‘Super dog’ found along Jemison roadside

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Joe Murphy, director of the Chilton County Humane Society, got the call last week about a large canine resembling a German Shepherd breed wandering the dirt roads of Jemison.

Not in the business of animal control and reluctant to believe the anonymous caller’s seemingly exaggerated description of the animal, Murphy nearly ignored the call.

Like any curious animal lover, though, he had to see if there was any truth to the claim.

Soon after, he came upon a thinned dog chained to the ground and feisty after a fresh scrap with another nearby male. Sure enough, the caller, nowhere to be found, wasn’t kidding. Murphy didn’t know what to make of the intimidating-in-size but polite-in-demeanor creature. Murphy took the dog back to the Humane Society and tried to put a little food in his belly and meat on his bones.

“He didn’t eat at first,” Murphy said. “The kennel situation was stressful for him, but after about three days, his appetite picked up. We’d feed him whenever he wanted to be fed. We just tried to put some weight back on him.”

The supposed Shepherd mix had Murphy and his colleagues scratching their heads over just what breed he was. After taking some photos and sending them to a few rescue shelters and kennels, they heard back from one that suggested he was an American Tundra Shepherd Dog, a hybrid between a German Shepherd and wolf.

“He resembles it,” Murphy said. “He could be a low content wolf hybrid, but there weren’t many wolf characteristics. He’s definitely one of the biggest Shepherds I’ve ever seen.”

Upon further research online, members of the Humane Society discovered the breed began during the Vietnam War as a government initiative to breed a race of “superdogs” for U.S. military purposes, including general protection, tracking and explosive detection.

Murphy said the dog is adoptable despite his initial behavior and his positive heartworms diagnosis. But Murphy said his aggression calmed around humans and even cats, if you can believe it.

“He was friendly to people, and he showed very little interest in cats,” he said. “My shepherd at home is frantic over cats. This was a very smart dog and easily redirected with a little tug on his leash. He wouldn’t just pull to get to other dogs.”

As is Humane Society policy, the dog was neutered, which should alleviate any aggression issues.

The Humane Society handed their new friend, whom they briefly called “Tundra” and “Big Shep,” off to the German Shepherd Rescue of Central Alabama, who agreed to treat his heartworm, a time-consuming and expensive treatment costing between $300 and $500.

Murphy said local Humane Society employees would work with the dog on any health and behavioral problems and would ready him for an inevitable adoption.

“There’s no chance he’ll be euthanized,” he said. “I was tempted to take him home myself, but I have five dogs, even when I set my limit at three many years ago.”

For more information on the American Tundra Shepherd Dog breed, visit www.americanshepherd.com.