This blog post is making the rounds, and is being passed along from person to person on Facebook and so on. It makes some good points, and has some decent advice, but I think the attitude is totally wrong. COMPLETELY. Because it’s one more post talking about how fantastic we all are and how we’re being victimized by the evil animal rights movement that doesn’t understand us and they’ve turned the public against us.
Dude, the public understands us a little better than anybody would like to admit. And when (or if) the dog fancy goes toes-up in twenty years, the fingerprints on the knife will be OURS. So is the dog fancy at a tipping point? Absolutely. The problem is, most dog breeders are standing on the heavy end screaming at the people trying to cling to the light end that they’re abandoning the cause.
Let’s look in the mirror, people.
1) We’re insufferable snobs.
The last time somebody showed you their new puppy, that little yellowish beagle mix, did you feel, with every bit of your heart, the squeee of happiness that you’d feel if somebody showed you the offspring of two BISS winners?
You know you didn’t. Now why?
Don’t say “Because I’m so concerned about health.” PLEASE. That beagle mix is going to live longer than virtually 100% of show-bred Goldens, going to have a lower chance of autoimmune disorders than any show-bred Portuguese Water Dog, going to have better back health than my Cardigans.
Don’t say “Because I’m worried about the breeder not being a good person.” You know perfectly well that you hate Sharon’s GUTS and think she should BURN on some VOLCANIC ACID and she pimps out her stud dogs like a NUTCASE and you wouldn’t ask her for water in a DESERT. At least that’s what you told your friend ringside last week.
Heck, we’re so terrible that the last time you paged down your Facebook feed, you saw a beautifully bred bitch puppy with a white face (or substitute any mismark or cosmetic “automatic pet” thing that works for your breed), and you said in your heart, “Oh well, too bad.”
You, my friend, are holding a bag you got in a special advance advance lookbook show at Hermes, after which you side-hugged Esteban and both of you made happy little mouth shapes at the new lining this year; isn’t it wonderful what L. is up to this season? … and, right now, while your fingers are sliding just a bit up and down the stitching, somebody just showed you a Walmart clutch and asked you to say nice things about it. Or you see somebody holding an “irregular.”
We’re AWFUL. We need to stop loving our incestuous little group of perfect dogs and JUST FRELLING LOVE DOGS. We can still own dogs, still show them, still breed them. Go to Hermes and bring home the bag that your heart dreams of. But for pete’s sake, high-five somebody who has a different bag. Talk about how fantastic it is that dogs exist, their great souls, their beauty. Tell that person that you’re picking them up next week so they can visit Rally class. Tell them that there’s a tracking club in the county. Help them feel their baby’s belly and write down the right worming medication. Give them your business card and tell them to call you anytime. And if you feel tempted to point out to them even one single thing that’s “wrong” with their puppy, SHUT IT. If you can keep it shut for a full year, I guarantee you’ll see that owner in the vet’s office and her puppy will be neutered and she’ll be planning her next puppy (probably from you). But don’t just do it because it’s good for the fancy – shut the heck up because you have no right to disvalue her dog. You’d go in a cage match to defend your BISS winner’s honor – give her the same respect.
2) We hate science.
We HATE IT. We are the worst set of knowledge-phobic fundamentalist crackpots you’re ever like to meet.
The basic attitude of the entire dog fancy is that if it was current science in 1890, it’s still acceptable now. Anything else must be thrown out because it threatens our ability to breed dogs.
So Dogsteps? Fabulous. Still called “cutting edge,” 130 years after the technology of gait analysis was developed. Freaky German breeding legends like male-line grandfathers to granddaughters being great breedings? Eaten with a spoon. Color genetics? Don’t upset me with facts; I only believe what I was told. Hip dysplasia beyond the OFA view? Fingers in the ears. Population ecology? How dare you even mention the word.
I’ve never had people get as frothing-mouth furious at me as when I post a peer-reviewed study reference. I honestly think I could put up a picture of me naked and eating a live rabbit and I would not get the total and utter fury I get when I DARE to say that scientists have been looking at this over and over and over again for the last 40 years and every single study says we’re wrong.
WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE RESPONSIBLE TO THE TRUTH. We are being absolutely ridiculously asinine about this. It is NOT going to hurt our ability to breed good dogs to say that we have stuff to learn from research. All it’s going to do is HELP US. We won’t waste so many breedings, we will create dogs that live longer and healthier, we will have happier and longer relationships with our owners.
3) We hate each other.
Oh my GOSH do we hate each other. The behavior I’ve seen this year in terms of personal attacks and even outright threats in public forums (not even mentioning private ones) is horrifying. I’m not going to take any more time explaining this one, because any dog breeder reading this should know what I am talking about. If the dog fancy spent even one percent of the time in public outreach that it spends trying to insinuate without ever mentioning her name that Judy’s dogs produce bad underjaws, we’d be the most beloved group in the US.
4) We’ve kept breeding dogs a rich man’s game.
Everybody in the dog world except show breeders understands how wrong this is. That’s why dog parks, dog playdates, dog coats and clothes, groomers, and a hundred other facets are thriving, while we’re dying and withering and growing old and fat. Everybody I know spends more on their dogs than I do, and everybody that I know spends less on their dogs than I do. I can’t buy the cute coats, the new beds, the nice crates every year… because a single show weekend costs so much that one more time, the bed goes in the wash instead of in the trash. Think about every breeder you know – most are close to penniless. Most show crates are rusty. They skimp on dog food and buy the crap stuff so they can enter next weekend. Meanwhile, their town just effortlessly raised two million dollars to make a dog park, and every vendor in town will be there with samples.
This is utterly upside-down and backwards. Dog shows began as a hobby for the idle rich or gentleman farmers who were selling pet puppies to an eager middle class. If you want to build an organization on that assumption (and we did, and we named it AKC), fine, but it needs to change when the breeders are now the middle class and the pet buyers are invariably better off. The AKC is convinced the solution is to make us pay MORE – make us Breeders of Merit if we promise to register every puppy. Give us new titles and new shows so we will enter more. Is that the right way? Or are we going to continue to shrivel?
Here’s the end of my story:
I am the person who sighs at the white-headed bitch.
I am the person who barely manages to smile at the beagle puppy. Of course I am.
But I am going to try like all-frelling HELL to stop being that person. I want my fingerprints off the knife.