Of This and That
What has caused our Collies to slip from the public graces will no doubt, be discussed for years. It’s a lot of reasons, some of which breeders can control, and some not so easy. When the public thinks Collie they think sable and white attractively marked Rough Collie. That doesn’t mean no one thinks otherwise, but that’s what the average “Joe” thinks of about Collies. Many Roughs have more coat than “Joe” can handle and we’ve sensitized him and all the veterinarians about eye problems. We also have a fascination with the blue color which is ok for breeders, but not what “Joe” wants.
This fascination with blues has people doing strange things, in my opinion. They’re breeding blue to blue and sable-merle to blue or sable-merle with no concern for blind or deaf double dilutes. Heck if you’re lucky you may even make an ROM out of one of the blind little devils. Some breeders may excuse this, but poor old “Joe” probably won’t like such things. We can breed almost anything we, as breeders want, but please don’t expect “Joe” to like it.
While I don’t advocate breeding just for the public pet market, I do think we must expect to “reap what we sow!” If we insist on doing exotic things don’t expect everyone to like it.
The ROM designation has its opponents as well as its advocates and that’s understandable. Some feel it encourages too much breeding and showing inferior specimens. At very least in this day of many shows and many champions each year, it might be appropriate to move the bar higher to qualify. Whether anything can be done to eliminate dogs with disqualifying faults is another matter.
It would be wildly speculatory to guess at which dogs or bitches designated ROM have been guilty of passing on genetic problems. We have eye problems (CEA and PRA), Lethal Gray Factor, subluxation, and a wild litany of skin and coat disorders. The real line is drawn not by some committee or individual who tells you who to breed to, but by each breeder’s knowledge.
We know for instance that years ago Terhune wrote about breeding a blind bitch. Years later a breeder offered me a beautiful bitch who was blind on a puppy deal bred to his champion stud. I declined, not because I knew it was genetic, but because I questioned if she could care for her puppies. This was before Richard Donovan and others started to do eye clinics. The clinics were to check for CEA (Collie Eye Anomoly) and all my dogs went to the first one nearby. My stud dog’s pedigrees all had a copy of their eye checks.
Some years later we became aware of an even more insidious nightmare in or breed. PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) did not show up in routine puppy eye checks for CEA which did not change as the dog aged. PRA often took several years to be apparent based on what we knew then. Breeding stock (particularly studs) could produce a number of puppies before PRA reared its ugly head. The solution that many suggested was to breed your studs to a blind bitch, assuming that if he was clear the pups would be carriers, but not blind. Blind puppies would mean your dog was a carrier.
All this was going on about when I was getting ready to move to Michigan. One of my studs was “rumored” to be a carrier. He was withdrawn from public stud even though I had some doubts. I know the timing made a lot of test breeding impossible and my stomach turned at purposely acquiring and breeding blind dogs. Consulting with Dr. Lionel Rubin at the University of PA School of Veterinary Medicine, he told me an interesting theory. He had seen a bitch and stud with normal eyes produce puppies that resembled PRA blindness when the bitch carried a fever while in whelp. Of course, today we have much more reliable methods of checking without producing blind puppies.
The time when I bred Collies had to end with the move to Michigan. The one litter whelped in Michigan was from an accidental breeding. Whether there really was a problem I don’t know. There was considerable “witch hunting” going on and since I was a well known breeder and winner, I made a good target. What I did not do was blame Steve Field, Gus Sigritz, Brian Carabine, John and Ada Guiliano or Bill Van Dyck for what I had. My breeding decisions were mine and you pay your money and take your chances.
My views on breeding, by the way, have nothing to do with my outlook as a judge. When judging we observe animals presented to us to judge according to a standard. Their genetic makeup and any problems therein are not on trial. If it were otherwise you might need to show me an eye check and health certificate rather than train, groom and show your dog. We all know that’s not how it works.
Whether we’re breeding for the “perfect Collie” or for a healthy happy, attractive dog (which can be the same animal) we should always keep the good of this grand breed as our foremost goal. Ribbons, rosettes, titles and ego should take a back seat in our plans. Guard the title of breeder jealously. Terhune wrote that we’re gods to our dogs. Don’t ever let that feeling extend to your opinion of yourself.
Think about it!!