Sioux City man’s ‘hairy dog’ Frank is rare breed

Sioux City man's 'hairy dog' Frank is rare breed
Sioux City man's 'hairy dog' Frank is rare breed(MGN)
Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 11:24 AM CDT
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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — When Alex Johnson tells you his dog Frank is one of a kind, he’s almost quite literally telling the truth.

There aren’t many dogs like Frank, who’s a Barbado da Terceira, a rare breed of which there are an estimated 200-300 in the world. He’s one of just 34 living in the United States.

“I had no understanding he was this rare,” Johnson said, nodding toward the energetic bundle of hair lying nearby. “I just saw a dog that was handsome, and I was at a point where I wanted a dog.”

Barbado da Terceiras are a fluffy, medium-sized dog bred to herd and guard livestock on the Azores, a small Atlantic Ocean island group that’s part of Portugal. Johnson had never heard of the breed before he decided he wanted a dog and googled hypoallergenic breeds that wouldn’t trigger his allergies. Scrolling through the search results, a long-haired breed with loving eyes caught his attention.

“I like a hairy dog, I guess,” Johnson told the Sioux City Journal.

Researching the breed, he learned BDTs -- an easier way to refer to the breed’s name -- don’t shed and are well-mannered. He’d found his dog, but actually getting one wouldn’t be as easy.

Johnson contacted the president of the breed club in the United States in September and learned that because there are so few of the dogs in this country, there’s a two-year waiting list for a puppy. However, one could be obtained sooner from breeders in Portugal.

“I’m a really persistent person,” Johnson said. “When I see and know what I want, I go with that.”

He was put in touch with a breeder in Portugal and in March was notified that a dog was available.

One problem: Johnson’s passport had expired, so he couldn’t fly to Portugal. Instead, his co-worker Sean Bigbear made the trip. Frank’s journey to America ended at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after spending an hour and a half in customs. Already too big to fly in the passenger area of the plane, Frank spent the flight in a kennel in the cargo hold.

“He smelled terrible. It was rotten. He had no idea what was going on,” Johnson said of meeting Frank in the airport’s international terminal.

But Frank’s happy, curious personality quickly outweighed his scraggly appearance and he snooped around to explore his surroundings. After the car ride home to Sioux City was over, Frank settled in and has become a friendly face in his neighborhood, excitedly greeting every person and animal he sees.

“Frank thinks everybody’s his friend,” Johnson said.

Most people assume he’s a doodle, one of many breeds crossed with poodles. When Johnson tells them he’s a Barbado de Terceira, “I get pretty befuddled looks.”

Owner of Proper Painting, Johnson takes Frank to work with him, the dog hanging a front leg out the passenger window of Johnson’s pickup truck as they drive to and from jobs. A skateboarder, Johnson takes Frank with him to local skate parks, where Frank, due to his breed’s livestock herding background, likes to chase people around, trying to round them up to be closer to Johnson.

“Frank is always trying to assert himself,” Johnson said of the breed’s sometimes stubborn, assertive behavior.

But there are no worries about intruders sneaking into his home. Frank sleeps in front of the door, his natural guardian instincts kicking in.

The 8-month-old has grown to 63 pounds, and if his large paws are any indication, he’ll surpass the 70-pound upper end of the breed’s weight range.

Frank may be rare, but he displays common dog behavior, playing with an empty caulking tube and a plastic sack at a work site and drawing laughter and loving looks from Johnson, who’s found everything he was looking for when he began his search for a dog.

“He’s exceeded expectations in all realms,” Johnson said.

A common sentiment among dog owners, no matter how rare their dog’s breed.