Training “Negatives” This Way Could Save Your Dog’s Life

If you find yourself saying “no” or “don’t” to your dog as a frequent command, here’s something to think about.

It’s extremely difficult to train a “negative” – especially in the case of those pesky, persistent self-rewarding behaviors such as counter surfing.  It may only result in food 1 in 50 times, but once the reward is achieved, the behavior will continue. A better approach is to train and correct for a contrary behavior – for example, instead of training a dog not to jump on people, it’s much easier to train them to sit for petting.

When you use a voice command, it requires the dog to parse through all the thoughts in its head and figure out which behavior/thought caused the verbal response. An unwanted by-product of this style of training is that it also trains the dog not to “get caught” rather than teaching the dog to avoid the actual problem behavior. Since “getting caught” often only relies on one human’s presence in a multi-human household, the dog learns that it’s best to seek the self-rewarding behavior when the disciplinarian is absent (training dogs is a HECK of a lot easier than training a husband and teenage stepson!).

In addition, using voice (or any human-wielded tool) as positive punishment, reinforces the possibility of an adversarial/negative relationship with the primary caregiver/most trusted person. Too often – especially in the “loose dog” scenario that will happen in EVERY greyhound owner’s lifetime – I see dogs hesitate to come to their owners. Dogs have difficulty understanding the human difference between scared and angry – both conditions tend to cause similar body/voice changes.

I judge lure coursing, and previously held “fun run” days monthly for years, encompassing hundreds of retired greyhounds – believe me, I KNOW dog/owner response in the loose dog scenario.  It’s not a happy thing.

Here’s where a simple change of approach makes a huge difference.  Instead of the owner doing something to punish the behavior, the dog seeks the behavior and something “attacks” him (popper, scat mat, mousetrap – whatever will give him a scare without causing injury, that can be present ALL the time).

Dog: “Hmmmm….mom is in the shower and breakfast smelled really yummy….I’ll just check out the counter and sink and see what she left….she was really rushing this morning, so there MUST be something….not here….not here….YIKES!!!!! IT BIT ME!!!!! Yooowwwllll! Mom! Save me!!!”

You’ve accomplished two important successes in one: First, you’ve demonstrated that the behavior is NOT self rewarding – in fact, it’s downright scary! Second, you’ve become the person your dog runs TO when he’s scared. You get to respond “Poor baby! Are you ok? Did the nasty counter bite you? I TOLD you that room was dangerous! Let me kiss your head and make it better – maybe you should stick with me when I’m busy….”

(Note: if you own 34″ tall borzoi, you know then it’s mousetraps instead of a stubbed toe, because they’re hanging off their chest feathering <g>. Also, before you decide I’m the cruelest owner ever: mousetraps don’t close over a dog nose – although they sometimes get my fingers – the nose is too large for a small trap, and the cheap ones are so delicate that they tend to snap when they are nudged.  I NEVER bait them with anything, and I don’t put them out and leave food on the counters – the point is the dog needs to stop sneaking for food that isn’t usually there – and to keep him from grabbing dinner off a hot stove when I run to the restroom.  They feel like being shot with a weak rubber band.)

I think that setting up potentially adversarial relationships with greyhounds or other sensitive dogs is MUCH more damaging than a once-or-twice shock or pinch. Those occurrences fit the requirements for a correction: Immediate, Effective, Over.

Nagging at or sporadic corrections set you up as unpredictable and untrustworthy. The behavior problem isn’t solved, and a much greater problem is created – the dog no longer has complete faith in you as master and savior.

Any dog that has lived with me for any length of time quickly learns that whenever they are frightened, injured, or just insecure, all they have to do is find me and I will fix it. It’s better than a recall, because a recall requires action on my part – whereas this teaches the dog to find ME.

Think of the parallels: 1) Greyhound gets loose in public gathering, everybody starts yelling “loose dog,” greyhound gets spooked and runs away from people. 2) Greyhound gets loose in gathering, everybody starts yelling “loose dog” (let’s say that a friend was holding the dog while Mom got a plate of food from the picnic table), the dog gets scared and immediately runs in the direction where Mom is, knowing she will save him and tell him he’s a good boy.

Life saved.

Why Rescue Groups Should Support Efforts to Reform Dog Breeding

When a dog breeder is failing to take proper care of his or her dogs and isn’t willing to accept help from peers, rescue groups are often the ones who step in. Depending on the size of the breeding operation and the condition of the dogs, rescue volunteers can face some daunting issues.
We would like to see a world in which all breeding dogs and puppies are treated humanely and shown kindness so that large surrenders become much less frequent.
At the National Association for Dog Breeding Reform, we believe that many breeders do an excellent job and their work that has preserved many of the dog breeds we love. We don’t want to end dog breeding by the many dedicated people who do it the right way.
It’s easy to look at the world and see what rescue and breeders don’t have in common, to look at them as competitors arguing for different approaches to finding the perfect companion animal.
The truth is there isn’t one right way to find a dog to love. People are different. Some go right to a rescue. Some people won’t get a dog unless it comes from a breeder they know and trust. Others head right to the local shelter.
I think about what rescue and good breeders have in common. Imagine how many fewer surrenders there would be if every breeder met the standards that the best ones do. Imagine how much better it would be for breeding dogs if there were validated standards for breeders and enough resources to do the needed inspections and enforce the standards fairly. Imagine how much better it would be for responsible breeders if those who lack the compassion to do breeding the right way were incented to do something else.
Ethical breeders are providing a service that meets a need. Some Americans want a puppy that has been bred with care, a puppy with a known history, and a puppy that comes with access to advice from a genuine expert on the breed.
There are many ways to work together to improve the lives of puppies and parents. We think that rescue, responsible breeders, veterinarians, and dog owners all have a stake in making breeding better for the dogs.
Visit our site and register to get updates, or sign up to volunteer to help our nonprofit at Please share our posts!

A Good Match or a Good Start: Pet Store Adoption Events and Puppy Sales By Rita Rice, NADBR VP

A few weeks ago, the National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform shared a post by our founder, Ron D Sturgeon, in which he commented that he didn’t care whether puppies were sold in pet stores or from homes – as long as they were well nurtured and from breeders who take care of their dogs.

He received a LOT of criticism for this – because it’s trendy to call pet stores who sell puppies and kittens bad.

If the pet store model is bad, why is it the primary method of “adoption” used by shelters? Walk in, fill out an application, choose an animal, leave.

Let’s think about this together. If you think people make bad decisions at pet stores, where they have to lay their credit card on the line and pay $500-$2500 for a puppy, then doesn’t logic follow that the same model, used at a shelter for a $75 dog, will also encourage bad decisions?

When a shelter or rescue chooses to hold an adoption day at a pet store, they do so knowing that an adoption event at a pet store is an effective way to find homes.

You won’t ever see my dogs for sale in a pet store, because I choose not to cater to the “buy it now” market. But that market is a HUGE part of the pet owning public – and so, while many “anti-breeder” groups continuously decry the horror of selling puppies to the “buy it now” crowd, they endorse it at the same time – with rescues.

If selling puppies as an “impulse buy” is bad, then “adopting out” rescues as an impulse buy is equally bad. Personally, I believe it’s worse, because the majority of shelter dogs are mixed breeds ranging from late puppy to adult. These dogs often have no history and there is no reliable information to give the potential home any indication of temperament or training.

I worry about all of these dogs, whether in shelters or pet stores. I worry that their probable poor start in life, along with the lack of experience in the average pet home, will combine to make an already difficult life (for the puppy) even more challenging for the adult dog.

I was a rescuer before I was a breeder. I am still a rescuer. In my early 20s, I learned the value of purebred rescues and locally active rescues (for mixed breeds). Those rescues are able to take time and evaluate dogs while in foster homes, then evaluate potential adopters and work to fit the dog with the home. I value responsible breeders for the same reason, for their ability to know the puppy or adult dog and match that dog to the right home.

I don’t believe we will ever prevent dogs and puppies from being impulsive purchases. Every law that’s been passed, every group that has tried something different, has only succeeded in driving those purchases to a different market – in 25 years, I’ve never seen that new market to be in the best interests of the dogs.

NADBR believes it’s time for a new strategy. We believe that the best result for the “puppy impulse market” is for those buyers/adopters to be able to easily find dogs that have had the best start possible. For the shelters, that strategy suggests that they continue placing rescue dogs in the public eye – and hopefully combine that prominence with a staff that is knowledgeable about the dogs that are available. For breeders, that strategy is to regulate and encourage responsible breeding, so that buyers are able to find locally raised puppies who have had the best start possible.

As a breeder, I worry about impulse buyers, and keep my puppies far from that environment. As a rescuer, I want to help those buyers/adopters find good dogs, dogs who will make it easy for the new home to grow to cherish that impulsive acquisition the way I cherish my own dogs – for life.

Why a No-New-Laws Approach Doesn’t Serve the Long-Term Interests of Responsible Dog Breeders By NADBR’s VP and Director of Research Rita Rice

I know that the popular view among responsible home-based dog breeders is “No more laws!”. And, it’s no mystery why we feel that way. The laws currently on the books manage to both discourage responsible breeding and still not do much to help end severe neglect and cruelty situations. Although many breeder groups are doing a great job fighting misguided new legislation, no one is thinking about creating an outcome that rewards good husbandry and responsible dog breeding.

The result is that most legislation is written by “anti-breeding” groups – who somehow don’t seem to understand that Americans want to buy purebred or well-bred puppies and that, if they can’t get them in their state, or in the U.S., they’ll just import from overseas, where the U.S. has no jurisdiction to require minimum standards of care.
Because, really, my friends – I know that many dedicated breeders get frustrated by having to deal with regulations on breeders that make no sense, but aren’t you also heartsick at the number of rescues that are truly needed? Aren’t you fed up by the number of poorly bred puppies, unsocialized and laden with mental and physical problems that pass for “purebred” dogs these days?

So, think outside the box for a minute.
What if the law actually worked in your favor and allowed you, as a responsible breeder, to operate more openly and to advertise your litters to the local pet market? What if the law actually helped bring buyers to you?
What if it gave you the opportunity to educate possible buyers about the quality dogs you produce? What if it gave you a chance to demonstrate the difference between your breeding program and those of people selling questionable dogs over the Internet?
Most of us don’t even advertise in the local market, because the laws don’t favor it. If they did, wouldn’t it be so much easier for good breeders to work with local buyers and to educate local prospects?

I believe that there are thousands of us: responsible, mostly home-based breeders who are quietly doing a great job raising happy, healthy puppies on a small scale. I also believe that most of us feel so pressured by the current political climate that we cringe every time we buy more than three bags of dog food, and stifle the rant that begs to explode every time we walk in public with our dogs and someone asks, “Is that a rescue?”

At some point, we need either to make our voices heard or to be ready to throw in the towel. I have spent the last six months working with the dedicated members of NADBR. For the first time in years, I feel like I’m a part of a constructive dialogue with a group of individuals who respect that, first and foremost, all of us love dogs and want what’s best for them, now and in the future.
NADBR is about promoting responsible dog breeding, not putting responsible dog breeders out of business. You can find this article on our home page, under leadership posts to blog.

National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform thanks Beth Palmer for outstanding service and names Rita Rice as her successor.


Rita and DogsFORT WORTH, TX, July 30, 2015 /24-7PressRelease/ — National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform Vice President Rita Rice has been appointed Director of Research. She replaces Beth Palmer, a longtime KPMG-US employee recently transferred abroad.

During her tenure as Director of Research, Beth Palmer led NADBR’s effort to create a public, fact-checked wiki of state and federal dog breeding regulations, a project NADBR anticipates will go live in 2016.

“We’re grateful for all of the work that Beth has done to further our mission to improve dog breeding for the dogs,” said NADBR President Hue Grant. “We wish her continued success as she begins a new phase of her career in Hong Kong,” he added.

Rita Rice is a nationally known breeder of Borzoi and an AKC Breeder of Merit. She has been an advocate for purebred and purpose-bred canine for many years. Rice began showing hounds in obedience, lure coursing and confirmation in the 1990s and has become a very successful competitor, both in the U.S. and internationally.

“Rita Rice has the broad experience and right mix of passion and pragmatism to lead the work our research team is doing,” said NADBR President Hue Grant.

The National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform is committed to ensuring that dogs bred for profit are shown kindness, treated humanely and bred using only medically-sound practices. For details about volunteering, visit NADBR’s Facebook page or sign up for e-mail updates on the NADBR website.

The National Alliance for Dog Breeder Reform

Across the U.S., many cities have banned the sale of puppies in pet stores because these stores buy their puppies from mills. As a dog lover, I understand why some support these bans. The National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform (NADBR) is an all-volunteer national effort to reform dog breeding. However, we’re focused on how dogs bred for profit are treated, not where they are sold. To learn more about NADBR, visit

On Love and Logic- and Letting Go

Int GCh Aria's Satchmo at LeSphinx, photo by Marit Folgero
Int GCh Aria’s Satchmo at LeSphinx, photo by Marit Folgero

One of the hardest aspects about transitioning from dog lover to breeder is learning how to use your head, and not your heart, to make most of the decisions.  Most would-be breeders start by collecting several dogs – that urge to find “the perfect breeding stock” can be pretty overwhelming.  If the novice is even halfway on track, each of these dogs will be lovable with great personalities – they’re so easy to fall in love with!

The intelligent novice, as she learns, will start to realize that not all of these dogs fit with her “vision” of what she wants to do.  Health, genetics, temperament, conformation – it’s easy to have two very good dogs who just don’t need to be in the same breeding program.

This is where it gets difficult.  She loves them all, she can’t think of parting with any of them – each one is so special, in it’s own way!

Hopefully, logic – or a good mentor – steps in.  If the keeps all of them now, what happens when she breeds her first litter?  How many of those need to be kept to move forward?  What if she breeds two litters?

If the heart makes all the decisions, soon there are 10, 15, 20 dogs – what then?  She can love all of them, but who gets her time?  What happens when all of those first dogs start to get old, and are past breeding age?  In a long-lived breed (many of the Toy breeds), dogs may finish their breeding career at 8-10, but live to 15 years or more.  Potentially, that’s 2-3 generations of “seniors” who are incapable of breeding – where do they go?  Does she keep them? Rehome them?   But she LOVES them!

It’s so easy to love all of them.  Whether we rescue, buy, or breed, those of us who love dogs LOVE dogs.  We learn their habits and quirks, and they become so dear to us – it’s hard to imagine going through the day without that particular face smiling back at you.  This dog really gets it when she’s sad, this one is always happy, this one just wants to spend his entire life curled up on her lap!

Now, she’s either started making hard choices, or she’s a candidate for the next episode of Hoarders (I don’t need to watch the show; I see it every day in real life).

Hopefully, she’s both a good breeder and a good communicator – because selling puppies takes a LOT of communication.  I know plenty of great breeders whose interpersonal skills rank slightly lower than Tarzan’s.  If she’s really lucky, or really good, those first few homes are great.   They send pictures, they post on Facebook, she gets to see dozens of photos with her beautiful dog smiling back at her, and she knows he’s in love with his new people, and they’re in love with him.

If she’s great, those first homes tell other homes, and she finds herself with wonderful families who are in eager anticipation of acquiring one of her dogs.  Handing them off to make their way in the world isn’t any easier, but those excited, happy human faces help make up for it.

If she’s smart, and lucky, and just plain works her bum into the ground, she goes to sleep every night knowing that her pups are happy and loved – every one of them.

Those novice breeders who aren’t as smart, or as lucky, or willing or able to work as hard – they end up in different places.  Some become headlines.  Some quit. Some flounder somewhere in between, never quite able to let go.

At the beginning, for most breeders, is love.  I truly believe this.  Almost every breeder I’ve met (good, bad, or in the gray area) loves their dogs, especially at first.  Age, poverty, exhaustion – so many factors can change that – but at one point, I believe that all of us were shiny faced teenagers who thought that cuddling a puppy was the best place in the world.

In the end, what distinguishes the best of us from the worst is logic, and letting go.

I have dogs here, right now, who are ready to go to their “forever homes.”  I like some more than others, but I know and love every one of them.  Pick one, any one, and I’ll tell you more than you ever thought that any person could ever know about a dog.  I know each voice, and I know each “style” of bark.  Right now, Bridget, in “maternity queen” mode, knows I’ve entered the house, and Her Royal Majesty feels that my first duty should be to bring her more cold water, fluff the blankets on her bed, and let her outside – she’ll scold me for whatever order I choose, because I always get it wrong.  I adore her.  She will be seven in October, this is her third (and last) litter for me.  Her retirement home is waiting anxiously for her pups to be born and ready to leave – her place on that sofa is ready and waiting.

I’ll miss her desperately – she’s funny, and imperious, and strong willed, and commanding.  Boys twice her size flee if she curls her lip at them.  I’ll even miss her initiation of group howls whenever she feels slighted, or  siren screams when I play Maria Callas on the stereo (her grandmother hated Callas, too – is it genetic?).

Love wants to keep them all.  Logic dictates that some must move on, or I’ll not be able to care well for any of them.

Logic wins, and I let them go.

Ode to Sparta

Sparta loved children and was the best dog he knew how to be.
Sparta loved children and was the best dog he knew how to be.

I killed Sparta today.  He was old, he’s been sick, and 140 pounds of Great Pyrenees creates all sorts of issues when it comes to elderly care.  After two years with us (he was a rescue that somehow found his permanent way into our lives), he actually looked a LOT better than when I first succumbed to him.  He was never “cute,” he didn’t like people, he hated other dogs, he sometimes guarded our own home against us.  He was never a candidate for a “cute” ad.  He stank, he had nasty oily hair, he farted, he bit, he barked randomly at all hours, he never grew hair on his back or tail (horrible staph infection and flea infestation when we got him), he thought that nail trims were a matter of life or death (his life, my death).

He was, in his own Sparta-like way, a very happy dog during the two years he was with us.  He loved children, chew bones, his bed in the cave that is my stepson’s room, and sometimes he even loved us.

Chances are, we could have kept him around a lot longer.  I’ve known many owners who do; some keep them for too long.

But here’s a sad irony.  As a breeder who spends a fair bit of time in the public eye, every dog I own seems to be a target for people who are anti-breeder.  My hounds and I are held to a much higher standard than your neighbor with the 20 year old blind and deaf poodle.  Because I’m a breeder, the dog who is just plain old and tired becomes “neglected and abused” in the eyes of those who are anti-breeder.   Because I’m a breeder, the elderly dog with fatty tumors, male pattern baldness, and nails that drag the floor is a cause for headlines. Because I’m a breeder, no one stops to consider that the dog might be impossible to load in the car and considers biting the vet to be the highlight of his day.

Because I’m a breeder, compassion is not available for me, or even considered to be a trait I might possess.

Now, we know that’s not true, because we know me, right?

As our beloved dogs age, it’s easy to see them as they were, rather than as they are.  We see what we want to see, and believe what we want to believe.  Any vet can tell you of the old dogs they see on a daily basis, their deplorable condition, and the difficulty their owners have making that final decision.

Old animals are hard.  They become increasingly frail, and there becomes a point where medical expenses exceed the budget for your next car – with no purpose or end in sight.

When our neighbor chooses to let his old dog shuffle from day to day, not happy and whole but not at last prayers, we empathize with him.  When a breeder undergoing inspection has several old dogs in the same condition, it’s “neglect” – we lose our compassion and somehow ascribe the existence of those dogs to greed.  Realistically, nothing could be farther from the truth – it’s much less expensive to let old dogs go, than to spend the time and money to keep them on.

I never argue about that last, best, most difficult choice we must all make for our dogs.  Each of us has to come to terms with our choices, and nearly all of those make those choices out of love.  Each of us has our opinion on when it’s “time,” but I believe we owe it to each other to support our friends as they make those choices, and not argue or criticize them – isn’t it hard enough as it is?

Compassion.  For the hounds, for each other, and for Sparta.  He was the best dog he knew how to be.


When Less is Much, MUCH More

We’re all aware of how much more stressful life is today compared to “way back when.”  It’s not our imagination. We are all bombarded with a ceaseless stream of information – what our “friends” are doing, news, sports, rock stars, movie stars, stars who are just stars for some unknown reason, Causes we should support, Petitions we should sign, new information that meat is good (or bad) for us, new exercise routines, new ways to decompress at the end of a day….. It’s overwhelming.

More and more, I see dogs who are equally overwhelmed – and less able to cope.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (or whatever’s “trending” this minute) flood us with photos of dogs wearing hats, painted toenails, elaborate grooming or costumes that make them look like anything BUT a dog, dogs wearing children, children wearing dogs, dogs on surfboards or skateboards or just on boards. … And everyone wants to get on board! Social media has increased the demand for those endless cute photos of dogs as accessories to life, regardless of how the dogs might feel about it.

I’m the poster child for overscheduled Americans. A few years ago, we added my stepson as a full time member of our family.  I was already employed (albeit at home), and an active AKC judge, breeder and owner handler.  As usual, something had to give, and something did.

Prior to that point, I was a typical dog-show mom.  I do use handlers more than the average, but I got my puppies out young and finished their championships quickly – often by 9-12 months (in a breed that doesn’t mature until 2-4 years, this is something).

Something gave – and I learned that maybe I wasn’t the “super dog mom” that I thought I was.

Instead of getting out and going to shows, my puppies were getting out for a weekend or two, then coming home to grow up.  Lacking time to devote exclusively to them, I spent my time with them off and on during the day. But, I didn’t go to handling class or obedience class or coursing practice or do anything “constructive” with them.

Our home has a great arrangement for the dogs – an air conditioned room (split with our home gym area), attached to an acre field with two terraces and trees and a big open area for running.  I’ve added two “isolation runs” that are separate, 15 x 60 feet each.  Except for the two runs, my kennel room is just a big room with food and water and LOTS of dog beds, plus a dog door to the field.

Still,  I felt like a bad person.  I felt like I was failing my dogs, and my breeding program.

Then, one day,  I actually looked at my dogs.

Somehow, during my absence and my constant scheduling, they created a happy, cohesive, relaxed pack.  They played with their toys, or “created” new ones out of logs, rugs dragged outside, watering hoses, and the occasional tool stolen from my handyman.  They decided that they didn’t always want to be inside dogs, and sometimes started sleeping outside in the dog houses I built when we first moved in.  They sometimes became nocturnal, like  little vampires –  playing at night, and sleeping in the air conditioning during the day.  In the winter, they stopped sleeping inside at all.  They ignored specially prepared meals, and ate the kibble that was always there (and the occasional unwary squirrel or bird, too).

They stopped being pets, “fur-children,” or show dogs, and started being DOGS.

Today, if fellow borzoi fanciers think anything about my dogs, I think they recognize how my dogs are always happy, relaxed, and ready for anything.  They ride escalators, attend political conventions, go hiking off lead, and sometimes go to dog shows.

But when they leave those places and come home, they become DOGS.  I don’t yell at them – really, almost never, for anything.  Because they’ve already eaten the siding, the garden hose, my handyman’s cell phone (sorry about that!), chewed on the buckets, and dragged $100 beds outside in tatters.  Sometimes, I yell if they jump on my back.  But not really (and Nia knows I don’t mean it, anyway).

We have a few “house dogs,” and others rotate in and out.  But the babies stay out in their place for the first 2-3 years of their life, except for occasional trips and shows.

Because of this arrangement,  my puppies are happier than they’ve ever been.  No schedules, few rules, just lots of food and drink, places to sleep.  They always love when I’m with them. Because they’ve already eaten that room, so really, what’s left to be mad at? I’ve become a 100% positive experience.  They don’t cry to leave their crate at night – because there isn’t one, and they can go out when they please.  They don’t get yelled at for eating shoes, because we didn’t want those anyway (and Bryan’s old shoes are the BEST TOYS EVER).  As a sighthound owner, the best part of my new method is that they always come when I call – because coming to me is always a good thing.

When I think about it, my youngsters live my dream vacation every day of their lives.  Lots of choices, no stupid human rules. All they have to do is get along with each other and be happy.  When I visit, they’re always happy to see me, because (other than on dreaded bath or nail day), I’m always there just to visit and enjoy them.

When was the last time your dog had even one day that he could just be a DOG?

So, the next time you look at my exuberant dogs and think, “poor dogs, they spend all day in a kennel, how horrible is that?”  Remember, my dogs are looking at yours and thinking, “hey, man, you need to get out of that high-stress job with all those rules and regulations and bed times and potty times and dinner times – wow – it’s like the military!”

It’s their world, and it isn’t (and maybe shouldn’t be) written by our rules.  What world does your dog live in?

Aria Borzoi - The Breeder's Corner
Bridget, Nia and Yarrow “drag race” with my two foster puppies, Tango and Houdini

The Preservation of Bloodlines

Bryan Rice and Westminster Select GCH Jaraluv's Rhapsody in Blue
Bryan Rice and Westminster Select GCH Jaraluv’s Rhapsody in Blue

About a year ago, while listening in on a massive conference call held by the USDA/APHIS (that’s the US Dept. of Agriculture, and its division the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), I discovered that the preservation of bloodlines is what I do.

Trust the US government to suck the life out of twenty years of love, passion and committed stewardship and turn it into dust thicker and drier than that on specimen skeletons in the basement of the Museum of Natural History.

That call also marks the first time I truly discovered a group of people who hate who and what I am as passionately as I love the hounds who share my life. Because I identified myself while asking a question, my email was flooded for days with threats and accusations. The question I asked had to do with maintaining my exemption from being called a “commercial breeder” while still giving my time and assistance to rescue. The new ruling would prevent me from ever fostering another rescue dog, and I needed clarification.

I have no more caused the death of an unknown dog in an animal shelter than you have killed a child in Africa by choosing to have biological children of your own.  Luckily for you, there are no social workers throwing rocks at you when you take your child to a baseball game.  I, on the other hand, get strangers screaming in my face in New York City when I dare take my candidate for the Westminster Dog Show for a walk in Central Park.

I love these hounds as I love my life, and I am fiercely and passionately dedicated to keeping a creature this beautiful alive on our planet for the remainder of my days, and those beyond.  My body and soul sing to see them leap and play, to watch the joy on their youthful faces as they discover their amazing athletic potential, and the perfect peace in their eyes as they age into stately dukes and duchesses not seen in human form for a hundred years.

These hounds are living art.  Created by man to form a partnership centuries ago in man’s hour of need, they have never needed us to survive.  That these perfect creatures still choose to be with us and share our lives must surely be an indication that human beings still possess qualities of value– for these hounds are every bit as self-sufficient now as they were in antiquity.

As a breeder, I can’t improve on this kind of perfection. Instead, my duty is to preserve their incredible athleticism and impossible beauty, and their tremendous fortitude and bottomless empathy.  I will try to hold and steward these qualities for as long as it is my honor to do so.

These awe-inspiring animals bring us back to an era when we needed this partnership for our very survival. By choosing to preserve and curate their perfection, they serve to remind us of the best qualities in our human race. We need no help to remember the worst.

I strongly believe that when we lose the ability to wonder at their magnificence and no longer strive to preserve this beautiful partnership, we also lose a vital part of what it is to be human.

Preservation of bloodlines, indeed.  They preserve me.