400 – In the Midst of Chaos, a Whiff of Sanity

Episode 400 – In the Midst of Chaos, a Whiff of Sanity

Welcome to our annual summer tradition of noting this benchmark. Pure Dog Talk has been downloaded 700 THOUSAND times! Eek…

Plague, Protests, Locusts ….

It’s the end of the world as we know it… Or not. Or sort of.

The last couple years this “celebration” pod was all about getting ready for the summer shows. This year has been hard. A few shows are attempting to go forward, but statistically it’s a small number compared to the ones that are cancelled. I know far too many people who are struggling — mentally, emotionally, financially. I think it’s important to note that there were NO dog shows held for years during WWII… Our sport survived that and it will survive this. Perhaps it will look different.

Perhaps we’ll pick up new tools, new attitudes and new approaches, but our passion for purebred dogs, our friendships, our joy in the anticipation of a new litter, our love of the beauty, predictability and plain companionship of our dogs isn’t diminished by our current challenges.

And while the world seems completely unbound and our lives turned upside down at the blink of an eye, here’s my hope for us. That we can walk away from what divides us … that politics or socio-economic status or race, creed or religion will not be allowed to define us. That our common passion, our common decency and our common sense will prevail.

That the diverse, vibrant group that is OUR tribe can rise above, can transcend the rancor and division and roiling fear and bitterness that is sweeping the country and even the world. That we can overcome and improvise, gut it out and get up again, tap the deep well of passion and apply our staggering reserves of knowledge to moving forward.

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Pollyanna thoughts, pondering observations and puppy reality checks

With that I leave you with these two “throwback Thursday” items… columns written in what feels like another world, another time and yet, timeless…

Because our TRIBE is family. And family IS what matters…

Blest Be The Ties That Bind

I’m sitting here in my office on a cold, grey Oregon morning while a GWP puppy slams her bone around on the concrete floor, jumping up and down off the blanket draped leather recliner.

This puppy represents the sixth generation of a direct line back to my foundation bitch, who I co-owned with my mom. But more than that, she is the living embodiment of 30 years of friendship and partnership with Mom in breeding dogs. A lifestyle and journey represented for hundreds of us by the AKC Breeder of the Year Award given Sunday to mother-daughter team Gwen Demilta and Carissa Demilta Shimpeno.

I don’t know these women personally, but I expect their story is a lot like ours and so many others.

It was 3 a.m. on a miserable December morning in 1996. I was in Washington watching a bitch try to crash after a C-section — the first litter I’d whelped on my own. It was 6 a.m. in New Hampshire, where Mom had just lost a puppy from her umpteenth litter, and in a couple hours would send the babies’ great grandmother to the Rainbow Bridge.

I still get weepy remembering that horrible phone call. We were consoling each other, brainstorming solutions, crying and trying to laugh. Our final conclusion was that we should take up selling pencils on a street corner in Hawaii. That breeding dogs was just too hard.

That was 18 years ago, to the day. The intervening time has brought us to even darker low points, and to some brilliant, sparkling, spectacular highs. More than a dozen litters for each of us. Producing champions, Best in Show winners, top dogs, history making dogs. All done hand in hand, even when we were physically far apart.

At its core, this is what the sport means to me. Family. Friendship. A lifetime of passion.

For every one of the deservedly famous families in the spotlight, there are several dozen more working quietly in the wings and creating their own legacies. No matter how large or small in terms of the big stages of the sport, these folks are making an impact on their chosen breeds. And, more importantly, forging unbreakable bonds with the strength to keep going when it would seem impossible.

As our parents and mentors age, we watch with conflicting emotions of pride and exasperation as they continue breeding, doing work they shouldn’t and shouldn’t be able to do. And yet, for many of them, this — the dogs, the hopes, the dreams — is quite simply what keeps them getting out of bed each day.

Those of us fortunate enough to be given the gift of mentorship from these breeders are honor-bound to return to them the respect and the credit they have earned over decades of literal blood, sweat and tears. Their hands may not grip as well, their knees and backs might not be as strong, but their knowledge, imagination and experience flow through the veins of each animal in the pedigree.

Next week, I will spend yet another Christmas Eve whelping puppies with my mom. The gifts we share don’t have any ribbons or bows, wrapping paper or glitter, but they are far more precious than silver and gold.

And, so, a toast. To the families that ensure this sport endures. And the love that keeps it strong.

As always, this is JMHO.

As the Wheels Turn from December 2014….

Less than year after I wrote this, my mom passed away…

Treasure what you have each day. If this current disaster has taught us NOTHING ELSE, it should certainly have permanently ingrained in us gratitude for what we have today… because literally tomorrow it may be gone.

Peace out. Namaste.

BONUS TRACK: In a World Gone Mad….

399 – Breeders Part 2: Family, Friends and Mapping a Journey

Breeders Part 2: Family, Friends and Mapping a Journey

Top Breeders discuss building a family of dogs with small numbers and defined goals.

Wendy Paquette, Amanda Kelly and Chris Heartz return to finish their conversation about building a family of dogs, using the standard as a driver and mapping out a plan.

Wendy: “What I’ve done over the years is lease males from other breeders. I finished (the dogs) for them in Canada and kept them for about six months to a year. I bred 6-10 bitches to that same dog. So, what I did was, I could tell whether there was consistency or not. And I would keep one or two out of every litter and send the dog back home and go from there with the offspring.

“So then, I had a basis with one dog being dominant and if I felt that dominant dog was a great producer consistently, then I doubled on it. But if it wasn’t, oh well, I had bunch of pets that year.

“The Breeders that just breed to the dog next door or the dog in the next state or whatever don’t have a clue what they’re producing. They just keep the most pretty marked puppy that has an attitude then they wonder why they’re not getting anywhere. Well they don’t have any idea where those dogs came from to begin with. They have no foresight.

Health and welfare

Chris: “The health of the breed is everything if you want it to continue. We’re not preservation breeders if we say it doesn’t matter about the teeth (for example), they’re not mentioned in our standard. Well maybe it does matter. And so I think, just by seeing what is available in the rest of the world and how other breeders approach your breed and what they got to show for that is the best education in the world. And to just sit at home and say this is how we’ve always done it. It’s not good enough.”

All in the family

Amanda: “I loved Wendy’s discussion about building a breeding program and having the ability to try different things and having maybe a critical mass of dogs. One of the things I think a lot of people in today’s breeding world struggle with is not having the ability to have that many dogs. For whatever reasons they live in the suburbs or they just can’t keep that many dogs or whatever. Chris gave me some really helpful advice and she talked about working with other breeders in a family.

Chris: “What we really, really are passionate about is, if we can’t sell you a dog and we love this person because they have the same passion and the same commitment to the same type of dog that we have … these are people that dedicated their lives to breeding better dogs … we say we can’t sell you a dog but we can lease you a dog. So our males have way more miles on them than I do.

“All we can give as our gift is our dogs. (We) will share them … with like-minded people and the reason is selfish. Because those people will use that dog and those puppies will have puppies. (I)n the third generation we will see something we love. We then ask them to do the same thing for us and we borrow that dog back and we incorporate … into our breeding program and they just click.”

Developing a plan

Amanda: “It’s about having access to a larger gene pool and it’s about having access to a larger number of dogs. I think for newer breeders (it’s) about developing an eye. You know if you are in a breed where there’s lower numbers, or whatever the case may be, developing your eye can sometimes be a difficult thing. You just see the ones that are yours and maybe go (to) the national once a year, look at pictures on Facebook. But that’s not the same thing as looking at puppies and evaluating and sharing information about what worked and what didn’t work and the trial and error pieces of it that Wendy talked about. When you have great friends, you can share in their journey as well as in yours. And learn as much from what they’ve done and what’s worked for them.

Chris: “You can’t drive to Halifax unless you have a map if you’ve not been there before. It’s no different in breeding dogs. All you need is a plan. If all you see before you is what exists how can you go any further or breed any better.”

Wendy: “We all interpret the standard differently. I think what gets lost in the shuffle is breeders not recognizing quality in other people’s dogs. And that has to be a priority. We all take our own dogs home at night and we all love our dogs. We all have a plan. Whether or not it’s their plan is their problem not mine.”