(As a youth I was desperate to get a puppy, so I memorized the Encyclopedia of Dogs in an attempt to prove to my parents that I was knowledgeable enough to handle the task. I finally got the dog: Katie, the Cairn Terrier, the first of my scruffy dogs. For some reason that near-encyclopedic knowledge of dog breeds has managed to stick with me all these years. I probably could have used that memory space for something more important, like remembering family birthdays or the names of people I've met at work functions, but no).
My friend's comment sent me on a quest to see if the Podengo was that mystery dog we kept seeing all over Portugal. It is. The Podengo comes in smooth coat and wire coat in three sizes: Small (Pequeno), Medium (Medio) and Large (Grande). And it's not just any dog breed from Portugal...it's the national dog breed of Portugal. I guess that explains why they were everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Rural Portugal doesn't seem to have any sort of enforced leash laws, so these scruffy dogs were running around the countryside, wandering through the city streets and begging for food at restaurants, without their owners anywhere to be found.
I just hope that their soon-to-be popularity doesn't lead to them being bred indiscriminately. The breed today has almost no genetic disorders and is extremely healthy, smart and well adjusted to family life -- as it has been for millennia. Traces of the Podengo's DNA are found in little, scruffy, pointy-eared dogs all over the world -- pretty much wherever the Portuguese explorers landed -- as the Podengo Pequeno were used as ratters on Portuguese sailing vessels. But it takes only a few generations of poor breeding in puppy mills to destroy a breed. So let's hope, for the sake of the adorable Podengo, that scruffy dog lovers will get their dogs from reputable breeders who are taking care to maintain this ancient breed's wonderful characteristics.
We're not looking for another dog at the moment. Baxter and Kirby are plenty of scruffy canine for one small household. If we were ever to get another purebred, it would probably be a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon like Baxter. But I have to admit, the Podengo is pretty cute. And we are hoping to spend another vacation in Portugal some day...
(All photos from the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno Club of America.)