I’ve had this written for a little while but was waiting on results to post it mainly to avoid the rush of questions directed to my breeder before full tests were done. They’re finished, so now I’ll share.
As I’m sure most of you have realized from my incessant blathering, last week I picked up my new Australian Cattle Dog puppy. Some of the more astute among you may have noticed that
And This Puppy
Are not the same puppy.
I’ve had the same list of ACD breeders since I was 18 and my puppy has come from one of them. The parents of the litter were fully health tested from solid, healthy and sane pedigrees. It wasn’t an impulse decision. This wasn’t from some puppy-mill in the boondocks breeding any kind-of cattle dog-looking thing that happened to have the right parts, and still the unthinkable happened. A freak genetic mutation that is currently untestable, random and for a disorder virtually unknown in the breed killed not just one, but two boys in the litter. Through all this I’ve realized some things and I think it’s important to share.
A Good Breeder and an Ethical Breeder are not always the same thing
Good breeders do the health testing. They produce nice dogs of their breed. The keep the dogs in good condition, and usually do *something* with their animals be it show, performance or real-life work etc. They do their best to sell puppies to appropriate homes and they’ll take back puppies who don’t work out. Ethical breeders do all that, and are unfailingly honest about problems that arise in their lines with their buyers. Using my Malinois as an example, I know the issues in his lines back through his grandmother. When a cancer diagnosis came up in his maternal line’s grandmother (At 15, so really not surprising) I had a phone-call within a day. While it helps that I am friends with his breeder, she called and informed puppy buyers from years earlier of the condition that may have had a genetic component. When M’s mama died suddenly and unexpectedly at her co-owner’s home, it was my breeder who called all of her puppy owners to let them know what had happened. The new mini-beast’s breeder notified the functional entirety of the Cattle Dog community as soon as results were finally finished and I knew before the boys had even been euthanized. It’s not an easy thing to do and the sense of personal responsibility for an ethical breeder is crushing. They have no other choice but to do the right thing.
The health and integrity of the breed matters more than personal gain or reputation.
People are assholes. Breed people can be majorly gossipy nasty assholes particularly when personal dislike comes into play. Sharing findings that help the breed and excluding dogs who will do harm to the breed in the long run is the duty of an ethical breeder. That should be an obvious conclusion, but out of fear of a witch-hunt or just generally sloppy morality many breeders keep silent inadvertently hurting the thing they’re supposed to love. My big question to them continues to be, ‘To what end?”. What is the point of keeping quiet on issues when sharing your knowledge of your own lines can only help others in the long run.
Good breeders want to know what you’re up to.
I actively detest the phone. A university job in telephone support pretty much ensured that if my phone rings, I reflexively cringe and try to think if I have a reasonable excuse for not answering. That being said, 90% of my current phone bill is from talking to my Malinois’ breeder. We’ve gotten to be good friends and it keeps me in the more immediate loop of happenings with my dog’s relatives. My Facebook feed is so littered with mini-beast pictures that I’m pretty sure I’m just being humored at this point with likes and comments but the simple act of giving a damn about puppies already out there speaks volumes about the quality of the breeder.
Bad stuff still happens to good and ethical breeders
…And there’s nothing you can do about it. Freak occurrences, accidents, genetic anomalies, all of it is unpredictable, sucky and being prepared for the worst does nothing to shake the shock of it happening to you. What matters and what will matter in the long-term is what you do with that knowledge. While I will probably always be a little bit sad over what happened, the “what if” alone is kind of heartbreaking, but even a little shift in the wind could have drastically expanded the problem to encompass the entire breed. The death of the boys was a tragedy for my breeder, but they saved many people much greater heartache in the long-term. There’s honor in that.
For me the heartache (A fraction of what my breeder must have gone through) was ameliorated by the arrival of Miss T-Beast, aka Tantrum, the sister and littermate of the boys. While she is likely clear of the disorder/mutation, as her blood ratios would suggest the lack of a real clear/carrier/affected test means Tantrum is likely the end of her maternal line. I am personally hopeful for a definitive test to identify carriers and clears be developed but research being what it is, the likelihood is small.
Miss T-beast is sassy and sweet and currently yelling at me from her prison (a.k.a. crate) while I try to keep her out of the cord bank at work. I’m grateful to have her for her own sake, and not just as a replacement for the boy who was lost. She’s more than a silver lining and thinking of her as one is a disservice to both her and the boys.
So we’ll carry on a little more scratched up due to puppy teeth. and a little more hearing impaired from puppy shrieking and with the memory that it’s all far too fleeting.
The New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is the go-to place for testing blood disorders in dogs. We get asked pretty regularly about donations and places we’d recommend giving and most veterinary hospital supported labs are a good place to start.