Archive for August, 2011

More Dog stuff, Min. Schnauzers, The end of the AKC Gazette, and the economy

August 18, 2011

There is a difference  between (or I should say ‘among’) animal shelters, pounds, & rescues.  A big difference.  Not all dog ‘pounds’ are shelters.  Shelters are generally  not government connected, but may get some government funds. Rescues  usually are privately run—don’t deal with any government entity.  I’d like to say it’s all in a name, but  if you are supporting  humane care of animals, it pays to check out the agency’s policies.   There is a rumor spread among the constant animal sellers on the internet in the midwest that I work for an animal shelter, get pets for free, & RESELL them.  The original poster, a bona fide animal seller/broker, & proud of it, started this rumor to discredit me.  He didn’t have to give any real facts—or even make  one up.  I mean,  he could have  posted the shelter I ALLEGEDLY work at and get animals from.  I would never do this for a bunch of reasons. The biggest being—I could never afford this.   I can barely afford to keep 2 healthy dogs.  Plus, I also know that adding another animal to the mix changes the dynamic of my household, and would stress out  my dogs. Why do that if you love dogs?

Because there are people who ‘work for’ (I believe they actually volunteer, but  I don’t really care)  shelters who DO take dogs to resell (I believe the  logic is that they are finding homes for these animals, & that’s the most important thing—right?), the rumor is believable enough.  But the fact  is that there is really no money in selling adult dogs. None.

In the mid 1970’s (yeah, I go back a long way…) I coordinated rescue for the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago.  Using common sense, I contacted all the animal shelters I knew of….& we averaged about 1 dog a week for over a year.  Yes…one Afghan Hound was either  turning up  abandoned in a shelter, or an owner who bought a dog from the breeder directly was asking to surrender the dog so they would not have to euthanize the dog.

Why didn’t they want the dogs?  Either it was because the dog was not housebroken (I’d have to tell people to not lie to me) & there were no dog walkers back then, next big reason was…the dog kept running away(it’s the Lassie syndrome—-people think they are getting Lassie, but Afghan Hounds aren’t going to rescue anybody), & finally, they didn’t want to groom the dog.

Most of the Afghans in shelters were runaways.  The problem was overwhelming, but, as the market became saturated with Afghan Hounds,  and breeders were having to take dogs back (because—after all—that is what ethical hobby breeders do…), the breeder either started euthanizing their own pet puppies  or  slowed down their breeding, or…BIG SOLUTION…left the fancy or became involved in another breed.

I learned a lot from the experience  and understood that it would be unlikely for me to ever be in a position to be an ethical hobby breeder.  I became really demoralized & disgusted,  left the club, because so many really good , honest breeders rallied to the defense of  a breeder who had become a puppy mill & was actually inhumane to her dogs.  As in all clubs, there was  almost a complete turnover in membership in about 10 years.  Attitudes changed…but it was too late for me.

When I first started learning to groom, I was lucky enough  to bathe dogs for one of the top hobby breeders of Miniature Schnauzers in the country: Dale Miller.  She usually had 8—10 breeding bitches in her kennel, and one stud dog.  She was—as virtually all  hobby breeders were—of the mindset that you bred your champion stud to  the pet bitches because if you didn’t breed to them, they would breed theiri bitch to a lesser quality dog.  This was the mindset until the 1970s, when congenital juvenile cataracts  were discovered in the breed.  Dogs were going blind at the age of 2 years old.  The hobby breeders wanted to weed this out :   What is the point of breeding a dog with gorgeous conformation if it is blind? So they  started doing test breeding & worked with geneticists.  It’s too complicated to go into in this blog…but my point is, they all stopped breeding those pet bitches that were not tested clear of CJC.

Because Dale was so well known as a breeder of good dogs, she always  had a waiting list for puppies.  However,  finally, her husband wanted a Wire-haired Fox Terrier.  They got one, showed her, she became a champion, & they bred her….& discovered there was virtually no market for Wires (not at the time, anyways).  They had the last puppy, a gorgeous male, very sweet, for over a year before they found him a home.  Meanwhile, the club started realizing that many people were getting puppy mill bred Schnauzers, and there was a need for rescue.  & why were Schnauzers going into rescue? Seems that —again—people has a vision of Lassie in their minds…they would spoil the dogs, the dogs would be barkers (people reward dogs for barking because they don’t know how to train a dog), & then they’d decide to move—what a great time to GET RID OF a problem dog.  & the fact is, there are very few good homes for adult dogs. Michelle Smith in the metro Chicago area did an outstanding job of coordinating rescue for a very long time, until she became ill…but it seems that most of the Schnauzers in rescue are coming from either puppy mills or backyard breeders…the people who didn’t make a big deal about taking the dog to obedience classes & being in control of their dogs.

This brings me to  the demise  of the magazine: Purebred Dogs: American Kennel Gazette.  The American Kennel Club has decided it is too expensive to continue to publish the magazine in print form…it will be available online.

Never mind that the average purebred dog fancier is over 55  and can barely use the internet.  Or, that it is a pain-in-the-neck to  read a magazine—or any lengthy document on a computer. They decided to continue to publish their  magazine aimed at the general nonfancy public, Family Dog, and just  disrespect the  fanciers who have kept the AKC going.  Never mind that there are about half a dozen magazines in competition with family dog for readers.

I grew up reading the Gazette,and I learned not only about dogs, but about research,  good breeding and training practices, the performance sports,  just so much pertaining to dogs that was written by real dog lovers…most of whom were not getting paid.

I know the economy is the reason  everyone  is affected…but  think about it:  if  the average person with a college education can no longer afford to own a home, and is tenuous in his security, who will  buy—and fancy  purebred dogs?

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The irony of the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier

August 11, 2011

Back in the early 1970s, when I was still a pretty novice dog groomer, I was sent to interview with Jocelyn Slatin, who owned Jamboree Airedales & soft-coated Wheaten Terriers.

Jocelyn sort of  fell into breeding dogs.  I am not really sure  how, but I knew she met Mrs. Benson, who owned the old Benaire line of Airedales, &  lived close by, and one thing led to another (I believe early dog show wins with these dogs), and  Jocelyn became a dog breeder.  &, not sure how it happened, but she met  people who had Wheatens at a dog show, and decided she would add a few of them.

At the time, the breed was so new, there was not much of a market for the breed, and there certainly was no pet trim for them.  We sort of developed a pet trim (I would not call it a ‘puppy trim’…only Poodles had puppy trims), and having Afghans at the time, I encouraged her to show prospective buyers how to line brush the puppies, but back then, many breeders just  assumed that  anyone who’d pay so much for  a rare breed would learn how to take care of the dog….or pay someone to do so.

Jocelyn’s handler(who handled the dogs at dog shows) told me the breed was a ‘bad breed’.  “How so? ”  I asked?

“Look at the breed standard.  It says nothing about their feet or their bites.  Just coat. Really easy to hide faults under the coat.”

“Well, that’s not my biggest concern, but I doubt many people will buy a pet dog this large that needs grooming.”

How wrong I was.  For the middle class, Jimmy Carter’s  lack  of economic control over sky -rocketing inflation (mostly due to OPEC  & our  reliance upon imported fuel)  did not affect them at all. It was the working class who suffered back then.  In any case, word spread that there was a nonshed breed of dog that was larger than a Miniature Schnauzer but smaller than a standard poodle, & the breed took off.

Because the standard was so poorly written, and  breeders saw an opportunity—& seemrd to genuinely like the breed….every one of them bred just about every bitch they could. These hobby breeders were not dog trainers. They generally kept about a dozen dogs or so in their kennels, with either 1 or 2 house dogs, or rotated the bitches in.  They really didn’t think too deeply about what kind of person would want a dog like this, and just assumed that anyone who sought out a Wheaten would be a good home, because they were paying good money for a dog.

So—what happened?  What happened was how it went down in most popular breeds:  people with pet bitches wanted to make their ‘investment’ back, & the stud owners were either a neighbor’s Wheaten, or a stud owner whose attitude was, “If I don’t breed her, she will find a lesser quality stud & be bred anyways…”
& what happened was there was a glut of Wheatens.  Most did find homes—people who wanted a nonshed dogs…but this is America—where everyone thinks they are buying Lassie. They didn’t understand what a terrier was.

The breed remained popular through the mid 2000’s, and at one time, I had over 40 clients with  soft-coated Wheaten Terriers—in all manner of haircuts—from Show trims, to shaves, to ‘Doodle’ trims.  As those dogs died of old age, the owners did NOT replace them with another Wheaton.  Some went to Tibentan Terriers (nonshed, love the coat, but their time came & went, too—not really cuddly ), many went to the Doodles:  the LabraDoodles &  Golden Doodles, & even the miniature Golden Doodles—which I believe are actually cockapoos.

WE no longer have a local (Chicago) club for Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier Breeders.  I suspect many either stopped breeding dogs or went to another breed.  Truthfully, the breed gained mych more popularity than it even deserved. Why do I say that? These are terriers, and they need strong leaders.  Most of the people who are attracted to the conformation of the dog—-how it looks are not strong leaders.

I am not sure this is such a  bad thing, but the AKC  seems mystified.

The future is here now…and purebred dogs…

August 6, 2011

Global Warming? Are there any doubts?  If you live in Chicago now, you know it is for real.  At least we have the lake…but I am wondering….if sea levels rise  three feet, am I too close to the lake, & will I have lakefront property in my lifetime?  Due to us running air-con & fans, my electric bill has more than tripled  what it usually is.

Since I know my elected officials are not scientists, and that politics is the art of compromise, and mine have compromised us into  pandering to the very selfish, short sighted Republicans & Tea -Partiers, the climate is of low priority interest.

They are also all counting on our educational system not improving any time in the future. They all seem to think that teachers are over paid and under worked, have yet to come up with a system that can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher (I believe test scores are a convoluted way), and  still, 50 years after Sputnik &  ‘we Americans’ realizing the Soviets were way ahead of us in  studying physics & making the knowledge of physics a priority, we still have   many high school students who can’t make change for a dollar.  No joke.

What does this have to do with purebred dogs?  Someone called me a few weeks back, sort of as a last resort, because he was looking for a ‘red factor’ (actually a Sable with no merling)…Shetland Sheepdog.

This is not a rare breed by any means, but he claimed that most of the  hobby breeders he  encountered were breeding merles…because that’s what people wanted.

I understood his concern.  I know there is a desire for merles in  all breeds by an uneducated public that thinks it’s a rumor that merling is linked to congenital blindness & deafness.  It is not a rumor. it is a fact…& it is the reason that the Great Dane Club of America has a breeders’ code of ethics prohibiting merling.  We’d like to believe dappled Dachshunds, & the blue belton English Cockers are NOT merles…but they are…& many are deaf.  Do a BAER test if you doubt it.

Yes, I know  the  black & tan patten (with the kiss marks over the eyes, diamonds on the chest, & tan stockings & tail vents) are linked to deafness, but let’s get back to this guy  not being able to find a Sheltie from a hobby breeder.

I told him that the irony was that …DUE TO THE ECONOMY…very few hobby breeders are breeding without deposits, or  if they don’t think they can keep a litter of 8 or so indefinitely.

The guy complained that the puppy mills & backyard breeders  were filling the void. Ah, yes—thank you AKC.

I told him I was worried about the gene pools in  many of the breeds.  They will be compromised if they are not already, as people who love dogs can’t afford to breed them & keep them.  I also told him to—again—look at Craigslist…& notice all the pit bulls.  The Pit breeders are not concerned about the adult pits that are being euthanized as long as they can sell their puppies.  I told the guy that the problem is that people want to ‘rescue’ a dog, & will take any dog needing rescue. Theres nothing wrong with that—but that doesn’t mean people want Pit Bulls, and I will  not have thugs and uneducated macho hillbillies deciding what kind of dog I should have.

So, using a form of logic, he asked me why didn’t I breed dogs if I was worried about the gene pools.  Seems that breeders of Otterhounds and many other truly rare breeds are worried about this now.

I told him it was because I love dogs, & if there are no homes for the dogs, what does it matter if I  protect a gene pool?

Years ago, I went out with an anthropologist who was trying to  create stress free housing for  laboratory chimpanzees.  He told me the irony was that they are very expensive, but nobody wants them….so what s the point?  & what is the point of saving them if nobody wants them?  Same with Rhinocerus.

What does global warming have to do with this? Energy costs–unless we insist that the GOVERNMENT fund development of  renewable resources such as solar , wind, & batteries, will continue to take a big chunk of our budgets and make our  environment  unlivable.  Thinning the herd?  Maybe.  But the fact is that  in a few years, especially if the  short sighted dimwits who don’t want the rich taxed at the rate they were taxed from the end of World War II right on through the Reagan era continue to have their way, the dogs we will be left with will be all Pit Bulls &  no other breed.

Do the research.  There are is a lot of infrastructure that we need  for economic viability, and it doesn’t make money. It costs money.  It seems that most of the Tea Party is in denial about this, or just plain ignorant.