Archive for June, 2016

“Keeping Our Boat Afloat”—or the end of the Purebred Dog Fancy

June 24, 2016
My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

Two Northern Illinois Kennel Clubs are  sponsoring a  round table discussion about how to keep the sport of  showing dogs (I believe this would include performance) active and viable.  The session will be held Saturday, July16, after Best in Show  at Blackhawk KC.

I will not attend, because I don’t have  a dog to show. Actually, I have  one dog in Rally (and one of the clubs has no performance events), but I am glad others are as concerned as I am.

Purebred dogs are in trouble. Even discounting the physiological problems of the  brachycephalic dogs,  many breeds do not have viable gene pools.

I was going to start this rant another way, but two occurences shocked me into having to address perceptions.

I compete in Rally, with  a purebred dog.  I noticed that mixed breed dogs are listed in the catalogs as “ALL AMERICAN DOG”.  Does that mean that the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Coonhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes are NOT “ALL AMERICAN DOGS”?  Why aren’t mixed breed dog listed as either ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’? What genius thought up this slap in the face to the fancy?

I often respond to posts  on Craigslist from people looking for specific breeds (I also flag sellers…no animal sales or breeding are allowed on Craigslist—it is to rehome older pets, but this is a great example of ‘the law of the commons’ and people having no integrity).  A girl was looking for an Australian Shepherd.  I responded that, since no animal sales or breeding are allowed on CL, that she should contact  the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and be put in touch with hobby breeders.  I also told her that, since ethical hobby breeders take their dogs back (and no puppy sales are allowed on CL), that the only responses she’d get would be from commercial breeders or scammers. She responded to ME that U didn’t know what I was talking about, that she had done plenty of research, and would not buy from a breeder because they only breed for money.  I  responded that she was mistaken, that hobby breeders breed for the betterment of the breed and  do genetic testing, and where did she think purebred dogs come from, if not breeders?  She told me she knew what she was doing & to mind my own business.

So…my fellow dog purebred dog fanciers….so much for the AKC marketing, “Buy from a breeder,” as this has clearly backfired.  The  conventional wisdom is that we inbreed dogs for looks, and don’t care about soundness (yet, the designer dog breeders and their “F1 crosses” seems to make a lot of sense to those buyers who believe that crossing  two breeds eliminates genetic defects).

I have been ‘active’ in the fancy, on and off, since the late 1960s.  My  first  ‘show dog’ was an Afghan, or, rather, I should say he had a great pedigree, but  he wasn’t really show quality, and, as my parents weren’t really interested, nobody mentored me.  I went to the New York School of Dog Grooming, rather than college, because I knew I wanted to work with dogs.  I was taught by Don Doessel, who actually got Louis  and Seme Auslander started in Miniature Schnauzer.  I was later mentored by a dog groomer who learned to groom Bedlingtons from  Charlie Praeger, and Airedales from Mareth Kipp.  I have worked on and off for Dale Miller (Barclay Square Miniature Schnauzers), and  for Jocelyn Slatin (Jamboree Airedales and Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers).  I was a member of the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago in the 1970s, and really promoted the idea of rescue and breeders taking responsibility for all the dogs they breed, but I was ridiculed, so I dropped my membership.  It was all for the best.  Having Afghan Hounds, I realized there were very few good pet homes for long haired dogs, and I wasn’t going to be wealthy enough to have enough property or time to support a breeding habit.  & who wanted to associate with people who felt that once they sold a dog, their responsibility ended?  I know that  the ‘culture’ varies from breed to breed….but this is how puppy mills get dogs of your breeding:  buyer can’t  keep dog, you don’t take dog back, commercial breeder (Hunte Corp?) gets dog, & the rest is history….

It  just got to the point that I knew, if I wanted to retire with any level or  economic security, I could not afford to campaign a dog.  Where did I get my wacky ideas? From the breeders I worked for. In fact, Fred Alderman, of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: If  you had never owned an Afghan  and wanted one of his dog, you had to spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t  want to sell you a dog & later hear you didn’t know how much time it would take, or the equipment you would need, or how often it needed to be done.  If—after a day of grooming, you didn’t want an Afghan…no harm, no foul.  Yet, how many   ‘ethical hobby breeders’ even  tell a pet buyer what kind of brush to buy?  Or say anything about obedience training being a must?

I’ve helped a few breeders grade puppies, and judged a couple of matches, but the AKC  has no use for me. They’d  rather support a puppy mill breeder as a judge than a non-breeder who knows the standards and can interpret them.  Why?  You know why:  the  whole thing is about registering puppies.

&–what is a puppy mill?  There is a lot of disagreement on this, but—-to me—it is the breeder  breeding dogs without a thought to bettering the breed.  It doesn’t matter if they have one bitch or  1,000.  If you are not breeding for the betterment of the breed, you are part of the pet surplus problem.

I ultimately did  go to college, and I ended up with a master’s in public policy.  BFD.  I’ve also titled dogs in conformation (a Saluki whom the breeder didn’t think was show quality finished in  fewer than 10 shows), obedience (an Afghan  and a Whippet both nationally ranked), rally, and  lure coursing.  I, too, am THE FANCY.

Why is the fancy in trouble?

  1.  There is no longer a middle class.    When I started  showing dogs, as a teenager, ‘land rents ‘ were much lower.  Housing, for middle class people, was 20—25% of their take home pay.  Now, 35% is considered average.  Don’t get me started on  health care or energy costs.  You need an expendable income to be ‘in dogs’, so  how many people can afford to keep even  four breedable bitches?  & you notice, their children are not  becoming breeders;
  2. There is a huge disconnect between  fanciers and veterinarians.  Yes, some fanciers are veterinarians, but, as a dog groomer, I have worked for several animal hospitals where not  one veterinarian was a fancier. They  disrespected the fact that  many  dogs had grain sensitivities—and it is now a major segment of the pet industry.   that was us!  Us dog lovers, talking to each other at  conformation classes and shows!  We developed grain-free & specialty  dog foods—not veterinarians! They  don’t  suggest pet owners  check for  discoverable  genetic problems  before breeding their dogs, and they are the reason  people switched from dog collars to harnesses and flexis (god forbid they’d suggest—-training).  One practice I worked for  actively partnered with puppy mill outlets.  So—-why  do fanciers continue to  support veterinarians who don’t understand or respect them?
  3.   Our marketing is for shit.  Due to our integrity, we’ve supported research into genetic defects.  This is not purebred dogs—this is DOMESTIC dogs.  Yet, veterinarians will not disabuse  pet owners of the idea that  designer dogs are not HYBRIDS.  Now, for every purebred Poodle I groom, I groom over 100 designer dogs:  Doodles, Shipoos, Maltapoos, Cavashons, Bernadoodles…and Pomskys.  Pomskys!  Why not a Keeshond or Norwegian Elkhound?  & people are paying more for the mixed breeds than they would a purebred.  I  was attending   a specialty show of a breed, and at the same location. I walked into another  specialty  of another breed, just  to watch…and several people asked me what I was doing there or if I was lost!  This  was a breed I had considered owning, no more!  Also, th public doesn’t understand that most of our dogs are house pets!
  4.  We have allowed naive  ‘humane activists’ to  own and define the rhetoric. Open admissions shelters would not have to be high-kill if the ‘No-kill’ were honest.  & when you buy dogs from commercial breeders, it is not rescue.  I consider myself a humane activist, but I do not support rescues that disrespect hobby breeders.  Our dogs are not the ones that end up in animal shelters….but the only way to  prove this is to push for—on a state level–mandatory chipping of dogs & cats with the breeder’s contact info.    This could easily be done by contacting anyone who posts puppies or kittens for sale on Craigslist, EBay, or any media.  & it can be done by encouraging people to become volunteer humane inspectors.  When  the do-gooders who support  shelter pets  shout, “Adopt, don’t shop!”  they are letting all the backyard breeders off the hook—and they are the ones causing the pet surplus.  You can find them on Craigslist any day.
  5.   We do a poor job of policing ourselves.  We  all know of hobby breeders whose yards are a mess, who  don’t sell pups with contracts or  explain what grooming tools or methods are needed for the puppies they sell…and who won’t take a dog they bred back.  Remember, the Obamas got  their  two Porties who had been returned to their breeders.  When they got Porties, for once, we didn’t see a flood of Porties hitting the market. Why?  the PWD  breeders saw what happened to  other breeds, and closely hold them….and  follow through. They also explain this to pet buyers.  The culture varies from breed to breed.  I am a Saluki and Whippet fancier, and  all  our breeders (who are not mentally deranged) take their dogs back—no matter how old.  Yet, I’ve been told, that for every Shiba Inu or  Basenji that is AKC registered, statistically, one goes into rescue.

So, what can we do to save the fancy?

  1.  Everyone has to be on the same page.  You have to have all your puppies on contract to be   co-owned until neutered or titled, and you  better be sure you have  the funds to  enforce a legal contract.  & if you can’t  find good homes, and know you can be selling to renters, or  people who really don’t have the time or funds to take care of a dog (or who you know plan to give your puppies as gifts), YOU are the problem.
  2.   Dog show entry fees are outrageously expensive. There was a time that I’d enter  both conformation and obedience.  Not any more.  &—the biggest insult—that Rally is considered an ‘overlay’ event with a totally different entry fee—is offensive.  Because other clubs do  it is  a terrible reason—and this is what is preventing people from  showing their dogs (even if they did have some extra cash).
  3.   Your club must sponsor events to get the public involved.  Ask a local pet shop manager if you can set up a table on weekends and do  information on various breeds and activities.  This is  how you can inform regular folks  about  what  ethical breeders do.  See the following suggestion—-pet  fanciers of your breeds  are the best marketing.
  4.   Show some respect for people like me—who are not breeders—but fanciers and pet buyers!  The Greater Chicago Whippet Club is now made up almost entirely of pet owners not showing dogs!  That’s right!  Sure, some people still race, and lure course, but of our paid up members,  I’ve been told only  one is a breeder.  Yet, we know  we have to support  hobby breeders.  In fact, the American Whippet Club events  always  attract a lot of pet owners.  We have  agility, obedience, rally, classes for spayed/neutered dogs, a parade of rescues as well as champions, and  do major  fund raising for our national networked rescue efforts.
  5. Your matches should be sweepstakes.  In fact, what’s up with an entry fee being $27, but someone offering $10 for Winner’s dog or bitch? What kind of sense does that make?   Here’s an idea:  encourage  exhibitors to bring items for a bazaar.  For every class win, give a  ticket, for Winners  and Best of Breed, etc, give more tickets, and allow people to choose their own prizes to commemorate the win!
  6. It’s time to demand that  dogs be genetically tested before they are bred. To not test, and then state you have never had a problem, is disingenuous.
  7.  The AKC needs to be confronted on how they spend out money. Who cares if those puppy mill dogs go to another registry? So what? They are not a part of our gene pools!  To stop printing the Gazette, and go in favor of licensing products (harnesses—really?  Only sled dogs and guide dogs should wear harnesses!)  Yet,  not  branding of martingales—the best collar for most pet dogs…what’s up with that? Do they even know anything about safe dog handling? It’s really a slap in the face to us all.  The AKC would not even need to change anything. All they would have to do  is do what it says on their  registration papers:  no 3rd party selling.  I can’t think of any greater disrespect to the fancy than this.  I saw in a dog magazine that someone thought the AKC should get all  money collected for entrance fees & dole it out to us. Really? The foxes guarding the henhouse haven’t done enough damage?  I have to wonder if these old white men are all just field trial people who don’t have a personal relationship with any dog!  But what are our delegates doing in New York?
  8. . I suggest every fancier get a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point” which is a great treatment of how ideas become conventional wisdom.

Are all experiences better shared?

June 17, 2016

I am not the most sociable person, but for a long time, If I wanted to do something, I  often asked a friend to join me.  More and more, I  feel it is better to  just do what I want to do—alone.

My friend Mimi has a personality ‘thing’ where she is annoyed by people making superfluous noise.  Noises like  slurping the end of a drink through a straw, or crinkling a candy wrapper.  Especially in a movie theatre.  She makes more  noise complaining about these people than the people actually make.  It’s irritating. It’s also irritating trying to go anywhere with her because she is compelled to  schmooze with  absolutely any stranger. She thinks  that by ‘networking’ this way  that she will ultimately get more business.  She doesn’t, but this is how she is. so, we can’t get anywhere in a timely fashion, because she is always stopping to talk and joke.

My friend Patty is very interesting, and has a lot of interests, and she can be very funny, but she also has  two annoying habits;  she will  agonize over buying something, buy it, and immediately regret the purchase.  Also, she can’t have a good time without alcohol.  I didn’t realize this until I traveled with her. I bought a bottle of local liqueur as a souvenir, and she drank it without asking.  Oh sure, she promised to replace it, and didn’t. When she drinks, she can be nasty and confrontational.

Then there is Lena.   She is always complaining about my car.  It is a mess. I often have my dogs in the car.   Also, Lena likes to have a window open.  My last car was in an accident, and the windows would not always close, so I didn’t open them. The sun roof was not good enough for her.  She’s like a dog—who wants to stick her face out the window.  Always complaining, but  she doesn’t drive and was getting a free ride. We both like art, but we can’t go to an art fair together, because Lena has to stop and peruse everything—even though she is not going to buy.  This is how her Asperger’s is manifested.

Kate is always late, but insists on  picking me up and driving…then really not knowing how to get where we are going.  Also, even if we discuss the plan before hand, if we go to a movie, she always wants to spend more money…by either going out to eat or shopping  for stuff she really doesn’t need.  I had to stop doing anything with her that wasn’t at my house or her house.

the interesting thing is…..these women, while pet lovers, don’t share my interests in dogs, or in Africana.  Those people who do shave my interests, don’t live close enough by for me to develop a  ‘social intimacy’ with. so, will all our friends in the future be on Facebook or other social media?  I wonder.

 

Where do I get Good Dog Grooming Instructions?

June 10, 2016
Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

Purebred Bedlington.

I am on a number of Facebook feeds aimed at  dog groomers.  Novice groomers, who have either been trained by vocational schools or by the major pet chains, are always  posting that they have a (name a breed) coming in, and they have never groomed one. What should they do?  My gut reaction is to tell the dog owner they never have groomed their breed.  Then, what often happens is that the groomer does a horrible job because she  either doesn’t have the sense to look up  information on-line and/or her scissoring really IS generic. It makes all of us groomers look like we have no integrity, and integrity is so important.

I was  ‘lucky’ to start grooming dogs as a teenager, when  everyone involved in the grooming industry was a groomer showing dogs, or training for competition.  Competition means  setting goals and being judged by your peers.  Thus, there were plenty of  people to learn from.  Charlie Praeger, who originated the Groom-Rite brand (the first portable tables and stand dog  hair dryers) taught my boss how to broom Bedlington Terriers.  I  then went to work for a woman whose mother (Edith Tisch) raised Bedlingtons , and sent HER to Jack Funk to learn Bedlingtons.  This was a coincidence, and  from  that experience, I determined that Bedlingtons Terriers were probably not my breed.  However, I learned to groom Bedlingtons and met other terrier  exhibitors and learned the nuances of the other terrier breeds.  I  worked for Airedale and Soft -coated Wheaten Terrier breeder Jocelyn Slatin,  and, in the early 1970s,  many of our  grooming clients came from over 30 miles away because they didn’t want their Airedales  looking like Miniature Schnauzers.  One  of my clients gave me a ‘Terrier Type” (magazine) filled with photos of Scotties. another gave me a grooming chart for Wheatens.  I managed to collect a lot of grooming information from the parent clubs, and I observed exhibitors  preparing their dogs for competition at dog shows.  By watching breed judging I saw what exhibitors saw as their best.  After judging, I’d ask  exhibitors for tips on grooming their breeds.   There are  several  good grooming books available.  Everyone should have a copy of Melissa ver Plank’s , Notes From the Grooming Table, as it can be very helpful if you have a general  idea in your mind’s eye, but  just don’t know how to get there. I also have a copy of Eileen Geeson’s Ultimate Dog Grooming.  This is generally a good book, but we have so many better tools now than when she wrote the book, and  she  uses a pin brush where most of us would use a slicker.  The  best thing about this book is that is  gives information on a lot of rare breeds.

In the past several years, I’ve had my integrity questioned by  groomers with a lot less  experience than I have, and by dog owners and business owners who seem to think that if I don’t automatically assume  the  pet owner wants the dog as short as possible (i.e.: shaved), I am not giving  good value.  I find this particularly true regarding  Pomeranians and designer dogs.  Many of these people have  gone to a pet store chain for grooming and gotten back a shaved dog (even though the dog was not matted), and I’ve had to explain that if they want this, I will do it, but that I was taught to  do what is best for the dog.

What follows are some links from  parent club websites.  Actually,  all the information is rudimentary.  It’s best to be mentored by fanciers who really love their breeds.

Grooming

http://www.lagottous.com/Grooming (not much specific info here….but maybe for the best!)

http://www.bedlingtonamerica.com/grooming/index.htm

http://www.puliclub.org/GroomingGuide1993Bowley.pdf

Book Review: Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile.

June 3, 2016

The movie (created by people I would call the ‘dream team’:   director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts), came out in 2007… about 9 years ago.  This is the Wikipedia link to the review:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Wilson%27s_War

I came across the book (which I didn’t know existed) while traveling.  Crile was an amazing writer.  This is an absurd, almost unbelievable story. It’s actually a story about how ‘democracy’ works.

Do you remember where you were in the late 1980s?  I was in undergraduate school, working part-time grooming dogs,  and modeling for artists.  I had had a roommate who had volunteered with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Related to that, I had an FBI file.  That’s another story, which I blogged about previously: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/how-i-got-my-fbi-file/ .

The reason  my roommate volunteered to work for the Sandinistas was because of our ‘covert’ was in Nicaragua.  President Reagan wanted to  help the ‘contras’—a really ragtag group of’ anti-communists’ with no real strategy to govern the country, fight communism.  Unfortunately for them, in spite of  Reagan and the CIA pouring money into training and paying soldiers, they  really weren’t getting support of the Nicaraguans.   They did not exist at all, but were a contrivance.  Apparently, not only were there  several other political parties besides the  Sandinistas, the Nicaraguans did not fear communism or socialism the way we Americans had been led to.

This only matters because the war was not ‘covert’:  the news media knew of it, as did many Americans, who  pressured Congress to cut off funding.  We all knew Reagan was not a deep thinker, and he allowed key players  in the Republican Party to set policy.  What this has to do with the story of Charlie Wilson, and the war in Afghanistan (also covert—and a secret to us), is that, at one point,  Oliver North/the Reagan Administration asked the CIA and the Appropriations committee to hide money for the Contras in funds earmarked for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  :”Wait!” you  shout.  “The mujahedeen?  Aren’t they the people  waging  jihad against us now?  Haven’t they been since…?”  Yep, You got it.

The movie  was written  as a comedy.  Charlie Wilson was a playboy congressman from Texas, whose constituents didn’t ask much from him.  Having served in the navy, and grown up during the cold war, he was  strongly anti-communist.  On the advice of a vivacious socialite, Joanne Herring, who had met the  president of Pakistan ( Zia ul-Haq…who had his predecessor assassinate…), Charlie, who sat on the Appropriations Committee in  the House of Representatives,  got money  appropriated for arms for people in  Afghanistan fighting Russians/Soviets.  The Russians were in Afghanistan to prop up a  socialist government.  As we believed at the time—and it could have possibly been true—according to the domino theory:  if the USSR got a foothold in  south Asia, they could dominate the world.  The reality was—and is—that Afghanistan —as a country—is a contrivance.  It is a geographic parcel of land within a border.  It will probably never be a country with a viable economy.  It is a failed state without ever really being a state.

Who writes our history?  Is it what we get in primary school history books?  Is it journalists who write news  reports and turn them into books?  No matter. At the time the CIA was  buying and providing arms for the Afghan rebels, I was a student working part time.  What I DO remember is that very suddenly, the Soviet Union fell into chaos, and the Berlin wall came down.  I don’t think many Americans understood why this happened.  All we really knew of the Soviet Union was that it was a dictatorship with no press freedom, and only of consequence to us insofar as their influence on other countries.  Crile  gives us a better understanding  of what really happened.

We have to  understand what we  did in the rest of the world.  While the do-gooders took to the Afghanis, who were not united in any way, and have proven to not be unitable, what the do-gooders did—with out tax money, was ignore their human rights record, ignore how they treated  each other—let alone women, and gave them the power to  terrorize us after they finished with the Russians.  As I write this, in early 2016, we have Syrian refugees fleeing the middle East, and a bunch of right-wing politicians calling them all terrorists…meanwhile ignoring the fact that  they supported the cause of all this.

Worse, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton,  the former Secretary of State, continued to allow the Pakistanis to hold us hostage, along with President Obama, so we could kill off Osama bin Ladin and temporarily slow down jihad leaders.  We are not going to stop how foreign aid is doled out unless we  organize for a radical shift in leadership (which is another reason I support Bernie Sanders). The   countries receiving it hire lobbyists, and the  companies manufacturing weapons also have a huge stake in  continuing the status quo.