When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than a dog. I wanted a
dog so badly! I had a room full of stuffed animals because I loved animals so very much. One of my favorite stuffed animals was a stuffed dog—it was a German Shepherd Dog—it was grey, and it had a vinyl face that I thought looked so very real. I was very proud of that dog—it was about the size of a three month old puppy. I took it everywhere with me. I would talk to it and try to make dog sounds out the side of my mouth so that people would think that the dog was real. I was sure that when they looked at me that they thought it was, and I was very proud to have my very own German Shepherd under my arm. I would walk up and down the dog food isle when my mother shopped for groceries, talking to the dog and trying to decide which kind of dog food to buy. I saved up my allowance and bought a leash and collar for my dog, which I held onto dearly while walking in the store.
Whenever I would go to the library, I would check out books on dogs and animals: stories, non-fiction, anything I could get my hands on. In time, I discovered the American Kennel Club, or AKC, and checked out a book from the organization listing all the purebred dogs that were accepted at that time. I poured over every class, every breed, dreaming of which dogs I would own, and wanting to learn about this thing called showing. I sent away for information about dog showing, and obedience trials. And I bought a copy of the AKC book of breeds for my very own.
Finally, when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, my parents decided to let me get a puppy. I don’t think I had ever been so excited. What kind of dog? At the time I was partial to Golden Retrievers, Brittany Spaniels, and Shetland Sheepdogs. I finally decided upon getting a Sheltie, and I bought a book specifically about Shelties, and I named her before I ever found her: Elsa.
Being thirteen years old, I didn’t know anything about breeding dogs, or how to find a breeder, and my parents didn’t either. I poured through the classified ads, calling every ad for a Sheltie I could find. My parents took me to look at the puppies. The people had the dogs in their home. The first place was a nice house. A woman there had both Shelties and Afghan Hounds. She brought out a puppy for me to see, and it looked ill. My parents insisted on seeing the other dogs, and she reluctantly led us to a large room with cages on the wall. In a bottom cage lay an Afghan hound that looked like she was whelping. It was an ugly site—clean, but not a loving home. I suppose, in some ways, it was reminiscent of a puppy mill—there were not even any nice large kennels—just strange cages, and a shifty woman. Nothing like the puppy mill I helped to bust years later, which was horrifying, but not a loving breeder, loving home, either.
The next place had a nice mother dog that we could meet, and a litter of adorable Sheltie puppies. I picked out my little girl and Elsa became my first dog. She was covered in fleas when we got her home, but we fixed that up quickly. As she grew, her elbows turned outward, and she would have been disqualified from a breed ring because she grew too large for the standard. She was my dog, though, and I loved her dearly. Both sets of puppies, by the way, were AKC. My Elsa was registered AKC as well, even though she was oversized, even though she had dysplasia. The AKC label meant nothing as far as a guarantee for a healthy, sound dog. Nothing at all.
I showed Elsa in a few obedience shows after taking classes with her. It was a wonderful experience that I really enjoyed. After going a way to college, Elsa passed on, and I had different dogs over the years as I raised my children—all mixed breeds. It wasn’t until six years ago that I reunited with my love and adoration for the German Shepherd Dog. In my opinion, GSD’s are one of the most intelligent and versatile breed of dog that exists today, and I will never be without at least one until the day I die.
I recently have found some forums online that are dedicated to the GSD—either breeding, training, or just for the love of them. Some of them are very enjoyable and I am learning some very interesting things there, from some very dedicated and lovely people. Then there are the other groups, and I am very sorry and disappointed to say that the majority of these groups are run by and championed by people who are currently involved with the AKC.
Any fondness I had left for the AKC from my childhood has been destroyed by these people. I tend to feel that, even though I rapidly approach the age of fifty, and even if I make it to one hundred, there will always be more for me to learn about any given subject. If for no other reason than other people have other experiences that I have not had, and therefore insight that I may not have had or considered. There are always going to be other perspectives out there, and I don’t have to agree with them, but I do stand a possibility of learning something from them. I guess the term that people used to use for such a philosophy was “humility.”
These people, however; these AKC breeders and trainers, know it all. They know the one right way to do things, and they know the one right way to think, and to breed, and to sell dogs—they apparently do not have to live another day because they have nothing left to learn. They do, however, enjoy reinforcing this mindset in each other on a continual basis, and usually at the expense or sacrifice of anyone who wanders into their midst who is in any way not exactly like them. Well let me tell you, I am nothing like them, so I am really good fodder for them, and they enjoy trying to tear me down with relish. It is amusing. And more importantly, it is sad.
I find I suffer from a rare condition that makes me think that there are people in the world who are basically good: decent, moral, honest…people who, like me, realize there is another human being on the other end of the line, and that if a person reaches out to me in earnest, and with good intent, then it is decent of me to do the same. I realize that if someone comes to me as a breeder, then it is my duty to be respectful and treat them as they deserve to be treated—honestly, and with integrity. So is in this regard that I joined these forums, because it is my belief that if a person has more experience at something that I am interested in, even if I do not share all of the same philosophies, then I stand to learn something. So, I came to these people to see if they had anything to teach me about GSD’s and about raising and training dogs, because like I said, I will never know everything there is to know, and I will never stop learning.
Well, what I did learn is that many of the people in the show dog business, and in the dog training business, are horrible, cruel, and belligerent people that lack humanity, decency, and consideration of others. And that is sad. And that gives dog breeders and trainers a bad name. And that, given that they stand up as AKC people, really gives the AKC a bad name. I have read copies of forums where AKC and show breeders attacked a woman who was earnestly seeking advice in their forum with disgusting racist and demeaning remarks. They seem to want to do anything to drive anyone away who is not exactly like themselves. And what they do not seem to understand is that the only people left to sell dogs to is each other, and a few people out there who believe that the more expensive something is, the better something is. And, that is just not the case.
Now I know there are many AKC registered dog breeders out there who I am sure are honest, good people with integrity, and at this point, if you are reading this, please contact me and let me know who you are and what you are about. As I have written before, if someone comes to me and wants a show dog, or a dog to work in areas that mine are not suited for, I would love to have a list of reputable breeders who are decent, honest people that I can refer my customers to. I will not sell a dog to someone if it is not a good fit for what they are looking for. And to me, reputable breeder does not mean what it means to show breeders. It means someone who loves their dogs, takes excellent care of their dogs, and who cares about where their puppies end up. It also means that they take responsibility for every life they help to bring into this world, until that life is ended.
I will follow this article up with my position on such health testing as genetic tests and OFA certification, why I do not think that it will guarantee you a healthy dog, and why I do not do it. I will support my opinions with what research I can provide, and I have always been up front about my philosophies as a breeder, and as a guardian and caretaker of the animals and land to which I have been entrusted.
I will also try to maintain a list of people who are not decent as dog or animal people, so if you wonder about who you are dealing with, feel free to ask, and if I know of them, I will tell you what I know. All we can do as people in a community of dog lovers is look out for one another, and be honest, and forthright about what we do and why we do it. There is a habit amongst the not-so-decent folks of labeling breeders like me, much in the same way that people are labled as ni**ers, fa**ots, jezebel’s, witches…you get the idea…labels intended to dismiss, diminish, and degrade anyone who is not like them. These terms in the dog world are byb, or back yard breeder, and pm, or puppy mill. There are people out there who could be called both: people who basically factory farm dogs in cruel conditions totally for money, and people who have a dog or two staked out behind their homes for the sole purpose of breeding for cash. They do not invest any time, love, or energy in their dogs, and these dogs are not part of their families.
With our dogs this is not the case. Our dogs are our partners on our farm. They are family, they are friends, and they are loved ones. What we have we give to them, and in return we have the privilege of sharing our lives with some truly wonderful and amazing individuals. In this way we are truly blessed, and I am sorry for the people who are so embittered by life that the best way they can think to represent the dog world to the public is through cruelty, condemnation, and competitive jealousy that drives them to try to steer people away from any breeders that have a different philosophy than their own.
I am sure some of these people breed amazing dogs, and that some of them are amazing trainers. It is just a shame that they are not able to be amazing people as well.