Pure bred vs. well bred …

What exactly does that mean … “pure bred versus well bred”?  In my many years of involvement with rescue, I’ve had countless “pure bred” Apsos with “papers.”  Papers being a document saying the dog was registered with the AKC (or any of the other questionable registries which have sprung up to circumvent AKC’s DNA requirements).  However, having “papers” in hand does not mean the dogs in question were “well bred.”  “Well bred” meaning they had the qualities and characteristics that make an Apso “an Apso” … a dog possessing breed type.  “Well bred” meaning the breeder strived to produce a dog that could, on any given day, survive at altitude in its native homeland of Tibet (this link contains an excellent article on what makes a Lhasa Apso).  “Well bred” meaning the breeder could document at least five generations of dogs and the health of those dogs.  Dogs whose pedigrees reflect a multitude of champion relatives — not just one or two champions in five generations.  Dogs whose breeders stand behind what they produce for the life of the dog.

Next question is  … where does one find a well-bred dog?  Certainly not from a pet store as supplied by the puppy mills.  Or a “backyard” breeder  (“BYB”) who has thrown a couple of dogs together for a quick profit.  Despite the broad brush used by the animal rights movement to paint all breeders, the majority of show (hobby) breeders strive to produce sound, healthy dogs.  Hobby breeders cannot keep every dog they breed and maintain a breeding line — much like rescue can’t keep every dog that arrives in foster care.  These breeders often have retired champions, young adult show prospects that didn’t turn out as well as anticipated, or pet-quality puppies available for placement … well-bred dogs that need homes of their own.  And for much less than what you’d pay for a puppy produced in the mills and sold by a pet store. 

Always an advocate for rescue, I also believe in providing prospective families with options other than the petstore or BYBs.  A sad fact is 100% of my rescues have come from either pet stores or backyard breeders.  So even though one is obtaining a “rescue,” they were produced for profit with little thought given to their health and breed type. 

Remind your family and friends what breeding does: Every kitten or puppy born is a death sentence to a shelter cat or dog waiting to be adopted.

As a responsible owner and long-time rescue volunteer … I take an exception to the above statement. If not for the responsible, ethical breeders, good representations of my chosen breed would have vanished into the mists of the Himalayan mountains decades upon decades ago. It is only through the work of quality breeders that the Lhasa Apso has survived a forced flight into Nepal, Bhutan and India as well several genetic bottle necks and the invasion of the Chinese into Tibet.  
 
I have more than done my part when it comes to rescue. However, it is not by any of my actions that there are dogs and cats in shelters. Now, I am supposed to give up the breed I love … and have worked tirelessly for … because someone else was irresponsible?  That *all* breeding is bad and my only option is to accept what is coming out of the mills?  That my only choice is an ill-bred dog with a myriad of health problems?   Seriously??  Perhaps if the statement had made mention of “puppy mills,” it would go a bit further in educating the public.
 
Following is listing of well-bred dogs looking for homes of their own.  While these dogs are located in the western half of the US (or Canada), they can be flown to a new home.  In many instances, dogs can travel to other areas with exhibitors headed to shows.  Depending on location, a road trip may be in order.  Don’t like the full coat?  No problem … Apsos can also be kept clipped in a “wash-n-wear” version.  
 
Vinnie:  retired champion, on the larger size, about six-years old.  Very loving dog; great with adults, never been around children; teens would be okay.  Needy in that he wants to be right with you on the couch, etc.  Would need to be neutered.  Located in New Mexico.
 
Zach:  retired champion, almost two-years old.  Still in full coat.  Quite loving and a lap dog; enjoys sitting in the recliner with my husband and will do so for hours.  A real people dog.  Needs a home where he is an only dog or could live with a female dog.  Located in Wisconsin.
 
Big Boy —  He was 1 year on Aug. 30.  I gave him a haircut yesterday; he has a wonderful coat. His markings aren’t as red as his brothers.  I don’t think that he will be hard to housetrain as it was going good until I got sick. The brother didn’t have any accidents. He is very playful, gets along good with other dogs and kids. He is very sweet!!!  Located in Minnesota.
 
Oreo and Ready — retired champions (4-5 years old).  Fully housetrained, would be spayed/neutered prior to placement.  Oreo is very outgoing, wags her tail at everyone, never met a stranger.  Ready is more of a “got-to-get-to-know-you” type; probably do best in a home with no other males.  Located in Utah.
 
Gracie — red/white parti-color female, 10-weeks old.  Dew claws removed, dewormed, tattooed (ID), vet checked, first vaccs.  She loves to have attention and is very playful. She loves toys and actively plays with her brothers. She loves people and has had lots of interaction as she was born and raised in my family room. Located in British Columbia
 
If interested in any of these dogs, please contact me directly at:  ApsoRescue@aol.com.  Serious inquiries only … the breeders of these dogs are looking for owners that will commit for the life of the Apso.
 

Seniors in the twilight …

animated-hourglassThere’s a reason why we don’t normally take senior dogs into rescue.  Actually several reasons.  Most folks looking to adopt a dog are not in the market for an older companion as they’d like to spend more  than just a year or two (or even less) with their new best friend.  Many times, the old dogs arrive with serious behavioral and/or medical problems.  Rescue has a term for these dogs … “forever fosters.”  “Forever” because they usually end up spending the rest of their lives in foster care.  The problem with that scenario is spacing  and funding.  Available space is at a premium — at least for us — and having a forever foster takes up a spot that could be used for a younger, more adoptable dog.  Funding is always an issue so taking care of an elderly dog becomes problematic.

For me, the seniors are particularly difficult.  It usually starts with a phone call and a voice on the other end saying, “I need to get rid of my dog.”  The vocalization “get rid of” is distasteful as it brings to mind a worn out item or a piece of trash that needs to be disposed of.  Often times it is an elderly dog that outlived its usefulness for whatever reason.  No matter how many times I review the applications on my waiting list, I don’t have someone looking for an old, sick dog.  These poor dogs that have given their life to their family only to be turned out when their need was greatest.  It then falls to me to tell them that we have no one interested in an elderly dog.  And that if they take it to the shelter, he or she will spend its last days — frightened and confused — before dying at the hands of strangers.  Far better for them to take it to the vet and make that last journey in the arms of loved ones.  Despite having “the speech” memorized, there are still times when my voice breaks, the emotion spilling over.   One of the first things my rescue mentor taught was that we can’t save them all.  I truly know that with my heart … however, it doesn’t make it any easier some days.  Harder yet is having to put down a rescue for medical or behavioral issues.  Even though it’s not one of my dogs, it still hurts.  Rescue isn’t supposed to end that way.

Having said all that … we find ourselves with a senior in rescue.  A stray, he was pulled from the Larimer Humane Society.  We know little of his story other than the fact he’s been long neglected — whether in his former “home” or because he was on his own for an extended period of time.  We also know he is the product of a puppy mill because his microchip was traced to the Hunte Corporation — a known broker of puppies produced in the mills of misery and sold in pet stores.  His coat was matted to the skin and urine soaked resulting in a complete shave-down at the shelter.  Nothing more pitiful than a buck-naked Apso.

Our rescue exam revealed he has had a long-standing eye infection.  Thankfully, he does not have KCS or “dry eye” as it’s commonly known.  His age is estimated to be 8- to 10-years old … not all that old for an Apso but which still puts him in the “senior” category.  He does have arthritis on the right front/rear; however, he’s responding quite well to the Rimadyl, even trying to play with the resident foster home dogs.  Some high-powered supplements are on the way and we’re hopeful he’ll get good relief from those as well. 

Despite how rough his recent days/years have been, this dog is exceptional.  He greets everyone as a long-lost friend.  If you are familiar with Apsos, you know that’s not always the case.  When I picked him up at the pound, he came out of the kennel — head and tail up — and offered himself in greeting.  Those old soul eyes saying “I’m yours … take me with you.”  And then he buried his head in my hands, taking whatever comfort he could find in the moment, however brief.  As is our tradition, we’ve given him a Tibetan name.  Kalsang (pronounced “Kehl-sang”) and meaning “good fortune.” 

Perhaps it will be Kalsang’s good fortune to find a forever home in the twilight of his years … a home that understands that the love of an old dog is, indeed, a special gift.

Thoughts on Westminster and PETA …

image002-25There’s been a great deal of discussion making the rounds in the dog communities about a recent LA Times article wherein PETA is calling for the USA Network to discontinue airing the Westminster dog show. While I do believe in animal welfare — so much so that I’m deeply involved with rescue and have been for almost a decade — I do not buy into the animal rights extremist movement as it seeks to destroy the relationship between man and animal.

Libbye Miller, DVM, left the following in the comments section of the LA Times article and which content gives great pause for thought …

No one ever seems to mention the millions of dollars that AKC and the Canine Health foundation have invested in medical research that benefits ALL dogs as well as humans.

Adorable mixed breeds” get cancer, epilepsy, allergies, heart disease, and orthopedic problems just like purebreds. I see it every day in my veterinary practice but mixed breed dogs aren’t tracked like the purebreds so they have a reputation as “healthier” that is actually undeserved in many cases.  … 

Another poster — Debz — goes on to state …

”  … All animals have a certain amount of genetic load, which is to say there is absolutely no animal without some genetic problem of some sort of another. Know anyone who wears glasses? Has allergies? Thyroid problems? Weak knees? Flat feet? A skin condition? Arthritis? A gap between their front teeth? These are all genetic imperfections.

No human is genetically “clean.” Neither is any individual of any species on earth. So this idea that dogs should not be bred because they might have a genetic problem, and that breeders are somehow “evil” for breeding them, is ridiculous. Every single individual of every single species has at least a few genetic conditions.

To use PETA’s logic, all breeding of all kinds (including having human babies) should halt immediately. And to be honest, Ingrid Newkirk (the woman who founded PETA) does believe exactly that. She thinks that humans should become extinct, along with dogs, cats, etc. This ridiculous scenario is precisely what she would like to see happen.

So folks, if that is what you want … if you agree with Ingrid Newkirk’s whacky views, send your hard earned money to PETA. They will help to ensure you are not able to own a dog or cat or hamster or any other pet in the future. They will see to it that you can’t eat meat or fish or eggs or any type of animal-based nutrition. They will work to shut down places like Sea World, the zoos, etc. so you cannot observe the many wonderful animals on the Earth. Eventually, once they accomplish these things, they may turn their efforts to making it illegal for humans to procreate.

If you don’t agree with their extremist views, wise up and start supporting those who truly do love, care for and enjoy interaction with other species here on our little blue planet.

The fanciers of the breeds, those you see exhibiting their dogs at Westminster and other dog shows, work very hard to eliminate serious genetic conditions. They screen their breeding stock with every available test. They research pedigrees before breeding into other lines, to check for similar clearances in those animals. They contribute money to research organizations to further the work being done to track down genetic problems. They contribute blood, cell samples, etc. from their own animals to help with DNA and genome studies. They have made great progress so far, and they continue to work hard at it.   [Emphasis added]

Are there unethical breeders? Certainly, there are. Just as in any group of humans, you will find the good and the bad. United States VP Elect Joe Biden, for example, managed to find a not so good one when he got his new German Shepherd puppy. I don’t know who did his research for him, but they obviously didn’t do their homework if they were looking for a responsible breeder. Joe has the right to get his dog from whomever he wishes, but if he was trying to set an example of purchasing from a responsible hobby breeder he went off the track this time. That’s too bad, but it was his choice.

Unfortunately, breeders like that may be a lot easier to find because of their high volume and high profile. If you are looking for a nice family pet from a breeder who will be there for you forever, you need to do due diligence. You won’t get that from a pet store. You won’t get that from the guy selling dogs out of his pickup truck in the WalMart parking lot. You won’t get that support from a high-volume breeder, either. Yes, it takes a little more time and effort to find someone who really cares and does all the work to breed the healthiest, happiest puppies possible and then stands behind those puppies.

This is a living being that will be part of your family, hopefully, for many years. Isn’t it worth a bit of effort to find a breeder who will be there for you and that puppy forever?

And guess what? Shows like Westminster are a very valuable resource for finding breeders who do care and who use the best possible practices, as well as for learning more about the various breeds.

Bravo to USA Network for broadcasting the Westminster Kennel Club show all these years. May they enjoy continued success through the ongoing inclusion of such programs. I will be eagerly watching this year’s show!”

You can bet I’ll be watching as well!!   As pointed out in the above, there are “Breeders” seeking to preserve who expend a great deal of time, effort, passion and personal funding in order to produce sound, healthy dogs.  There also those “breeders” who seek only to capitalize on what can be produced with no regard for dog or purchaser past net profit.  As diligent owners, it falls upon us to distinguish between the two.

Westminster:  NIGHT 1:
Monday, February 9
Hound, Terrier, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups
8-9 p.m. (ET) live on USA Network
9-11 p.m. (ET) live on CNBC
NIGHT 2:
Tuesday, February 10
Sporting, Working and Toy Groups, Best In Show
8-11 p.m. (ET) live on USA Network

Breed judging highlight videos are available throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday on the Westminster Web site. These highlights will be available after the show.