A MANX CAT and an American Eskimo dog who belong to a White Marsh family are interesting descendants of very old breeds.
Karen and Frank Woodard, their daughter Robyn and Karen's mother, Maggie Carr, own a 10-year-old tail-less Manx cat called Dartana and a 9-year-old American Eskimo dog called Coco.
Dartana's breed originated on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, and Coco is from one of the oldest of dog breeds which can be traced back 6,000 years. The breed is officially registered with the United Kennel Club, the world's largest working breed registry and second largest all-breed dog registry in the country. (The American Kennel Club is the largest all-breed registry).
Breeders refer to the dog as the Eskie and some often call it the Eskimo Spitz.
However, there are 35 breeds in the spitz family which include the Akita, Siberian Huskie, Norwegian Elkhound, Samoyed, Pomeranian and Alaskan Malamute. All of those in the spitz family have beautiful eyes, faces framed in plush fur, wedge-shaped heads, small pricked ears, luxurious double coats and tails that curl over their backs.
Karen Woodard says her husband, an inspector with a consulting engineering firm, brought the two pets home as presents to her and to Robyn. "Frank is a push-over for pets.
"He came home with the kitten as a peace offering for staying out too long with the boys on a Friday night. Then he brought Coco to Robyn on her 16th birthday. Coco was four at the time and unwanted by her previous owner," says Karen.
The two pets, each intended for a certain family member, have chosen another to bond with.
"Coco, who was given to Robyn, has bonded so strongly with me that the family says she is absolutely mine. Yet Dartana, who was given to me, has become completely attached to my mother, who lives with us. She will not eat unless Maggie feeds her," says Karen, who is a dispatcher at Towson Ford (daughter Robyn is cashier there).
Manx cats are recognized by the country's largest cat registry, the Cat Fanciers Association. The legend of this cat is that it lost its tail because Noah closed the door of the Ark too soon. The truth is, the tail-less trait came from a mutant gene which created a skeletal defect. Bred and established as a breed on the Isle of Man, a Manx must be bred with a cat with a tail. Otherwise the kittens in a litter from a breeding of two tail-less cats will die before or just after birth.
A Manx with just a small hollow where the tail should be is called a Rumpy. However, those with some tail are called risers, stumpies, stubbies and longies, according to length. Dartana is a stumpy.
"She had two litters before she was spayed and in a total of nine kittens, four were rumpies," says Karen.
There are many cat clubs in the area for all-breeds, including the Maryland Feline Society or the Chesapeake Cat Club, but there isn't a local breed club for the Eskie.
The closest club to Maryland is the Virginia American Eskimo Dog Association, headed by Joanna Rolfs at 2521 Coles St., Richmond, Va. 23234. Rolfs owns several obedience champions and says she "welcomes inquiry of the breed and can be reached at (804) 275-5673.
"Also, we are holding an Eskie specialty this Saturday and Sunday, from 8 in the morning to late afternoon at the Sheraton Airport Inn in Richmond, and would welcome those who are interested in seeing a large gathering of Eskies," she says.
Karen Woodard says Coco is a joy to own and that she mirrors the perfect Eskie.
"She's intelligent, alert, great with children and our family," she says. Breed information notes that the Eskie is free of odor and is easy to keep clean because its coat resists soil.
Joanna Rolfs says that the spitz dogs are perfectly square. "You could almost draw a perfect square box and sit one in it," she says.
Eskies come in two sizes: Miniatures are 12 to 15 inches high and Standards are 15 to 19 inches high. For complete information on this breed, contact Rolf in Richmond or the United Kennel Club at 100 E. Kilgore Road, Kalamazoo, Mich. 49001; (616) 343-9020.