Thursday, October 9, 2008
Making A Good Thing Bad
When I was a kid we had a Golden Retriever. This was in the 60's when they were relatively unknown field dogs. My Dad can really train a hunting dog. He chose a Golden because they were smart, capable hunting dogs and had the gentle nature needed for a good family dog. He felt that Labs were over-bred and Chesapeake's too aggressive for a house filled with wild children.
Our dog Jud was fantastic. We taught him tricks like High Ho Silver, play dead, GI Joe, any dumb thing kids can think to teach a dog. We used him to tow our sled up the hills for us in the winter, and he would run down the hill with us 20, 30, 40 times in order to "fetch" that sled back up the hill. He was a vigilant guardian and loyal companion. He had a wicked sense of humor and a huge grin.
He also would cover a field in any direction my father would send him with only hand signals and an occasional whistle from my Dad. He would sit and watch patiently as Dad threw up to 10 white painted wood blocks (numbered with pen) out into the long grass, and on command retrieve them in order, from the last one handled to the first. (No shit)
He would dive off a dock, out of a boat, or into the rapids of a mountain river to retrieve whatever he was put on.
Jud weighed maybe 55 lbs. and was dark red, almost the color of an Irish Setter. He had a medium length soft coat and feathering.
I grew up thinking Golden Retrievers were possibly the best dog anybody could own.
Twenty years after Jud, Dad retired and searched for two or three years to find another field quality Golden. He finally found Jody and started her training.
Jody was a lovely dog. Sweet and willing, smart and loyal. She wouldn't carry a bird. She couldn't tolerate the feel of the feathers in her mouth. Jody became a beloved family pet and my Dad decided he was done with hunting dogs.
Because they were no longer being bred for their intended purpose. Golden Retrievers were becoming yuppie suburban show pieces, and paying a high price for their popularity.
The Golden Retrievers I meet now weigh between 75 and 100 lbs. Their hair is a luxuriant high maintenance mess. They are almost white. (Read Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin if you want a wake up call on breeding for the white gene.) They are exquisite. They have a myriad of genetic disorders including a high incidence of cancer.They are dumber than rocks.
They still have the funny wiggle walk I remember so well, a gentle nature and a big smile. I could cry when I meet them.The irony is that their popularity took off when they began winning the obedience competitions at AKC shows. It was the breeds death knell.
The border collie is next. I see them all over my decidedly yuppie Colorado Springs neighborhood, leaping and bounding, gagging at the end of their extendo leashes and wondering where the hell the sheep are. I think as soon as a breed starts showing up wearing a bandanna at the dog parks you can just about guarantee they're going to be ruined as a breed.
Which brings me to the very interesting fuglyhorseoftheday.blogspot.com post on Tues. of this week. Fugs was talking about the importance of buying a quality animal and the need for people to quit over breeding crap. Obviously I agree with these thoughts. Heartily. It was her choice of examples that got a lot of people fired up, which always makes things fun. Especially since I come from the short, stocky ranch horse camp.
I have to be honest. I liked the look of the babies at rockintquarterhorses.com. They were short, compact little boogers, with nice butts and pretty faces. Definitely something I would stop and look at if I was passing by. They looked round, happy and healthy. I liked that they were running wild, I don't want my babies coming to me tame. I didn't care for their breeding, but that's because I'm not a roper. They were foundation lines that the ropers gobble up.
I agree that there were too many. I am all over that. But I would still look.
I didn't like the $15,000 black thing. Only because that's not where my interest lies. To my mind that colt was already over handled, too big and pleasure bred. Not my cup of tea. I have no problem with it being somebody elses cup of tea though.