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ISBN 0-939165-34-1
260 pages softcover
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Praise for Unforgettable Mutts Through the eyes of a dog, all humans are beautiful--unfortunately, it’s not always a two-way street. --Anonymous
“Animal Lovers will be spellbound as the underdogs in Unforgettable Mutts journey from the worst of circumstances to the best---happy and loving homes. Outstanding photos to touch your heart---the ultimate feel good book.”

--Phyllis Levy, Book Editor
Good Housekeeping

Unforgettable Mutts:
Pure of Heart, Not of Breed

By Karen Derrico , foreword by Susan Chernak McElroy, author of Animals as Teachers and Healers

A book that speaks on behalf of millions of loving and deserving dogs who may never have a chance simply because they have no pedigree.

  • Nominated by Dog Writers’ Association of America for Award
  • Selected by Good Housekeeping as a Best Gift Book for 1999

From dogs who made history to dogs in cyberspace, Unforgettable Mutts is a true celebration and moving tribute to mutts and the people who love them. In a book as unique as the dogs themselves, Karen Derrico has written and compiled a superb collection of photos and amazing stories: Keller, who was born with no eyes; Josh, who ran for U.S. President, and Shep, who sat vigil for five years after his master had died, are a few examples of what is included.

Derrico, a lifelong animal lover and advocate, shares her home with two wonderful mutts, Barney and Zelda. After learning that 75 percent of all dogs entering animal shelters each year are mutts, Derrico became determined to publicize their value as cherished animal companions. Unforgettable Mutts speaks on behalf of the millions of loving and deserving dogs who may never have a chance simply because they have no pedigree.

In addition to more than a hundred delightful, sometimes heart-wrenching photo-essays, this book includes an extensive and invaluable resource section that every dog lover will appreciate.

Includes 130 photos of amazing mutts and their stories, and an extensive Resource section listing dog related activities.


  • Foreward
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One
    Canine Discrimination
  • Chapter Two
    Famous and Historic Mutts
  • Chapter Three
    Mutts of War
  • Chapter Four
    Presidential Mutts
  • Chapter Five
    Amazing Mutts
  • Chapter Six
    Mutt Celebrities
  • Chapter Seven
    Mutts Who Lend a Helping Paw
  • Chapter Eight
    Hero Mutts
  • Chapter Nine
    Magnificent Mutts Across America
  • Chapter Ten
    Mutt Memorials
  • Resources
  • Suggested Reading
  • Index

Praise for
Unforgettable Mutts

“Finally, a book that goes beyond airbrushed, coffee-table collections of show-winning purebreds and gets to the heart of the human-dog matter! A soul-warming collection of stories and photos celebrating the shining star of dogdom---the mutt.”

--Susan Chernak McElroy
Animals as Teachers and Healers

“A delightful kaleidoscope of mixed-breed fairy tales come true. Americans love underdogs and they’ll be captured by Derrico’s vignettes of mutts who have overcome long odds to win the hearts of owners---from common folks to presidents and from a network of postal workers to an infantry regiment.”

--Ranny Green
Columnist, Seattle Times

“At last a book celebrating the most distinctive dog of all time---the ubiquitous, individualistic mutt. Anyone who has ever loved a one-of-a-kind canine will find Karen Derrico’s book not only enjoyable and informative, but affirming of the power of the human-dog bond.”

--Mary Elizabeth Thurston
The Lost History of the Canine Race

“If you love dogs, you’ll love Unforgettable Mutts. You owe it to your mutt to read him or her this book.”

--Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason
Dogs Never Lie About Love

“In my 25 plus years with The Humane Society of the United States, I’ve seen many outstanding animal-focused books come across my desk. Unforgettable Mutts is one of the best I’ve seen yet!”

--John Dommers, The Humane Society of the United States


Karen Derrico

Karen Derrico is a lifelong animal lover and advocate. After learning that 75 percent of all dogs entering U.S. animal shelters each year are mutts, she became determined to publicize their value as cherished animal companions. This book is a result of more than four years of research, compiling photos, stories and resources from across the United States.

Through her writing, Derrico has become a strong voice for needy and homeless pets. Her publishing work on behalf of animals has earned her acclaim and recognition in broadcast and print, including the L.A. Times, Orange County Register, and radio talk shows nationally.

Derrico was editor and publisher for Pet Gazette Magazine for six years, and The Pet Lover’s Directory, and has also written freelance articles for several pet related publications. She currently lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and son and her two lovable mutts, Barney (left) and Zelda.


by Susan Chernak McElroy

It has been a long time, too long, since I have revisited my warmest memories of my beloved mutts. However, after reading Karen Derrico’s book, Unforgettable Mutts, I reminisced on the purest and simplest joys I have had with dogs. In reading about other mutts and their people, I found myself basking in the wonder of a dog’s devotion, joy, and wordless companionship. The most priceless power of a person’s story is its ability to evoke remembrances for others. This thoughtful and heartfelt celebration of “muttdom” will call forth treasured memories for anyone who has ever given her or his heart to a mutt.

My first mutt, Keesha, was my animal companion for nearly eleven years. Keesha, a shepherd and malamute mix, was, I thought, from the best of all possible dog worlds. She brought me the devotion of her shepherd ancestry, the independence of her sled-dog heritage, and the unique beauty of blended breeds. A mutt myself of German and Czechoslovakian ancestry, I brought to Keesha my solid Teutonic heritage, spiced with a wild dash of Hungarian gypsy---my grandmother’s gift to me. Keesha and I were “partners” no word describes our union better.

When Keesha died, it was eleven years before another dog began calling to me again. At first, I dreamt about her. She showed herself over and over in my dreams, clear as spring water, vivid as autumn, so that I would recognize her instantly in waking time. She was a collie and shepherd mix, and maybe something else. Brown and furry beyond belief with eyes like brown topaz. Her name would be Arrow. Four months later, she made her appearance at an animal shelter. She was one of five skinny puppies rescued from a pier in Seattle. When I walked into the room she stood up and looked squarely at me. I burst into tears in that moment of recognition.

Today, Arrow rests at my feet as I write. She is six years old and in her glorious prime. We have another dog, too, Strongheart. He is a purebred Anatolian Shepherd who protects our family, but it is Arrow, the mutt, who remains the guardian of my soul.

Unforgettable Mutts is more than a validation to those of us who have loved mixed-breed dogs. It is also an important testimony against prejudice. This fascination we humans seem to have with blood purity, breeding, and origins has been a root cause of the suffering of millions of living beings, human and animal.
I question this notion of blood purity at the canine level as well as at the human level. I remember some of the challenges my parents faced with our first two family dogs, Lady and Sugar, who were purebreds. Lady was crippled by hip dysplasia when she was only six months old. Sugar, at eight months, had been shuttled to four different homes because she did not live up to her show-dog potential. She was a coal-black shepherd and her color was not prized in the show ring back then.

Strongheart, my current purebred dog, has been diagnosed with a peculiar auto-immune disorder, and his back legs are not strong. There is no question in my mind that these three dogs of mine have suffered just a few of the consequences of being pure of breed.

Often, I have wondered, What has happened to us? Why are our hearts so hardened and our vision so corrupted with shallow appearances and a false image of value? How can people learn to see the worth, the vitality, and the enormous heart of the mutt?

Certainly, Karen Derrico sees the mutt’s soul. Her devotion to a dog’s “purity of heart” is evident in her writing. Her enthusiastic effort on behalf of these enchanting and devoted animals is admirable. Unforgettable Mutts so overflows with the essence of the pure heart and the nobility of the mixed-blood, that mutt owners everywhere will have to take precautions to keep themselves from bursting with pride.

The next time you are called to find an animal companion, sit down and re-read this very special book that you hold in your hands. Then, go search for that one-of-a-kind mutt that the universe will never see again.

--Susan Chernak McElroy, Brightstar Farm


by Karen Derrico

The “Ugly Mutt Story” “That dog is so ugly, and he’s just a mutt! I want a purebred dog. You know, like a German shepherd or a collie.” Those were the words of my husband, Jack, when I brought our first dog, Barney, home from the animal shelter. I’ll never forget that day. It was August 1988, we had been married less than a year, and had just moved into our first house in Southern California. Adding a dog to our household was probably the last thing on Jack’s mind, and the first thing on mine.
I have always loved dogs, and had grown up with several, but was unable to have pets in the apartments I lived in before getting married. I visited my mother frequently to get my “dog fix” from Simba, Caviar, and Chloe (all mutts), but still longed to have a dog of my own.

About a month after moving into our house, I was driving home from work one day, when all of the sudden it was as if my car switched to auto-pilot. The next thing I knew, I was pulling into the parking lot of the local animal shelter. Amazingly, I had never actually been to an animal shelter before, since all of the dogs I had as a child were brought home by my parents. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and wasn,t sure how I ended up there, but without a moment’s hesitation, I hopped out of the car and headed straight for the entrance.

There were only a few dogs at the shelter that day, but once I saw Barney I knew why I ended up there on this particular day. He looked like a cross between Benji and Tramp (the dog from the movie The Lady and the Tramp), and had such a loving, happy-go-lucky disposition. When I took him out to the play area, we bonded instantly.

He was about a year old, and was brought in by a woman who found him wandering the streets, covered in chewing gum and dirt. She wanted to keep him, but was living in a small apartment, and already had another dog. The shelter manager told me that the woman was crying hysterically when she brought Barney in, concerned that he might not be adopted, and may have to be euthanized. Since I knew I was adopting him, I asked for her phone number to let her know that Barney had found a good home. Then I filled out the adoption paperwork, and Barney and I were on our way.

On the drive home I was nervous anticipating how Jack would react. As soon as we walked through the door, Barney ran directly over to Jack as if he,d known him all his life, his tail wagging furiously, and smothering him with kisses. Surely I thought Jack would fall “instantly in love.” Boy was I wrong! That night Barney and I camped out together on the living room floor because Jack refused to allow him in the bedroom. And the next morning, Jack insisted that I take Barney back to the shelter because he didn,t want a mutt. But after a few hours of pleading, I finally convinced him to give Barney a chance.

By the end of the first week, Barney was sleeping on our bed (sometimes under the covers), and soon thereafter, Jack was referring to him as his “kid.” Over the next several months I watched with great joy as their bond grew deeper. The dog that Jack initially referred to as an “ugly mutt,” had become the most wonderful dog in the world to him. Fortunately, since Barney had already paved the way, things went a lot smoother when I adopted our next mutt, Zelda, a few years later.
Barney, Zelda, and all of the dogs in this book are “lucky,” they were given the chance that millions of other mutts may never have. According to The Humane Society of the United States, approximately 75 percent of all dogs entering animal shelters each year are mutts. Although some are adopted, between one and two million mixed-breed dogs are euthanized.

People are often hesitant to adopt a mutt because they are not sure what personality traits the dog will have, or they are under the common misconception that if a dog is not purebred, he or she must be somehow defective.This, of course, could not be further from the truth.

But the main problem facing all dogs in this country, whether mutts or purebreds, is the pet overpopulation crisis. Between two to four million dogs are sadly destroyed in animal shelters each year. One of the main causes for this horrible statistic is pet owners who do not spay or neuter their dogs. In just six years, it is estimated that one unspayed female dog and her un-neutered and unspayed offspring can produce up to 67,000 puppies. Adopting a dog is saving a life, but if the dog is not immediately spayed or neutered, many other dogs will perish, simply because there are not enough homes for them.


About This Book

It has always bothered me that mutts are considered the outcasts of the dog world, but it really hit home after we adopted Barney and Zelda. Many people would stop us, and still do, to ask what type of dogs they are. When we tell people they are mutts, the typical response is usually “oh really,” punctuated with a disappointed facial expression and tone of voice. After realizing that Jack was not the only one who had a terrible misconception about mutts, I became determined to do something about it.

I started a regional pet magazine in Orange County, California called Pet Gazette, featuring photos and descriptions of pets for adoption at neighborhood animal shelters. Barney even had his very own column, “Dear Barney,” where readers wrote in with questions about their pets. Many dogs were adopted as a result of my magazine, but I knew I had a long way to go. There were still millions of homeless mutts across the United States, and millions of people who needed convincing about how wonderful these dogs really are.

Thinking of everything short of going on the Oprah show to get the word out, I decided a book would provide the best publicity for mutts on a national level. I sent a press release and a photo of Barney to newspapers nationwide, calling for photos and stories about mixed-breed dogs for my book. More than twenty newspapers ran my article, and I received nearly two thousand submissions from mutt lovers coast to coast.

There were so many wonderful stories and photos, it was extremely difficult selecting which ones to include in the book. But after several months of poring through submissions, I finally narrowed it down to a strong representation of the millions of magnificent mutts across America.

The result, Unforgettable Mutts: Pure of Heart Not of Breed, is a celebration and tribute to mutts past and present. Shadow, the scuba diving labrador mix; Josh the “Wonder Dog” who ran for U.S. President; Owney, the U.S. postal mascot who traveled around the world; Ginny, a terrier mix who rescues abandoned cats; and Runway, who gets around in a canine “wheelchair,” are just a few of the inspiring and heartwarming tales inside this book.

But this book is not just about mutts, it’s also about the caring people who have taken these special dogs into their homes and hearts. During his presidency, Lyndon Johnson took in a small white stray named Yuki, who was his constant companion at the White House; Hollywood animal trainer, Frank Inn, rescued the famous Benji from a Los Angeles animal shelter; and Nipper, the RCA mascot was rescued from a medical research lab by the Dawn Animal Agency. Most of the people in this book, however, are not famous celebrities or presidents, they’re just every day people with extraordinary hearts who have recognized that “beauty is more than fur-deep.”

If you are not a mutt owner, but are considering adopting one, hopefully this book will convince you to consider a mixed-breed dog. The Resources section includes listings for several pet adoption web sites and recommended books to assist you in your search for a marvelous mutt or purebred dog, as well as listings on a wide variety of dog-related resources from fun activities and contests to mutt clubs and more.

It is my hope that Unforgettable Mutts will give mixed-breed dogs the long overdue recognition they deserve. I love all dogs, whether mutts or purebred, but most importantly I believe that every dog deserves an equal chance for a loving family and a place to call home, regardless of heritage. The dogs and people in this book offer us an essential lesson about unconditional love. As Jane Lidz, author of Zak: The One-of-a-Kind Dog, so perfectly expressed it, “We are all one of a kind, yet we are all one.”

--Karen Derrico
Author, Unforgettable Mutts




Copyright © NewSage Press 1998