Introducing The King Daley Shepherd


            We have a designer dog. She’s not a labradoodle (Labrador retriever and poodle) or goldendoodle (golden retriever and poodle). She’s not an anything doodle or poo, like a cockapoo (cocker spaniel and poodle) or pekapoo (Pekingese and poodle).  These so-called designer breeds are all the craze for those who can afford them. Around our neighborhood, it’s actually chic to take a walk with your puggle (a pug and beagle).

            In the park, a woman proudly told me she paid $1,650 for her bagel. That’s one expensive bagel, even if it is a basset hound and beagle.

            I replied, “Wow, Ethel, our King Daley shepherd only cost $100.”

            She began to argue, “C’mon, anyone knows Daley shepherds go for at least $750.”

            I insisted. After all, I know how much money I made out the check for.

            Yet, she continued to debate the subject. She was clearly proud she paid what she did for her dog, who was admittedly very cute. But then I think our King Daley shepherd is cuter.      

            We named her Ethel, well because we had to. Our other dog, a miniature Australian shepherd, is named Lucy. Now we have a Lucy and an Ethel.

            Ethel is now around eight months old. Picture a dog with bright blue eyes wearing army fatigues. Her unique short-haired coat coloring is grayish blue, brown and black with a small white patch on her chest. Google African wild dog or watch the endangered wild canines on Animal Planet; she  actually looks like one. Kim Thornton, a pet writing colleague, who writes a column called “Creature Comforts” for MSNBC, is traveling to Africa to see the wild dogs. She emailed that she would save a whole lot of money to come to Chicago to see our 19 lb. Ethel.

            Except Ethel isn’t a wild dog, of course. Ethel is very friendly, and loves everyone, which is a characteristic of her breed. And those sky blue eyes are as expressive as I’ve ever seen on a dog, or for that matter, a person. Look at her eyes, and you know what she’s thinking. Her eyes are so sparkly more than one stranger has suggested that she’s wearing colored contact lenses.

            When Ethel was younger, people clamored around her – demanding (and I do mean demanding) to know, “What is she?”

            Once we were walking down the street, past a hair salon. Three ladies run outside to see us. There was a hairdresser wearing plastic gloves; a woman with curlers, aluminum foil and I’m not sure what else was crammed inside her mane, and a woman with a cell phone to take our pup’s photo. They all wanted to know one thing: “What is she?”

            I felt obliged to come up with something fancy since my previously stated answers just weren’t compelling.

            It all began at Chicago’s animal care and control facility when a litter of sneezing, worm infested puppies was dumped. In Chicago, other shelters frequently swoop up animals from the city pound – this helps to get more adopted. Paws Chicago took these puppies, and that’s when my wife Robin and I spotted a cute blue-eyed pup on the Internet.  We adopted her, and named her Ethel.

            At the time we didn’t know we had a King Daley shepherd. The shelter called her an Australian shepherd-mix because that’s what she did look like, at first. However, as she began to grow, it became clear that she probably wasn’t exactly an Aussie mix.

            When people inquired, “What is she?” I tried to say, “She’s a mutt.” But I felt demeaned with patronizing responses like “Oh, how sweet.” They said, “How “wonderful” to adopt but as they rolled their eyes, as their body language communicated another message all together. Clearly, they would be more impressed with a bagel (dog).

            So I created a designer breed of my own. Since Ethel originally came from the city pound, and our City belongs to King Daley, I established the “breed.” Because Ethel is spayed, and so are all the pups from her litter – sadly, there will be no further King Daley shepherds.

            When push comes to shove – simply put, Ethel is a mixed breed dog, but then so are those high priced designer dogs, like bagels with or without cream cheese,and Labradoodles. They’re wonderful, as all dogs are – but they’re really only mixes. Planned mixes, but mixes just the same. And certainly they’re not as unique as a King Daley shepherd.

            One person emailed me, complaining, “I Googled and can’t find a King Daley anywhere.”

            “You’ll never find another like mine,” I responded. “But visit your local animal shelter, and you can find your own designer dog, and at a discount price.”