Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Healthcare Basketcase Wins Westminster

It is with shame and sadness that I report that a Scottish Terrier won the Westminster Dog Show last night.

It is with shame, because the breed is a dog that has never worked and in fact is constructed so poorly -- with a massive chest and too short a back -- that it can never get down a fox hole.

A terrier that cannot get down a fox hole?

What's next, a bird dog that cannot find birds? A retriever that cannot retrieve? A herding dog that cannot herd? A guard dog that cannot guard? A bulldog that cannot grab a bull?

Well yes, all that and more could be seen at Westminster yesterday. Such is the state of American Kennel Club dogs.

It is with saddness that I report a Scottish Terrier won Westminster, because the Scottie, as a breed, is a health care basket case.

  • This is a breed in which 45 percent of all dogs die of cancer.

  • This is a small breed dog where the average lifespan of the dog is just 10.15 years -- not the 15 years it should be.

  • This is a breed where a person buying a professionally-bred Scottish Terrier is twice as likely to have that well-bred dog die at two years of age as they are to have that Scottie live to age 16.

  • This is a breed where AKC show breeders have demonstrably less healthy dogs. As Joesph Harvill, editor of Great Scots Magazine notes, professionally bred Scotties are more expensive than casually-bred dogs, but they are not healthier. He concludes that "The empirical evidence indicates that the best shot — even if a long shot — at a long-lived Scottie is from a non-professional breeder."

  • This is a breed in which the health of the dog is in rapid decline. When Joseph Harvill, the editor of Great Scots Magazine compared health survey results between 1995 and 2005, he found "an alarming trend" that "may signal the rapid declension in a gene pool which can happen when inbreeding depression reaches critical mass in a small, closed population."

  • This is a breed where owners spent an average of $492 per dog per year on medical bills — and 12.9% spent between $1,000-$5,000 per dog per year.

As Great Scots Magazine notes on its blog:

What is killing us and our dogs are ‘typy’ good looks that hide recessive genes and late-onset diseases. However, the contamination of our Scottish Terrier gene pool can only worsen until we grasp this elemental truth of population genetics: kinship-increasing breeding practices, sustained over time, in a small breed population, lead inexorably to what population geneticists call “inbreeding depression.” Classic signs of inbreeding depression abound in Scottish Terriers today: (1) shorter lifespans (2) weakened immunology (3) smaller litters (4) increased whelping problems (5) spread of genetic diseases. Take one example: Scottie longevity. In 1995 the STCA did a small health survey limited to their registered breeders and pegged the average Scottie lifespan at 11.2 years. In 2005, a decade later, Great Scots Magazine sponsored a comprehensive Scottie health survey, encompassing over 1600 case studies comprising both show bred and pet Scottish Terriers, and found the average lifespan is 10.15 years. Assuming the STCA numbers from 1995 were accurate (those are the only longevity numbers the national club ever produced in their 95-year history to that date)—assuming their numbers are accurate, it shows our breed’s lifespan dropped by 10% in a single decade! That’s equivalent to humans losing perhaps eight years or more off our life-expectancy.

The tragedy here is simply this: a purebreed system lacking the perspective of biological conservation and driven rigidly by the aesthetics of ‘type’ is a system obsessed with a small portion of the genetic picture and functionally blind to larger gene pool dynamics. Despite manifest signs of a troubled gene pool, we persist in our bargain with the devil for ‘typy’ good looks blind to the fact that handsome, ‘typy’ Scotties that have high coefficients of inbreeding can only deepen our inbreeding depression.

Worse still, our kinship-raising/diversity-reducing breeding practices now are normalized and ensconced as responsible practice setting in motion the irony of breed guardians who believe they are saving the gene pool by holding for rigid showring ‘type’ when in fact they are adding to the ravages of depleted genetic diversity in our best dogs.

The Scottie gene pool, it turns out, is poisoned most by our own contaminated values, traditions, and rituals and our proud breed has most to lose at the hands of its staunchest friends. The mind-set and the ‘typy’-motivated line-breeding traditions which have brought our dogs to this predicament will continue to justify patch work band-aid fixes until the stark reality of our dogs’ jeopardy is driven home to the public. Until it informs us and frightens us and angers us it won’t motivate us to change the way we breed and buy Scottish Terriers.

Read the whole thing here. Subscribe to the magazine here.

Of course Sadie, the Scottish terrier that won, was not bred by the owner, nor was she even walked around the ring by the owner -- a professional "handler" was paid to do that.

The handler was interviewed by the media -- not the owner or breeder.

Handler Gabriel Rangel described his relationship with the dog as "like a marriage" -- pushing the owner and breeder far back into the weeds of existence.

Mr. Rangel explained that he and Sadie like to "have dinner together at the hotel and watch Animal Planet."

The Owner? The Breeder? Who are they, and what do they have to do with this dog?


So forget Mary O'Neal at Anstamm Kennel who bred the dog, and kick to the curb Amelia Musser who owns the dog.

The portly Mr. Rangel, the "handler", did all the interviews, took all the bows, and injected his frame into every shot.

And of course, there was no mention of work.

Dig on the dog? You must be kidding. Neither dog nor handler were in any shape to do that!

Just to add a final spritz to the clown car of ego, disease and deformity that is Westminster, Sadie's brief moment in the limelight was interrupted by two protesters from PeTA.


And why not have PeTA at this circus? They too are all about ego, and have nothing to do with dogs.

In fact, why not remove the dog from the picture entirely and have professional dog handler Gabriel Rangel and PeTA President Ingrid Newkirk battle to the death over a microphone?

I would pay cash money to see that, and I bet you would too!


Anton said...

Great blog, enjoy reading it on my lunch coffee break.
The unfortunate truth is that these freak shows will ultimately lead to a public out cry and then populist politicians will cease the day to give us more legislation.
In my country, the Netherlands, we are at the brink of this happening.

Retrieverman said...

The only working Scottish terrier is the one George W. Bush has. I heard him say that Barney dug out an armadillo on the ranch.

And that dog was always on guard for terrorists:

I can't see that Portuguese water dog taking on Al Qaeda (or the Liberal media) like that!

Retrieverman said...

I thought I remembered another Scottish terrier winning Westminster recently, and 15 years ago, another one was BIS- Ch. Gaelforce Postscript.

This may have been mentioned on TV last night, but I can't stand to watch more than 45 minutes of a dog show, especially that one!

These shows seem to reward coated terriers. If it is a coated terrier, the odds are in its favor of winning. Just go through the BIS winners. It's kind of shocking.

Jemima Harrison said...

Anton makes a very good point here. If the 'fancy' doesn't get a grip, inappropriate legislation will follow. Of course the fancy will then blame everyone other than themselves.


Marie said...

I was amused at how many terrier breeds were "workers" in the eyes of commentator David Frei. Amazing what some people will do for a paycheck, yes that Skye looks like quite the worker! ;)

Anton said...

My favorite comment about an owner and his dog made in 2009 was on a dutch forum, when explaining the looks of his dog the owner said "well he's got gamebred looks"

PBurns said...

LOL. Love that! Game bred looks! Priceless. :)


Heather Houlahan said...

The UKC operative that spent so much time explaining to us poor dirt farmers that our highly variable curs needed to be improved by the pageant ring, so that they would be more standard -- you know, a proper breed -- and that this would finally make them into good working dogs -- that UKC operative breeds, shows, and judges Scottish terriers.

Oh. Do tell.

Cat and Daisy Lynn Rudert said...

ROFLMAO! Yes, I would pay cash money for that!

"In fact, why not remove the dog from the picture entirely and have professional dog handler Gabriel Rangel and PeTA President Ingrid Newkirk battle to the death over a microphone?

I would pay cash money to see that, and I bet you would too!"

Lisa Paddock said...

The last Scottie to win Westminster did so in 1995. A little over a year later she was dead of liver cancer or lymphoma sited in that organ. She was 5 1/2 years old. I hope this new winner, a much celebrated dog, fares better, but I do not view her win as any sort of victory for the breed I love. I agree with Jemima that it may well take legislation (and probably not the sort one would wish for) to change course. My fear is that such game changing will come too late to save the dogs I love.

Lisa in Cape May County, NJ