What Would You Believe?
The parts of our sport that have occupied my mind more than anything else involve breeding, planning combinations, raising puppies, and following them and their changes from day to day until their first appearance in the show ring.
A very selfish purpose, as it was always about appearing in the ring with that jaw droppingly fabulous-looking candidate for future superstardom!
But unfortunately it rarely, if ever, happened – at least not on a regular basis. And still always room for improvement.
In retrospect: Of all that amazing advice given to me from the very beginning, many times I wonder what made me select what to take seriously.
As early as 10 years old, I was convinced that this old lady (she was at least 50!) who walked her dog past our home every day knew what she was talking about, as she had been a dog lover her entire life: “Don’t feed your puppy anything containing sugar,” as it was going to make your dog blind in a very short time, and “If a purebred bitch ever has a litter of mixed breeds, she will never be able to produce a purebred litter.”
Then later in life, when reaching my teens and fortunate to meet a number of more qualified mentors who all were kind and helpful, there were still questions: Which opinions made sense, and which made NON-sense?
My original Terrier mentor was a lovely Swedish lady, Ann-Mari Nagelgaard, stylish and beautiful, who had married a businessman from Bergen. She bred dogs in a very small way, but with the highest standards. Originally a nurse, she tried to teach me about construction, movement, feeding and grooming. And everything made sense.
One piece of advice she gave me, which she also followed herself: Have the last litter from a bitch at seven to nine years of age, as that is a method of rejuvenation. And witnessing the joy of these old girls playing with their babies, there was no doubt in my mind that this was anything but a fact. And I still think so from the point of view of the dam, although I would probably be arrested by some kennel clubs if I followed this advice nowadays! Despite the fact that these mothers all lived for many years after their ninth birthday! And I followed some of these puppies well into adulthood, and there were never any indications that having an elderly mother affected them negatively in any way.
Then another lady entered the picture whose advice and knowledge have impacted my way of thinking dogs in so many ways: Ada Bishop of Laund Collies, whose father W.W. Stanfield bred the only Rough Collie to win Best in Show at Westminster. (Only a couple of years ago – 1929, I think.) After a few years, she was adopted as my English mum and was one of those individuals with so much wisdom and knowledge who should have been used for education of future generations. She wrote a book: “All About the Collie.” But her wisdom remained as a gift shared only with people close to her, as nobody in authority ever asked her …
The one theory of hers that contradicted my original mentor was: Breed from a bitch when she is still young. I think she mentioned a final litter before the age of five. She simply argued that a young, healthy body would automatically produce stronger, healthier puppies.
And as we all have heard, even in human beings pregnancy after a certain age can lead to problems.
As mentioned already, I never witnessed any problems with the puppies from the old bitch – but of course both theories could make sense. Only that if you want to find out, there are so many restrictions in so many countries that you simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so.
In many breeds where an early litter is recommended simply to make life easier for the mother, it is now impossible in many countries due to restrictions. Restrictions initiated by people in most cases with no knowledge about what this is all about. And, sadly, in many cases, with no real interest in anything but making restrictions …
It was also a fact that in some of my breeds, the breeder had a litter as early as possible after one year of age before starting a show career. Personally I don’t consider that a crime, but no longer an option in most places.
During our summer raids to visit British kennels and dog shows, I think the most interesting and eye-opening experience was when moving from breeder to breeder, even in the same breed, you were the beneficiary of so many theories and so much wisdom, all of which was contradicted once you turned a corner.
All very confusing.
We heard stories about dogs and people that were often based more on envy and jealousy than factual knowledge, but in a way I can understand some of the frustration.
Some breeds seemed from the outside more like “closed shops” where the blessing of even being considered as a deserving owner of a Challenge Certificate winner was restricted to a certain group of people! Rumors about syndicates where people agreed to share the illustrious CCs only between themselves were rampant.
Regional loyalty was another factor in many breeds. And even in a small country like England, in some breeds there were definite type differences between The North, The South and The Midlands.
If you then went to Scotland, Wales or Ireland, you would hear the exact same story about why their dogs didn’t do well in England.
Although we saw some lovely animals in the above-mentioned areas, I will stick my head out and urge that in the majority of cases the best dogs won. But of course there were occasions when obviously deals and commitments influenced results.
My problem at an early age was to understand why some of these folks who were so completely convinced that the world was crooked – the reason they hadn’t done better, or been asked to judge on a more regular basis – still kept breeding and showing.
Today I am sorry that I did not make notes about all the problems of so many kinds in the most famous bloodlines of so many breeds we learned about during these trips. And how much sex, parties and cash were involved in the creation of “fame and fortune”….
Anyway, to make what could be a long and detailed story so much shorter, after a while I decided to forget a lot of this BS about reasons for failure, and focus my ears and eyes on those who had for themselves and the entire world proved they knew what they were talking about. And I think it paid off.
Repeating that old quote for the umpteenth time –“I have never met a Great Man who considers himself Great, and never met a Little Man who knows he is Little” – maybe a truth that requires some degree of modification, but still worth a thought!
If comfortable and secure in your own space, there is no problem sharing it ….
It is no surprise that even in this day and age there are people who seem to think that most judges of dogs in one way or another are crooks who have ulterior reasons for which dogs they’re pointing at … But only if they’re not the winners themselves.
Similar to a couple of recent presidential elections: If you win, no questions asked. If you lose, the entire system is fraudulent!
Until next time …