Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Astro, the Ugly Duckling Aussie

by Alexis Southward
(Fairfax, VA)

Astro in the Outer Banks, NC

Astro in the Outer Banks, NC

My husband and I moved out to Colorado with our 6 month old Lab mix Luna. Well, something just wasn't right. Luna had a ton of energy for a pup, even though she would spend all day on the lake with us, or at my doggy daycare job with me, she would still come home wanting to play. Luna clearly needed a buddy... and this was my perfect excuse to get an Aussie.

After making this decision one day, my husband came home to find me looking at as many pup rescue sites and ads as I could find. I finally found a face I could not live without. A bright pink nose, fluffy white fur, and brilliant blue eyes. I had to have him.

As soon as I saw his picture I was in love. Honestly, he was probably the ugliest Aussie pup I could find, but I think that was part of his charm... he was my ugly little duckling.

Apparently, his breeder didn't think so... he had been born and bred in South Dakota, but because of his double merle coat, she was unable to get rid of him so she shipped him off to live in Denver with a woman she met at a dog show. His litter mates went for top dollar, while he was shoved to the side. The woman in Denver was unable to find a home for him, because he had been un-socialized and he was of questionable breeding. He was shipped back to South Dakota... which is where I had to track him down.

We drove all the way to Wyoming to get him, this now 6 month old unwanted Aussie they called "Piggy". The breeder, who I shall not name, promised us he was not deaf and then she scolded him because he was not supposed to be "this color". She is referring to what is known as double merle... or lethal white. Essentially she was blaming poor Astro for her own ignorance in breeding. He could not help his genetics or that he could not bring her the large sum of money that his litter mates did.

From first sight I could tell she had no attachment to the pup. He was visibly scared and lunged and tried to bite my husband when he tried to pet him. When I looked at Mike, I could see he had doubts in his eyes, but I knew that this dog had had enough, that he was coming home with us.

That was in October of 2007, and Astro today is a completely different dog. He is the most loving, sweet and loyal dog I could ever imagine having. He and our Lab mix Luna are completely inseparable and make the best playmates. Astro goes everywhere with me and he is always complemented for his beauty. All he needed was the love and patience to become one of the greatest & most handsome dogs I have ever known.

Comments for Astro, the Ugly Duckling Aussie

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What's in a name?
by: Anonymous

I believe the term "lethal White" is often applied to Double Merle Aussies because they are often culled shortly after birth by breeders. It's Not surprising a horse term is used for this considering how much they are used on Ranches. The term was super popular in Aussie Rescue 10 years ago and now has become un-PC.

"Lethal White"
by: Anonymous

The term "lethal white" doesn't apply to dogs. It is a term that applies to horses. When you breed overo paint to overo paint, you get a lethal white foal that will die shortly after being born.

"Lethal white"
by: Anonymous

I, too, adopted a double merle or "lethal white". She was 4 at the time - and honestly, I had a hard time "seeing" any difference in her and the fully seeing/hearing aussie I had years ago. Meadow is absolutely fearless. She is totally deaf and has maybe 10% sight in one eye; but you know when we go running, she pins her little ears back and just takes off. Yeah, she may hit a pole or park bench every once in awhile - but that's MY bad. AND she just gets right back up, shakes herself off and moves on. I wouldn't hesitate to adopt another double merle!

Not So Ugly...
by: Susan

July 29, 2008 My sweet Oscar was born; he's a 'lethal white' and long story short, the breeder let us have him. She gave him to us when he was 6 weeks old; to young but she had her hands full and wanted him out of the litter so when others came to see the 'top dollar' puppies they wouldn't see him. Well he's the most amazing dog I've ever been around and he's so sweet. He's about 90% blind, with one heavy cataract in one eye and a detached retna in the other; and he's deaf. Funny thing, he is as normal as the day is long. He's a master in what my husband calls hand to hand combat, he walks on a leash next to my right side; he sits, lays down and rolls over by touch. I can't believe how awesome, sweet and smart this dog is. He has blessed our life like no other dog ever could. He loves our cat and she has warmed up to him wonderfully! It's a crack up to see them nuzzle each other!

Wonderful story!
by: Meg

My pup Rocko has the same ugly duckling syndrome! He doesn't look like a typical Aussie but he is so wonderful!! Its not the cover of the book but whats written on the pages that matters!! An Aussies love is the best to have!!!

I Think He is Beautiful
by: Christina

What a sad story for the first few months of Astro's life. He is so very lucky to have found you. People don't understand that Aussies form their personalities in the first few months, and you're lucky he came out so wonderful. I also have a rescue, an abused rescue, and the only person she will have anything to do with is me. She's not mean at all, she especially does not trust men or riding in the car. But its just me and her and that's all we need and I hope you enjoy a long time with your beautiful Astro, he definitely is no ugly duckling. I like his nose.

Your Dog Astro
by: Anne Calmes

Good for you for seeing the potential in Astro. I am an Aussie breeder and do Aussie rescue also. I also take back any puppy I bred no matter the circumstances or age. GOOD FOR YOU I know Astro thanks you every day. Shame on that breeder. I thank you too for saving his life literally.

Great Grandma
by: Anonymous

I am Astro Southward's Great Grandma. I live in Yorktown, Va. and Astro just visited me about a week ago. A Miniature Dachshund by the name of Miss Daisy lives with me. She is my faithful companion, smart and hard-headed. Miss Daisy loves to play and Astro is the only Canine family member who will play with her. She absolutely loves him. All the others find her annoying and either ignore her or want to eat her alive. Not Astro. After a visit from Astro, Miss Daisy has to have about 8 hours of sleep in order to get back to her natural smart but hard-headed self. Long live Astro!

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