The reality of life, death and why, when health testing the purebred dog became the new standard, breed standards and genetics became expendable.
ALL DOGS DO DIE
The reality of life, death, health testing and the purebred dog
CinDee Byer, Top Journalist Nominee
Not so long ago... the purebred dog was revered by all. It walked with kings, romped with presidents and sat at the side of leaders. It inspired poets, influenced writers and was depicted in movies by filmmakers. The purebred dog was perfect in every way except for one fact... Purebreds, like all dogs, do die.
The joy that the purebred dog brings to us compounds our pain of losing them. In the early days of breeding man interacted with nature. Then the pain of death was understood. Death was a part of life. Purebreds were but a symbol of the excellence that selective breeding could bring to life. As time traveled by however, man began to lose touch with nature. He became convinced that he could super-extend the expected life spans of the purebred dog. He convinced himself that by simply naming an ailment through a laboratory test he could cure the disease. Yet, through all his efforts and all his tests, no disease has been cured. Eternity was the goal but the fact remains all dogs still die. Man's inability to accept that fact has left some angry. That anger today is directed at breeders of purebreds who cannot create a dog that will outlive man himself.
Health Testing Hype Puts All Dogs In Jeopardy
And who has benefited? Many unscrupulous dog vendors have taken advantage of health testing propaganda. They used misguided anger to sell themselves. They used the publicity of dying purebreds to market poorly bred dogs. Backyard breeders with mixed breeds began proclaiming "mixed breeds are healthier" and they sold more dogs. Puppy mills benefited from this mixed breed trend. The puppy mills profited from breeding more dogs. Shelters filled with those mixed breeds and named them "rescued" purebreds and the "adopters" came in droves. This surge of badly bred dogs, bred in poor conditions resulted in many sick animals with bad temperaments. Soon good rescues became revolving doors of these unwanted "adoptions".
The constant supply of animals that the mixed breed publicity stunt created opened an opportunity for a new group. This group became known as the "career rescuer". Their rescue fees became personal bank accounts and rescue trips became paid vacations. The business of rescue grew. Animal rights organizations gained traction with the career rescue groups. Together they brought billions to a radical agenda - an agenda that includes demanding health testing on purebreds while endorsing untested mixed breeds. Radicals became "the dog experts" under the false pretense that with testing, purebreds could live forever.
Purebred registries also opened their door to this agenda. They pushed regulations on purebred breeders and then made it possible to register mixed breeds. They created events for mixed breeds and their revenue grew. Through the aid of these dog registries radical idealists took over our national breed clubs which then became consumed with radicalized thinking. The zealots grew in numbers but the number of breeders diminished and all purebred dog breeds began to suffer. Health testing in many clubs became more important than the breed itself.
Tests Became The New Standard And Breed Standards Became Expendable
The Result... Breeders of purebred dogs attempted to appease those who supported a health testing agenda. Many have complied with the health testing demands. Today the breeder of a purebred dog spends more time, more money and performs more health tests than ever before and still… all dogs die.
Breeders take great care choosing breeding pairs, whelping litters and raising the pups. They sterilize animals that do not pass testing. They sterilize animals that are not being placed in a show home and those they can no longer keep. And still all dogs die. With the demand to health test purebreds, the mixed breed population has grown while the number of purebreds dropped. Gene pools are becoming critically small and registrations have plummeted. And still all dogs die.
The promise that health testing will give us immortal purebreds has failed. The reality is a purebred dog would have to not be born at all in order to never die. And still without a single purebred left to persecute, all dogs will die.
A man writing for a local newspaper recently expressed his sadness over losing four mixed breed dogs. They had all died or had been euthanized in the past nine years. Each died or was put down for various reasons. Interestingly, no readers commented negatively. No one cursed the breeders of mixed breeds. No one asked if the parents had been tested. No one asked if the man required health certificates from the vendors who sold these dogs. No one asked where they were born or who bred them. No one asked if he had received a health guarantee from the breeders or rescue.
The writer who obviously loved these dogs suffered great pain at their loss but he did not curse anyone. He did not blame the backyard breeders. He did not blame the rescue or the shelter from whom he purchased the dogs. He only remembered the wonderful times he had with each dog. Perhaps this is a lesson we need to remember when a purebred dog dies. The reality is no matter where we bought them from, no matter what guarantees someone can make, no matter how we care for them or how we raise them, no matter how much we love them or how many health tests they or their parents have had all dogs will die, even mixed breeds.
Ignoring Reality, Blaming Breeders
When we assign blame for our pain we affect the future of all breeds. Blame often makes a pet's death more palatable for a pet owner and radicals have taken advantage of this fact. They understand that assigning blame will determine how, where and if a pet owner will choose another dog. They realize by blaming breeders and creating unreliable health test that they can manipulate the public. They can shut down demand for quality purebred dogs by proclaiming that they all die too early. They tell the public that by selectively breeding for purebred dogs that breeders are playing God. The fact is that by their fanatical promotion of health testing as a cure for death, they are demanding we play God. All living beings have a lifespan and no amount of health testing or careful breeding will change the natural order of things.
Wolves, coyotes and foxes are born out of nature's design and they will all die. A wolf lives to about eight years of age. A fox lives to around four years. A coyote will live between six and eight years. Many if not most of these wild canines will die sooner. Some will meet their demise at birth. Those that are born with defects will die before adolescence. Others who develop disease will die in the early stages of that disease. The healthy animal may die of starvation or injury. Some will be killed out of competition for food or territory. Others will be killed by man. The fact is that none of these animals will ever live as long as a purebred dog. No matter if it is wild, domesticated, mixed or purebred, rescued or selectively bred, health tested or not... ALL DOGS DIE. No test can prevent death and no test can cure it.
When obsessing over how a dog will die, it becomes impossible to enjoy them and even more difficult to breed them. When we obsess over cures, we are only left with questions. What age is it that is acceptable for dogs to die? Is it acceptable for them to live shorter active lives or do you prefer a longer period of death? Is it less painful for us when they die at nine or ten or eleven or twelve? Is the perfect dog the one who lives with no health problems and dies at twenty in his or her sleep?
If this is the bar we must reach will twenty eventually become "too young to die" and will sleep become the "disease"?
Without a cure health testing is simply a medical guess at a possible result to a (sometimes questionable) diagnosis of what may or may not be. Health testing can be a tool in a breeder's arsenal of knowledge but is not a guarantee and it is not a cure. When we rely solely on tests for a breeding, we are testing for a dog that does not and cannot exist.
The Miracle Of Genetics
LIKE HUMANS, ALL DOGS WILL DIE but the magic of the purebred lies in its genetics. It has been selectively bred over the centuries to preserve those genes from great dogs who came before. It is that selective breeding that has produced a miracle of sorts. It has produced a kind of eternal life that a test cannot give. As the great icon, Doberman breeder, and judge Peggy Adamson once wrote concerning breeders and purebred dogs...
"We remember the people with great veneration but the dogs are revived in each new generation.
Through the efforts of breeders, dogs are luckier than men, for they will come back to us time again."
This is the gift of the dedicated breeder. This is the gift given to us only through a test called time. Yes, all dogs do die but some will actually return if we let them. And this is the gift of the purebred dog.