Kyra Kirkwood, Correspondent for Pasedena Sun Times, published January
from coyotes and wild dogs, American Indian dogs are smart and
seem part human and part cat.
A breed of dog with a history stretching back
30,000 years is making a comeback, thanks to dedicated breeders
and passionate owners.
The American Indian dog looks like a Technicolor coyote, moves
like a cat and behaves with almost humanlike intellect. And those
who love them can't get enough.
At a recent get-together in Monrovia, eight American Indian dogs
and their owners met at the home of Karen Knight, the Southern
California representative of a group devoted to the breed. Knight
has two of these canines of her own. Considering there are only
a few hundred American Indian dogs scattered across the nation,
a grouping of eight in one place was remarkable indeed -- a fact
that was not lost on Knight, a legal secretary in Arcadia.
Having a core of passionate owners surrounded by their charges
for one afternoon was enough to make them all reflective about
their love of these dogs, and how they don't seem like dogs at
Erin Wildman, 14, of Agoura Hills, with her
"They actually are a thinking breed,"
Knight said. "They are alert. They miss nothing."
Along with her other friends from the International Indian Dog
Owners and Breeders Association, Knight has become well-versed
in the breed since she discovered it two years ago. Descended
from coyotes bred with wild dogs, the American Indian dog emerged
about 30,000 years ago as the Plains Indians sought canine companions
to hunt, baby-sit the children, carry items like a pack animal,
provide wool and guard the family.
"They wanted that intelligence, that alertness, that primitive
instinct" of the wild animals, she said.
Because of their resemblance to coyotes, many of these American
Indian dogs were killed in the past. But breeder and American
Indian dog expert Kim La Flamme of the Song Dog Kennels in Selma,
Ore., painstakingly brought the breed back to its original roots,
keeping strict control over breeding practices.
American Indian Dogs have unique traits, Knight said. They learn
quickly, test their owners regularly and seem to constantly have
their brains engaged. Interestingly enough, many claim these dogs
possess some sort of spiritual quality that transfers to their
"They are just a healing influence in your life," said
Knight, who is a tribal member of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation.
These dogs are not wolf-hybrids or coyote mixes.
They are members of an historic breed with unique characteristics,
They look like a trim and sleek Husky or a colorful coyote. American
Indian dogs stop traffic with their stunning eyes, either arctic
blue, glowing pale or warm yellow. Their large ears prick up like
those of a German shepherd, and their feet are small and catlike.
Their medium-length coat with the plush undercoat comes in a variety
of breathtaking combinations: black, blue, white, golden, red,
gray, tan, chocolate, cream, fawn and silver.
Full grown, these medium-sized dogs weigh between 25 and 45 pounds.
Their feline ability to spring up in the air and move gracefully
from one area to another make them extraordinarily agile.
Austin Vilardi, 9, of Riverside with Meeka
|Each dog is different
-- they are not bred to be carbon copies of each other nor a breed
Yet despite their beauty, physical attributes and marked intelligence,
these dogs are not for everyone.
"You have to be alpha all the time with them," Knight
said, referring to the need for the humans to claim the boss role
in the house. "They can own you easily if you don't continue
to maintain your alpha position."
While they may look like exotic wild animals, American Indian dogs
are domesticated. They are good with people and children, and they
love to play endlessly, especially with others in the breed.
The melodious sounds they emit when playing are akin to the baying
of a coyote. They're not vicious, but are often cautious around
And, as Knight points out, they are definitely
not "outdoor only" dogs.
"They require your presence," she said.
Breeders such as La Flamme are selective about who takes a puppy
home. In fact, the contract on his kennel's Web site, www.indiandogs.com,
outlines the requirements of a potential American Indian dog owner.
Potential owners must agree to research the breed and become educated
about it, regularly exercise and mentally stimulate their pups,
constantly and consistently train, spay or neuter their pets,
join International Indian Dog Owners and Breeders Association,
and register with both the American Indian Dog Registry and the
International Progressive Dog Breeders Alliance.
Interviews are required. The wait for a puppy
is often long, and requesting a particular color only extends
the waiting period.
American Indian dogs are tough to get, a challenge to keep in
their place, mentally superior to many other dog breeds and exotically
primitive with a true working-dog demeanor. Why does anyone clamor
Robert Gandrup of Aromas (Monterey County)with
his dog, Tulip.
"They can teach you as much as you teach them," Knight
said. "There's something about these dogs that make the owners
become very, very consumed with them."
-- Kyra Kirkwood is an Orange County-based freelance writer.
Karen Knight of Monrovia gives crispy rice treats
to her dog, Waya, which means wolf in Cherokee
|-- As American Indian
Dogs are so rare, there are few respectable breeders across the
nation. Do your homework if you wish to get one. To make sure you
get a registered American Indian dog, ask for the breeder's number,
the litter number and check with the Registry for American Indian
Dogs before purchasing.