Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Times They Are A Changing

Times They Are A Changing

My thanks to Jerry and Kathy Zehetner who brought us a lovely surprise recently.  It was a CC of A 2013 catalog signed by a number of old friends and some new ones, too.  Almost as good as being there!  Thanks Jerry and Kathy.

The Indians (or Native Americans if you prefer) had a saying “nothing is forever, but the stones.”  You can call it progress or evolution or whatever suits your fancy, but things do change.  The AKC now recognizes breeds of many more kinds than when I was breeding and showing.  It used to be a rather long drawn out process to get a new breed accepted, but now they’re coming out of the woodwork.  A number look like refugees from an animal shelter, but they do add up to more registrations and show entries.  The Grand Champion brainstorm adds up to showing dogs for longer, but I still can’t validate it meaning much.

It seems that the judges approval process is constantly being reviewed and or changed, because people think it’s faulty.  There is no way of getting complete agreement on how it should work.  The quality of judging doesn’t seem to change much no matter how the process goes.  There are judges with a background and “the eye” to do an excellent job and some who could work at it for a lifetime and never have a clue.  All breed clubs pick judges based on how much they can do for their fee and not how good they are.

The world of purebred dogs and dog shows is constantly being manipulated and it is changing.  We constantly see laws cropping up to restrict various aspects of breeding.  Many of these are caused as a reaction to “puppy mill” operations.   When this dinosaur was getting started there were kennels considered “pillars of genetic strength” where one could breed or buy to acquire certain strengths that they had acquired over the years thru careful selective breeding.  Many would now be called “puppy mills!”

Years ago the number of blue merles at any show, specialty or otherwise, was a minor factor.  Smooth Collies were even more rare and the quality of many of those smooths was really questionable.  The first specialty I judged was in California.  My best of breed over 175 Rough Collies was Ch. Black Hawk of Kasan.  Later Svend Jensen put him BB at the National and took me off the hook.  Hawk started a change in Collies which today sees the smooth entry at many shows equal to or surpassing the Roughs.  The quality of Smooths has been steadily improving and it’s no longer a rarity for them to go BB at many specialties including the National.  They are also making inroads on the pet or companion end of things because people don’t want to battle the grooming associated with Roughs.

Expecting things to stay the same is not going to happen, but we need to guard against change for the sake of being different.  It needs to bring an improvement or benefit with it to be worth the effort.  If we want to change the Collie is it to improve the breed or to make it easier for us to breed what we want.  Years ago when the size was raised in the standard it seemed to be OK with most, but the value to the breed was negligible.  The standard calls for no size disqualification, but for penalizing dogs or bitches “that appear” over or undersize.  If we’re breeding dogs that supposedly can herd sheep Border Collie size seems to work just fine.

Over the years this old dinosaur has seen many changes in our breed and in the dog game in general.  Some have been of benefit to the dogs, but unfortunately most have been to benefit the people involved.  Collies used to be a breed largely handled by their owners who were also their breeders.  Today’s top awards, particularly at the highest level, seldom go that route. Could be discouraging if you can’t afford a handler.  We have lots more dog shows and finish many more champions, but I have to question whether we’ve made that title somewhat meaningless.  We seem to be able to “doctor” up the appearance of most dogs so they can finish and then breed them and get more of the same or worse.  Real breeders have become few and far between.

I know sometimes these blogs seem to be written by an old grouch.  It’s one of the blessings of being able to write what you want without being edited.  I applaud the advances made in areas such as veterinary medicine.  Our dogs are healthier and that’s a great benefit to breeders and pet owners alike.  Just don’t let that send you down the road of breeding dogs of limited natural vigor just because you can save every puppy.  It’s ok to save the weak ones, but don’t breed them!

When General Douglas MacArthur (one of my heroes) gave his final address to the cadets at West Point he said, “When I pass away my last thoughts will be of the Corps.”  Let’s try to make our thoughts of the Collie and what’s good for them, not just what fits into our plans for winning dog shows! 

Think about it!

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