Katie Coates: “If that don’t beat all. I never saw such a dog.”
Travis Coates: “And you won’t never see another one like him.”
Guess the movie…
… If you guess Old Yeller, then you guessed right! Did you know that even though they used a Labrador in the film, the book (that the film is based on) version Old Yeller is actually a mountain cur. Mountain curs absolutely make the best dogs, hands down, for any type of owner.
So here’s some history on the mountain cur. Initially, the term “cur” was a derogatory comment on a dog’s ancestry. A “cur” was a dog of uncertain or mixed lineage, essentially a mutt. Then hunters recognized positive traits in some of these unpedigreed dogs, and through some line breeding, developed a type (rather than a breed) of dog. The mountain cur emerged as a very typie hound with incredible abilities. Mountain curs were initially bred to be Bear and Boar hunters. Because they are fiercely loyal, they will protect their humans from these intimidating and aggressive predators. Additionally, they are strong and fast, so they are able to pull down an injured black bear or hog. And they’re incredibly smart, with strong instincts that help them track and corner bear and hogs.
On top of their amazing abilities, the cur dog has a desirable build: They are usually lean, with light bones. This helps them to run quickly, and dart through narrow openings. They often are born with shorter tails, which offers less to get hung up or injured when climbing through barbed wire or fighting a bear. They have a short, coarse coat which sheds water well, and doesn’t saturate and get heavy when they enter deep water.
So you might ask why the background on cur dogs tonight? To provide you with a context for the relationship between Ian and Mogwai.
Mogwai is my fur-baby. He is my four legged child and I would be almost as distressed if something were to happen to him as I would if something were to happen to Ian. Mogwai is a Kemmer’s Tennessee Mountain Hybrid. Previously his breed was known as the “Old Cajun Squirrel Dog.” The Cajun squirrel dog is a cross of a mountain cur and a Feist. In TN, the Kemmer family of Crossville began crossing their own Kemmer Stock Curs with their Kemmer Stock Feist to create their own version of the Cajun Squirrel Dog. Essentially, Mogwai is a shrunken cur. He has all of the characteristics of a cur dog, with the size of a mountain Feist. He is 35 pounds of cur. Obviously 35 pounds is not enough weight to pull down a black bear, or a wild boar. The mountain hybrid was developed to create a squirrel/coon dog with the attitude and athleticism of a cur, but with the benefits of a Feist’s size. The creation was an aggressive hunter of small prey, with less dog to feed and carry around. Win win win!
While pregnant with Ian, I was extremely concerned about Mogwai’s reaction to a person taking attention away from him. Mogwai is my loyal companion, and is almost ALWAYS with me. He goes grocery shopping with me year round (I have to carry two sets of car keys so that I can leave him locked in the jeep with the air conditioner or heater running, depending on the season), runs the trails with the horses when we trailer out to gallop at Standing Stone State Park, and jumps in the lake every time we go swimming at my mom’s sail boat. Mogwai sleeps on my feet every night, and would sit on my feet when I would grade papers at the table. How in the world was he going to handle sharing his mommy with a new, and very demanding creature? As my pregnancy developed further along, Mogwai started to get a little hateful. He didn’t like for men to be near me. He started growling when strangers knocked on the door. He would stand between customers and myself and raise the hair along his back if they got too close to me. I grew more concerned about how he would react to the competition for my affections. Then, the final day arrived. Mild labor began around 8:00 am. I had contractions infrequently on and off all day, and Mogwai never left my side. He smushed up beside me, under my blanket, on the couch all day. When I had to pee, he trotted beside me to the bathroom, and sat at my feet the whole time. Finally, my contractions became closer together and we left for the hospital.
To try to make the transition from a (human) childless home to a home with a newborn baby a bit smoother for Mogwai (and Chaco), we took a few preemptive measures. I slept with one of Ian’s baby blankets several times before he was born, then took it to the hospital with me. After wrapping Ian in it a few times, my mom took it home and let Mogwai sleep on it. When we came home from the hospital, Brinn carried Ian inside, so that I could shower Mogwai with the attention he felt he deserved after I’d abandoned him for the last few days. And finally, when Ian came into the house for the first time, Mogwai and Chaco got a new toy (complete with squeakers) to celebrate the occasion.
Things seemed to be going well, but I still worried. Mogwai is such a smart dog, that I worried less about him snapping at Ian, and more about his dragging Ian to the roadside and placing a “for sale” sign above him. Typically, though, if Mogwai doesn’t like someone (human or canine), he avoids that person entirely. He’ll even turn his head and blatantly refuse to acknowledge that this other person or dog exists. That first day that we were home from the hospital, I watched the dogs like a hawk, and never let them near Ian, but they were desperate to meet this new little person. Finally, late in the evening while I was on the couch with Ian Mogwai snuck over to be near my feet again. He put his head on the couch and looked up at me with pleading eyes. My mom was sitting beside me, and said “I’m right here if we need to interfere.” So we invited Mogwai up to meet Ian. Mogwai sniffed him once, then curled up between my mom and I, and proceeded to lick Ian’s feet every time he made a noise or moved. It was love at first lick.
Now Mogwai is hopelessly devoted to Ian. When Ian cries, Mogwai first runs to Ian, then runs to us. When Ian is on the changing table having his diaper changed, Mogwai stands up with his front paws along the edge of the table so he can supervise the process. When I took Ian out to meet the horses, and Dominick came up to lick Ian, Mogwai went bonkers and chased the donkey away. When I put Ian in bed every evening, Mogwai lays on the floor of the nursery while Ian and I complete our nighttime ritual of patting his back while listening to some music and watching the mobile go round. This little dog loves his little human.
Even though Mogwai has been a superstar, he is still a dog, and therefor not to be completely trusted. I hate reading reports of dogs injuring tiny children. Any animal has the potential to harm a human if provoked. Because I speak English, not canine, I don’t always understand what may provoke a dog. But in every instance that a dog bites, the situation somehow encouraged the act. Ian is starting to be very active and likes to grab, pull, kick, and punch. Any one of these activities could provoke a dog to bite, let alone when all completed at once. So I try not to ever leave Ian in a place where he and Mogwai may be left unattended together. However, a few nights ago, Ian’s bed wasn’t made when it was time to put him to bed, so I laid him in my bed to sleep for a few hours. I came to check him after half an hour, and found Mogwai curled up at Ian’s feet. It was irresponsible of me to allow it to happen, but I’ve got to admit, they were pretty darn cute laying there together!
For all of these reasons, the Kisers are now a cur family. Mogwai does beat all. I have never saw such a dog!