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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

23 February 2004 Issue

PAWPRINTS, FOOTPRINTS & ANIMAL CHATTER

By Judith Marie Gansen

Where's Your Pedigree?

nl-23feb2004-paw-bianca.jpg (439005 bytes)I remember when we got our beloved purebred Yorkie, Fiesta, from a breeder, how much I fell in love with the breed being a toy dog lover. We also had our purebred Lhasa Apso, Mookiee. Back then I thought since my husband and I both love dogs it would be fun for all of us to get into showing and breeding dogs. We were completely ignorant of many issues back then. (To enlarge the photo of Bianca, click on the photo or link)

Since we bought and/or adopted 5 dogs at that time, money did become an issue--that many dogs means higher vet bills, etc. Our wonderful vet back then talked me out of breeding Yorkies to help pay vet bills and for fun. She educated me on some of the issues. Then I thought, okay what about participating in dog shows with our Lhasa since he was an A.K.C. (see my related story about our Mookiee and Kneesaa, the mill dogs) registered dog. Then I read where dogs with long coats like Lhasas sometimes spend about 6 hours in their cages after they have been combed out because their hair must be perfect. I thought that can't be enjoyable for the dogs so I decided shows weren't for me.

I had never seen a dog show really but quickly began to learn about them out of curiosity. I was upset that the A.K.C. would not allow dogs who are spayed and neutered. Why not? How could that possibly make any difference in whether or not a dog deserved to win? After more investigation and talking to dog people I found out breeders (with the exception of a few breeds like Border Collies) breed mostly for "coat." I asked our exceptional vet recently whether coat condition is an indication of good health and he said no. Breeding solely for looks is creating dogs with health problems--others have written about this too. Better breeders require spay/neuter on those pups sold out so these genes are not passed on but many do not. Those pups get once again the A.K.C. stamp of approval and therefore people assume they will be healthier dogs. Then they think, as I did, maybe it would be fun or help pay for vet bills to breed those dogs. Had I bred Fiesta irresponsibly other pups and their guardians would have likely been given the health issues she suffered with unfortunately. This is not to say all purebred dogs are unhealthy of course.

I have never been a fan of women's beauty pageants--parading women around and comparing them has always been, in my opinion, an insult to women everywhere. Can similar criticisms be said for dog and cat shows? Well, I doubt the dogs or cats that lose get upset except for picking up on the emotions of the people who show them if they lose. My beloved Mom used to say "We are on this earth for just a minute"--isn't it sad that people choose to spend that minute on proving in a competition that one being is more lovely than another? Rather shallow, don't you think?

It's About Winning for Fame, Profit and Ego

Why do we do this with dogs and cats? Are we attempting to live vicariously through the lives of these animals because we never won any beauty contests ourselves or were never popular in high school or because we don't have alot of money? I still have pain inside me because of not being one of the "chosen ones" in high school and from the abuse I took there--but will having a winning showdog make up for that? If we grow up with poor self-esteem, aren't there other ways to make ourselves heal? If you have feel you are "not an ok person," try working somehow to make the world a better place and see how good it feels to give of yourself which in turn gives so much to you, including better self-esteem.

The "pet quality" dogs, like our Fiesta, are put up for sale by the breeders. Their dream is a perfect showdog potential. So they breed and breed and breed, creating many puppies hoping to find that elusive perfect puppy. If they creates a winning showdog, they can charge more for those puppies it has. In the meantime dogs and cats are in rescues or homeless all over the world with no homes. Our Fiesta was a discard from the breeder because her teeth were crooked even though her parents were both champions. The more responsible breeders will only breed maybe once a year. They love their breed and would never dream of breeding a dog with health problems. The lady I bought our Fiesta from was president of a local Yorkshire terrier association. She had excellent references and a basement full of pups to sell which I thought odd since Yorkies don't have many pups at one time. When our Fiesta developed serious allergies our vet then said that somewhere in her breeding background a dog with allergies was bred. Someone got greedy and our little Fiesta suffered her whole life because of it. She developed a very greasy, oily skin and we constantly fought skin infections and she had to have baths every few days.

Breeders have told me purebred dogs are healthier and have better temperments, however, we have been parents to both mixes and purebreds and I found the opposite to be true. Recently, while having our Bianca's kidneys ultrasounded (I was lucky enough to be there to comfort her and watch the procedure and view the screen)--the vet specialist from our university said "since you have had purebreds and mixes you know mixes are generally healthier--because their genes are better." I couldn't agree more. (Our Bianca began life half starved for three months until we got her so we may be seeing some issues with her health because of that).

The Illusion That Show Animals Are Better

I thought it was so ironic that an advertisement on TV for a cat show recently used the word "respectably bred" cats. Does this mean that the dogs and cats who do what God and nature intended them to do are not respectable because people weren't controlling who messes around with who? Since I know of breeders who do it only for the money they can make off the puppies, where is the respectability in that "profession"? Are people more respectable if they were born into royalty or wealth? Are we defined by who or what our parentage is? If we were born as the result of an accident, does that make us less than respectable? I don't believe any higher power would agree with that and as hopefully educated humans, we shouldn't either.

All of us can't be rich but since I have viewed dog shows on TV there is an aura about them that aligns the participants with respectability and wealth. It doesn't matter if you live in a run-down trailer, as long as you have the necessary paperwork and qualifications you're in the competition. You get to compete with rich people on a supposedly level playing field. If you beat them, what a rush that must be!

Are breeders and show people bad people? Should we hate them? Try not to hate anyone--educate instead! Remember I considered breeding and showing myself--until I entered my age of enlightenment on that issue. In a future article I hope to tell the story of how we got our wonderful Bianca who originated from a pound half-starved and a throw-away dog. Now, on several occasions because she is so pretty I am told she is very pretty and I have been asked if she is a rare breed. Yet I notice when I speak to some other dog people--in the vet's office or elsewhere, when they find out we now have mixed breed dogs there is sometimes a look of disdain. Or else they will brag about winning shows or their dog is the son of a champion. I guess this makes them feel like they are better or their dogs are better. I have also gotten "how can you be sure they are healthy?" I guess that is sort of like asking a Swedish person who married an American--how can you be sure your kids will be healthy?" When I look into our Bianca's eyes, which are the windows to the soul, I see a beautiful creature. She is not less of a being because someone didn't "orchestrate" the mating of her parents.

Mixed breed dogs often have their own unique look whereas purebreds often all look alike except for subtle variations. Mixes from dog pounds and strays adopted by people have saved the lives of their humans. Their hearts are as big as any blue ribbon winner. But I don't view any dog as being "better" than another whether it is purebred or mixed breed. We need to love them all! Something deep inside me tells me that a higher power doesn't care either if a dog comes with papers. We don't come with papers, do we? Maybe in this country we miss the system of Royalty that some countries have--it has a sort of romance about it. Royals like to trace their lineage--somehow this makes them more important than the rest of us "little people." While I am one animal advocate that would not like to see the breeds disappear totally, we need to stop breeding for now. If you want a purebred dog check out the rescues--you'll be amazed how many are out there. Until all dogs have homes, we need to stop breeding more of them. It's the only way to stop the agony and suffering of those lives already living!

PS: I have been told our Bianca is a terrier-mix--she is 45 pounds and has some buff color in her white coat. One expert told me that because of her overall white color, both her parents would have to have been purebred white dogs. If anyone knows of any rare breed or other breed they see in her, please contact me. I would like to know this for any possible genetic health issues she could possibly have inherited. Thanks much!!

Judy Staff: Animals in Print (free online animal publication) http://www.all-creatures.org/aip/ 

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter (my editorials on animal issues--if you email me please indicate in the subject column it is about one of my articles so it doesn't get deleted as spam--thanks) shortietek@aol.com "We exist to educate and through compassion and knowledge improve the lives of all beings."

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