Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Evolving Activist

I don't remember where I learned to hate dog breeders.

The vast majority of my dog knowledge was gained by the countless hours I spent racking up points answering dog related questions online, reading training blogs and articles, and working full-time as a grooming assistant at a pet store.  Like the majority of canine enthusiasts I am self-taught.

There was a point when I was told that the only good breeders are the breeders who spend thousands of dollars on tests to detect genetic disorders, who work and show their dogs, who raise puppies in the home surrounded by a stimulating environment.  The best breeders slept next to their litters every single night until they were old enough to avoid being sat on by mom, socialized and trained all of their puppies before they went to new homes, evaluated and carefully matched each puppy to their new home, and required a fifty point questionnaire before allowing a family to take a puppy.

All of those things considered, I still hated dog breeders.

When friends told me they purchased a dog from a pet store, online, or anywhere in the mid-west I would sneer at them.  Probably from a "puppy mill".  I openly rejected animal rights propaganda from groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States and yet I unintentionally spread that propaganda like I was being paid for it.

Hopefully this isn't me.

The greatest tragedy of human nature is that we are so susceptible to having our minds made for us. 

I do remember the day I stopped hating dog breeders.  I met a friend who both bred and rescued.  I had never considered that a possibility before that point.  Why add more dogs to the world when you're so busy saving the ones who don't have a home in the first place?  I have since answered this question for others a thousand times over.

The reality of dog breeding is that it is a necessity.  You've seen those bumper stickers that read "No Farms, No Food"- without breeders we would not have dogs.   

Which brings me to my next point, what makes a person a good dog breeder?

Consider, for the briefest of moments, the proposition that there is no one size fits all description of a good dog breeder.  Most of the breeds we love and fight so hard to preserve were developed before genetic tests were created.  Many existed before formal dog shows, created solely to do whatever job man had bred them to do.  The most famous names in our dog's pedigrees were likely raised in a barn with only an hour or two of supervision a day.

By all means be the best breeder you can be.  Select your dog breeder carefully, especially since you will likely be communicating with them for the next fifteen years.  But also accept that there are breeders and rescuers and people in general that you are going to disagree with and there is nothing wrong with that. 

I am an evolving activist.  Four years ago my time was consumed with the doom and gloom of staring at shelter dog photos, doing what I could to make a difference in what appeared to be a widely ignored cause.  I never expected that difference to be a united effort between dog breeders and dog rescuers.
Aesop Fables: The Four Oxen and the Lion

  A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to
dwell.  Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came
near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way
he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them.  At
last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each
went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field.  Then
the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all
United we stand, divided we fall.

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