Excerpted from Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Illustrations by Lisel Ashlock
When I was pregnant with my children, I wanted to know their gender as soon as possible—not because I wanted one or the other, but because it felt comforting to eliminate at least one unknown. When folks are pregnant with the notion of getting a dog, I can understand why some might choose a specific breed in hopes of knowing exactly what they’re in for. Choosing a specific breed may allow one to gauge the general look and size of the adult dog, and there are some behavior traits that hold true—herdin’ dogs wanna herd; water dogs wanna swim! However, I have yet to parent two dogs of the same breed that weren’t vastly different. “Pureness” of breed has never offered any real shortcuts in terms of knowing how to handle the dog. And, unfortunately, purebred dogs suffer a host of genetic defects and illnesses. Within any breed and even within every litter, there is a canyon-wide range of personalities. Just as every person is unique, so every dog is different.
Personality and compatibility between dog and guardian are the best predictors of a long-term love affair. It’s not that different from humans, really. Clearly, one reason I chose my husband was for his outstanding good looks. But luckily for the long-term well-being of our relationship, he also has a calm nature, a bubbly personality, and a keen ability to recognize that I’m always right. Once you fall in love with a great personality, you’re going to want to have that special individual around for a very long time.
Unlike purebreds, mutts come from an expansive and varied gene pool, which not only increases the likelihood of good health but also bodes well for finding just the right match for a long-term, committed relationship. The good news is that if you fall in love with the notion of a mutt, they are available for adoption right now at a shelter near you!
The next time you’re at the dog run and others are boasting about their fancy purebred, consider stealing the limelight by boasting about your Fluffy-Tailed Shepherdshund.
** More information and illustrations of mutts can be found in Do Unto Animals **
MAKE A SCULPEY MUTT:
We asked our friend and contributor, Danielle Ash, to help us celebrate the mutt by sculpting some unique mixed-breed dogs out of Sculpey clay. Give it a try! The possibilities are endless!
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Sculpey clay: brown, black, white, red, pink and grey
- Black acrylic paint
MAKE A BASIC BODY SHAPE:
1. Using a flat palm, roll your clay into a 3-inch snake shape until it is smooth and has reached the desired thickness of your dog’s body. The more clay you use the bigger your dog will be.
2. Add different colored clays to the body to give your dog features such as spots or a pink belly.
MAKE A BASIC HEAD SHAPE:
3. Take a small about of clay and shape it into a ball. Use the palm of your hand to roll the clay in a circular motion until it forms a smooth round ball shape.
4. Connect the head to the body by gently pinching at one side of the head and holding it in place at the front of the body. Smooth the pieces together so that they attach. You may also choose to add a small amount of clay in between the head and the body for a neck.
5. Once attached to the body, mould the head it into the desired shape: long and pointy, or flat and round.
SCULPT your mutt:
ADD EYES, A NOSE, A MOUTH AND A TONGUE:
6. Use small amounts of white clay to add two eyes to your dog’s head. Roll the clay into tiny balls and push them into the head. Use black paint to dot on two pupils, or use a small amount of black clay to add the same effect.
7. Roll a small amount of black clay for a nose, or simply paint one onto the face.
8. Create a mouth for your dog and use extra clay to add a tongue and teeth. A toothpick can also be used to draw more details on the rest of the face or to help create the mouth.
9. To make pointy ears that stand up, take two small pieces of clay and use your fingers to create small triangle shapes. For ears that flop to the sides of the head, roll two small snake shapes and flatten them out to the desired length and thickness.
10. Hold the ears in place on either side of the dog’s head and smooth them on to attach.
ADD FOUR (OR THREE!!) LEGS:
11. Take a small amount of clay and roll into a 3-inch thin snake shape. Separate the snake into four (or three) equal lengths and adjust their size by rolling more to make them longer, or removing clay to make them shorter.
12. Hold the legs in place on the dog’s body and smooth them on to attach.
POSITION YOUR MUTT TO SIT, LAY OR STAND:
13. To make your dog stand, keep the body parallel to the floor with belly facing down. Connect the legs to the bottom of the body so that they are straight. One side of the leg should be smoothed on to the body and the other side should touch the floor. Remember to keep the front legs slightly longer and lifted higher than the back legs in order to support the dog’s head.
14. To make your dog lay down, keep the body parallel to the floor with belly facing down. Tuck the back legs straight underneath the body and stretch the front legs straight out in front of the body. All legs should be flat on the floor.
15. To make your dog sit, position the body perpendicular to the floor with belly facing forward. Place the back two legs flat along the floor. Attach them to the rump of the dog, smoothing them to stay in place. Attach the front two legs to the top of the body so that they fall straight down to the floor. The front legs should be slightly longer and thicker than the back legs in order to support the dog’s head and body and to hold the dog up in sitting position.
ADD A TAIL:
16. Roll a small amount of clay into a 1/2-inch snake shape. Mould the piece into a curly tail, long and furry tail, or short and straight tail.
17. Connect the tail to the back end of the body by gently pinching the clay above the tail to position it and smoothing it on to the body.
* Cook your sculpture in the oven. Following directions on the Sculpey packaging for exact temperatures and time requirements.