriers. We got an alapaha blueblood bulldog (bred in the states for plantations – herders) for my son when he turned 13. Thor was a woman’s dog – he LOVED women. He would “herd” my daughter and I – trying to keep us in his room and not letting us back into the house.

    We have also had a couple cats, but right now we are just fish owners. My husband is not a big animal person and we are empty-nesters so we want to be able to pick up and go without worrying about who will take care of the animals. I did tell my daughter that there MIGHT come a day when I get another cat, but I don’t see it happening for a very long time.

  5. Neville Withington Avatar
    Neville Withington

    I just stumbled on this post. I love animals, both dogs and cats, and like you, I have fostered may animals (some of which have been foster successes). Now I am retired, I have taken on the role of Treasurer and Board Member for a rescue organization in the DC area. It is satisfying but can be heartbreaking as well as you know. (Dear little Tesla). I really admire your willingness to work with the special needs animals. They are such hard work. Thank you for doing that.

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: