For most of my life as an adult dog owner, I’ve had racing Greyhounds. There are some AKC Greyhounds, but they’re far and few between. Most Greyhound owners on either side of the fence can look at an adult Greyhound and know if it’s an NGA or AKC Greyhound, but to other people, they’re all pretty recognizable for what they are.
Truthfully, I never thought a lot about Greyhounds and their conformation. Racing Greyhounds have very few genetic problems because they aren’t bred for looks. They’re bred by finding a fast dog and breeding it to another fast dog. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t strikingly beautiful, but that’s a fortunate by product of their form being for function. They also all know that they’re gorgeous and have the attitude to go with it.
Now that we’ve added German Shepherds to the mix, I’ve become more aware of how breeding happens in other breeds. There’s a big difference between American lines of German Shepherds and those from Czech and German lines. There are dogs being bred to work, and dogs being bred to win in the show ring. For those who are wondering, Kuster is from a working line of Czech and West German dogs.
Monday, we took Kuster to the vet for his rabies shot and distemper booster. The vet went on and on about how handsome and sound he is. I happen to agree with him, but I am Kuster’s biased mama. I think he’s adorable, even when he’s being the very devil. I hadn’t really thought a lot about how “sound” our little guy is. I knew in the beginning of our search that my husband was very specific in his desire not to have an American line dog, but I didn’t really dwell on it. I just wanted him to find a dog he was happy with.
Anyway, after we left the glowing praise of the vet’s office where almost everyone found a reason to dote on our not so little fuzzball, it was time for Kuster to go to his puppy class graduation. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that there were two other German Shepherd puppies in his class. Chloe is a beautiful little female and we were disappointed not to see her there the last night. Perhaps we’ll see her again in manners class in a few weeks. Kassel is the other Shepherd puppy in the class.
I’d been watching Kassel with the sort of fascination usually reserved for horrible car wrecks on the side of the road. This poor puppy’s back hocks actually scissor in and out across each other when he walks, and his feet were on the floor almost all the way to the hock. His ears are floppy and not standing up the way a Shepherd’s should at all. I was really curious about where the puppy had come from and told myself that probably the couple who have him had gotten him from some sort of rescue.
Since this was the last week of class, I begged Mr. Taleteller to ask about him. He chatted with Kassel’s owner for a little bit and casually asked where they’d gotten him. The woman proudly told him that the puppy had come from a breeder in Minnesota from American show lines. I can’t begin to tell you all how happy I am that my husband asked the question because I’m pretty sure my mouth would have been gaping open.
I can’t fathom trying to produce a dog who looks like the unfortunate puppy we met. To me, it looks like he has a short lifetime of hip and back pain ahead of him. I am admittedly not an expert on such things, but I’m not blind, either. I know all too well that accidents can happen, even in the most carefully planned endeavors. However, I don’t think that most people who accidentally bred a puppy who turned out to be unsound would turn around and sell it to someone. It’s also not to say that there aren’t people who would willingly take in a dog who was born with some kind of problem and love it dearly as a pet. There are all kinds of inspirational stories about blind dogs, dogs in wheelchairs, cats with prosthetic limbs and so forth. I just don’t think it’s right to breed animals on purpose that are going to lead a life of pain.
I think the whole thing is a lesson for me. There are times when I wish for different genes and a better appearance. Fortunately, my parents weren’t selected for looks. Two regular people got together and had a kid. I’m very content with my dogs who were bred for function instead of form, and I happen to think that they’re some of the best looking around. They weren’t born to compete in beauty pageants, but they have heart where it counts, and they’re beautiful to me. Hopefully, I have just as much value without being a beauty pageant contestant, too.