With two columns and two articles due this week, I'm having to resort to anoter re-run. This happened several years ago, right after Hurricane Katrina, when we were on our way home from dog shows in Houston. This was my e-mail account:
I'm back, sore, but dogs and I are basically OK. Omen got the worst of it. Here is the story of when a dog show trip goes bad:
I'm on a long stretch of I-10 east of Houston where they are doing work. There are two lanes, with a concrete barricade to the left and no shoulder to the right. I
am driving my big class B camping van. The dogs are loose because it was just too much hassle to set the crates back up, and besides, they hate being crated. They are lounging on the bed in the back. I am actually paying close attention to traffic.
I hear a little screech and then see right beside me a black car climbing the concrete barricade.-- /interesting/oh shit-bad-swerve/
--so I try to swerve but no time it's ricocheting toward me WHAM!!! It smacks me real hard and real loud up front on the driver's side, hurtling me off the road onto the grass and dirt, toward a ditch and then a temporary off-ramp embankment that's built up high. --/must avoid bank/might roll/take it easy/-- I actually get it back on the road, but have overcorrected and am now swerving too much --/still a chance you can straighten it/--- WHAM!! We are hit hard and loud again, this time in the
rear driver's side, and we are now spun at right angles to the road way and going at 65 mph straight into the concrete wall --/"Oh NO!" (I actually did yell this out loud) /small chance I will live/no chance the dogs will live/I'm sorry dogs/--- WHAM!!!! We hit the wall (this is a really hard jolt in case you are wondering) and now we are going up in the air and rolling to our right, and I see us going over the concrete wall and we are upside down and then WHAM!!! We hit the ground and we are rolling and rolling and rolling and rolling ---/hold on tight/ride it out/sparks/so this is what it's like/ --- unbelievably noisy and bumpy and we are flying upside down and all around and now we have finally stopped and the noise changes to a high shriek as we are sliding and spinning and spinning and sliding and then just sliding on the driver's side and I can see the dotted line going by right next to my face so I know we are in the middle of the interstate, the windshield is too cracked to see out of, and we finally stop, and I wait to be hit by oncoming
traffic, and I am terrified at this thought, and I brace for the impact, but nothing comes.
And then I see dog legs standing over my head. Somebody is alive! Omen! Then gold legs join him. Prophet! Then little cream legs! Luna! All three dogs are standing on my head. I grab them all, I don't know how much of the rear of the van is left, and I think if I let them go they may bolt away. I know I can't actually hold three dog legs with two hands, but I try. I realize the van is filling with smoke---the engine is stuck on full throttle and I have to let go of the dogs to try to reach the ignition. I talk to them a while to tell them it's OK, trying to calm them, but the longer I wait the smokier it's getting. I tell them to stay and let go of them and try to reach the ignition and can't because of my seat belt. I can't get the seat belt off because I am hanging from it. I wedge myself up, get the belt off, pull myself up by the steering wheel and dig around through debris and find the ignition and turn it off. Now I see the shadow of people legs outside the windshield, hear voices. They are trying to pull the windshield the rest of the way off. I yell
for them to stop. I tell them I have three dogs that may bolt and I need to get them on leashes first. They seem to understand, but I keep repeating it. I can't find the leashes because it's a mess everywhere-there were six leashes hanging by the door before the crash. I find one, put it on Luna. Find another, get it on Omen. The people are not waiting now---they obviously think I am delirious---and they are pulling off the windshield. I hand out Luna, telling them to hold the dogs tight, then Omen, can't find a leash for Prophet, am on my way out with him by the collar then I spot a leash caught beneath the debris and pull it out.
I see we are all pretty much fine. Prophet has a small cut under his eye. Omen has some bloody feet (later I realize he has more damage, but X-rays show it to be just bruising rather than cracked ribs). Luna is unscathed. She wants to do it again. An amusement park ride, people to pet her---what coudl be better?
Somebody mentions I have blood gushing out of my head but it feels fine to me. They tell me I am too calm so must be in shock.
Police and fire trucks arrive. Traffic is routed off the Interstate. People gawk. The paramedics arrive and want to take me to the hospital but they say the dogs will have to go to the pound. The animal control truck pulls up to load them in. I say no. Then later they say dogs will have to ride in animal control truck anyway. I say surely they have a vehicle with a back seat they can ride in. What about a police car? They confer, and decide that even though the dogs are the wrong breed, we can all ride in the really big fire truck...
It's happening: The AKC is really going to realign the groups. Probably. Maybe. Eventually.
But really, I think they are.
There's been talk of it for at least a decade (or two---they're starting to run together). There was serious talk back in 2009, when a committee (formed in 2007) recommended to increase the groups number from seven to ten. But some concerns were present, and it went back to committee in 2010. Now it's back---with eleven groups, as follows:
Sporting--Pointers and Setters (19 breeds)
Sporting--Retrievers and Spaniels (21 breeds)
Scent Hounds (21 breeds)
Sight Hounds (15 breeds)
Working--Utility (19 breeds)
Working--Molosser (20 breeds)
Working--Spitz (24 breeds)
Terriers (31 breeds)
Toy (23 breeds)
Non-Sporting (14 breeds)
Herding (30 breeds)
It's still not a done deed. The change in groups has to be
approved, and the selection of which breeds to go in which groups subsequently approved. The vote will be in March 2012. If approved, the change would occur in mid-2015. Yes, your current special will be retired.
Why the change? Besides the obvious difficulty in comparing Borzoi to Basset Hounds and other wildly dissimilar breeds sharing the same group, the numbers will soon become unreasonable. AKC has streamlined its
recognition process for new breeds (translation: they need the money so come on in!) and at this rate some groups will have nearly 50 members by 2014. Winning or placing a group should be an honor, but odds like those will make all but the most advertised dogs walking away winless---and their owners eventually
choosing to spend their weekends elsewhere.
Still, the numbers remain disparate. Terrier and Herding groups won't catch a break--in fact, they're still growing. Sighthounds will increase their odds the most, going from a current 29 Hound group members at present to 15 (versus 49 projected Hounds by 2014).
Handlers should fare well, as they can now win more bonuses for group wins and placements. Clubs will be spending more money; they'll be buying four more group trophies and 16 more rosettes. Groups will take a little longer, but probably not that much longer.
But will it help the dogs? Dogs won't have to stand around in the ring so long, although for some dogs, that might be a disappointment.
The main concern is that of breed assignment. A case in point: the Italian Greyhound. Breeders disagree about whether it should go in the Toy or Sight Hound group. AKC wants it in the latter, if for no other reason than to
even out the numbers a bit. The parent club will be (re) voting on the issue soon, but AKC doesn't have to follow their wishes. Many IG breeders fear that this breed, which was never a hunting breed bit always a companion breed desired for its delicate beauty and prancing gait, may lose its breed type in an attempt to keep up with the long-striding big guys.
Where does your breed stand in the new groups? How do you feel about it? Here's the list of groups and breeds:
Paris Hilton is a genius. Or at least in the same league as Sir Isaac Newton. That is, as far as what breed choice
says about a person's intelligence and creativity. A study carried out by the Bath Spa University (and no, this is not a school where you go to learn to bathe or soak) that compared breed choice with how a person ranks in five personality dimensions found that people who own toy dogs (like Paris and her Chi, and Isaac and his Pom) score higher than other owners in intelligence and...uh...did I mention I don't own a toy dog? Hold on, I'll remember what I was saying in a sec...oh yeah...creativity. Higher intelligence and creativity than
the rest of us.
I'm not going to let it bother me. And according to the study, that should be predicted. We hound owners have
the highest emotional stability. That's what the study says.
Toy and Gundog owners are the most agreeable. Oh, yeah, sure, hmpf, I beg to differ!
Pastoral and Utility dog owners are the most extroverted. I would comment more on this but I don't want to be in your face.
Utility dog owners are the most consscensus. Conscietious. Isn't that close enough? OK, OK,
conscientious. Most conscientious.
The study was conducted in England at The Kennel Club's Discover Dogs event. Last year the same group found that dog owners were generally more agreeable than non-dog-owners, and that people can match dogs with owners based on appearance only with high degree of accuracy.
I wonder if the study designers own toy dogs. I wonder if they will win a Nobel prize. Or at least a little statue of a toy dog.
I wonder if these findings fit with your perceptions...I'll get back to you with mine...
Meanwhile, I may go buy one of those little doggy purses. Carry it around so people will think I'm...uh...what was that word? Oh, yeah, smart.
In honor of 11-11-11, dogs and Veteran's Day:
11 Famous Canine War Veterans
1. Chips, a German Shepherd, was trained in 1942 and was one of the first war dogs shipped overseas. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handler and attacked a pillbox containing an enemy machine gun. He grabbed one man and forced the others to surrender. He was responsible for many more surrenders and was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart---both later revoked. Chips is the subject of the 1993 Disney Movie, "Chips the War Dog."
2. Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull who served in WWI, was the most decorated American war dog in US Military history. Stubby became a national front-page hero when he saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks. He even once caught a German spy by his britches.
3. Smoky, a 4-pound Yorkshire Terrier, was an unlikely war hero. Smoky was awarded eight battle stars, but is best known for carrying a crucial line beneath a runway, a feat that would have taken 40 men three days. She became a celebrity upon her returned to the US, and toured the country.
4. Judy, a Pointer born in 1937, was a ship's dog on the Grasshopper during WWII when the ship sank. Its crew made its way to an island that appeared to have no water, but Judy dug a hole and found fresh water, saving their lives. Judy and crew were later captured, and Judy became a Japanese prisoner of war. She later came to the UK where she was awarded the Dickin medal.
5. Gander, a Newfoundland, fought the Japanese during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. At one point he grabbed a grenade that had been thrown in his unit's midst, rushing back with it toward the Japanese who had thrown it. It exploded, killing Gander, but saving several of his troops. He was awarded the Dickin Medal in 2000. His name is listed with the 1977 men and women on the
Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall in Canada.
6. Gunner, a Kelpie, was found with a broken leg in 1942 and given the name Gunner so the field could repair him "legitimately." Gunner became known for his uncanny hearing and ability to warn of approaching airplanes long before humans could hear them. It was said he could warn of approaching Japanese aircraft 20 minutes before they showed up on radar. He was so reliable that air-raid sirens were sounded when Gunner gave the warning.
7. Nemo A534, a German Shepherd serving in Vietnam, alerted his handler to the presence of enemy troops. Released into the jungle, Nemo attacked the enemy. He and his handler killed two, but were both wounded. His handler was shot twice but radioed his position before passing out. Nemo was shot in the eye, and his snout was creased by a bullet, but he crawled across his handler's body and wouldn't let anyone approach. Credited with saving his handler's life, Nemo was one of the first K-9 units retired and allowed to return to the US.
8. Rifleman Khan, a German Shepherd in WWII, was in a boat with his handler one night when it was capsized by enemy fire. Khan swam to shore, but his handler couldn't swim, so Khan swam back out 200 yards under heavy shelling to find him in the dark sea. Khan pulled him to shore before collapsing beside him.
9. Rags, a terrier mix born in 1916 in Paris, became the US 1st Infantry Division's mascot in WWI. Rags delivered message to the front lines. He became famous when he delivered a vital message despite being gassed, bombed and ending up partially blinded. His owner and handler died of his injuries afterward, but the message saved many lives.
10. Rip, another terrier mix, was found after a bombing raid of London and eventually adopted as a mascot for the Southill Street Air Raid Patrol. Never trained for search rescue, Rip nonetheless later became a self-appointed search dog, sniffing out victims trapped beneath rubble. In one year he found more than 100 victims of London air raids. His success was one of the cases that prompted the training of search and rescue dogs near the end of WWII.
11. Just Nuisance, a Great Dane in South Africa, wasn't exactly a hero, but he was the sort of dog that troops could rally behind. He moved into the Navy yard and slept at the top of ship's gangplanks. Nuisance roamed freely and had a habit of jumping on trains. The conductors would put him out, but he'd just walk to the next station and hitch a ride on the next rain. The railway station finally threatened to have him euthanized unless somebody kept him off the trains or paid his fares. A letter-writing campaign resulted in the Navy formally enlisting him in 1939, as armed-forces members received free rail travel. Nuisance was not an exemplary soldier; he was often AWOL, he stayed out at pubs past closing, and he fought with ship's dog mascots (even killing two of them). Despite that, he was a moral booster for the sailors and appeared at many promotional events.
Eleven canine war greats doesn't even scratch the surface. Every canine who has served at war deserves our thanks---and every one is a hero.
At its October Board Meeting, the AKC Staff presented the following:
Breed Standards for Docked Breeds
Based on a Board request, Staff presented its guidelines for description of the tail and dewclaws in the standard of a new breed. Staff also explained how it will handle any future breed standard revisions to the ear and tail sections of a breed standard if those sections are being revised.
There will be the following two-step approach:
1. Discuss with the club the feasibility of revising the
description of the ear and tail to include a description of the natural ear and tail if these sections are being revised.
2. The most severe language that may be used is to severely penalize natural ears or tailwith the understanding that it is the judge’s discretion to
interpret the standard.
This seems pretty innocuous, and dare I say, even reasonable. So I was surprised to see a number of breeders on various e-mail lists up in arms about it. Now---I have to admit---I am not a cropper or docker. I have serious misgivings about "doing" dewclaws. My breed, saluki, is occasionally cropped in its native lands, and one of the breed's most famous imports was cropped, but fortunately, it has never been the practice in the west. But I digress; the subject here is docking, not cropping. And if you think cropping discussions can
get heavy, docking discussions can get downright nasty.
So here's the situation: Many other countries now ban docking. When dogs of traditionally docked breeds come to America, the AKC standards don't address how their tails should look. After all, most breeders have never
seen an adult entire tail. Nor do they want to. Docking the tail of an adult dog is not a humane alternative (although it is a reason given for docking in some
breeds; some dogs, notably working pointing breeds, suffer tail injuries that often require amputation of the tail as adults). But if the dog is shown, how should the tail be judged? Should the judge just look at the first inch or so? Ignore the tail altogether? Or ignore the dog
The guidelines for new breed standards urge fanciers to describe what a natural tail ideally looks. How could that be bad? Those who are upset cite two reasons: 1) It's the AKC bending over backwards to the puppy millers
and backyard breeders who don't want to have to spend the money to dock their puppies. (Really? Do you think these breeders are overly concerned with how their dogs' tails will be judged in the ring they will never be in?), and 2) It's the AKC bending over for the Animal Rights movement who claim docking is cruel. (First tails, then ears, then dewclaws and next thing you know, hair
spray will be banned! Oh wait...)
Anyway, I may end up writing about this in an upcoming Breeder's Notebook column. What's your take?
We live in exciting times---at least, those of us interested in canine health do. And at its October Board meeting, the AKC stirred the excitement (and controvery) a little more with a couple of announcements. I'll talk about just one of them today, the procedure involved in registering Dalmatians with a Pointer ancestor.
Wait a minute---isn't the whole point of AKC "papers" that the dog is purebred? Historically, yep. But a few other things can occasionally trump pure breeding, even in a purebred dog registry. One of those is health, and that brings us back to exciting times. The AKC is opening its eyes and on occasion, its studbook, to situations in which allowing a leak in purity might plug a flood of health problems.
Dalmatians have become the poster breed for the battle of purity versus health---and health won. Dalmatians have the higher incidence of a type of urinary stones called urate stones of any breed. Some estimates place it as high as 34% of all Dals, although that estimate is probably too high because of methods in sampling. Nonetheless, it's a problem. The high percentage is related to the fact that all purebred AKC Dalmatians have a metabolic abnormality that causes high levels of uric acid in their urine. The high levels often lead to crystallization of uric acid salts or to urinary stone formation, which in turn can cause urinary blockage, especially in males. In some cases, surgery is needed to relieve the condition; in others, euthanasia is the only solution. Dalmatian owners may need to feed their dogs a special diet, along with providing lots of water and plenty of opportunities to urinate, to combat the condition. The one thing they can't do is find a puppy not at risk for it. That's because every purebred AKC Dalmatian is homozygous for (that is, has two copies of) the autosomal recessive SLC2A9 gene responsible for high uric acid.
Dalmatians aren't the only breed with the mutated SLC2A9 gene. It (along with urinary stones) is found in Black Russian Terriers and Bulldogs, among others, at high frequencies. But these breeds also have the normal version of the gene causing low uric acid. Their breeders can DNA test their dogs and avoid producing homozygous recessive dogs. Dalmatian breeders can DNA test their dogs all they want, but the outcome will always be the same: homozygous for the mutant high uric acid gene. Selecting against the gene is thus not an option for them.
How did this aberrant gene become so widespread? A 1940 survey of Dalmatian urine showed every Dalmatian tested had high uric acid. The high levels were initially thought to be a trait associated with the Dal's spots. Dalmatian spots are actually not like big spots you see on many breeds, but a type of ticking you more often see in other breeds as little spots with intermingled white hairs. Initial studies using Dalmatian crosses suggested that ticking (spots) without white hairs in them were always indicative of high uric acid.
But in 1973, Robert Schaible, Ph.D., a medical geneticist and Dalmatian breeder, crossed a Dalmatian with a champion Pointer and produced (among others) five puppies that had both clear spotting and low uric acid, leading him to conclude that the gene for Dalmatian ticking was very close to the gene for high uric acid on the same chromosome; that is, they were closely linked. Early breeders had inadvertently selected for the mutated gene when they selected for the clear ticking. More importantly, Schaible surmised that descendents from these clear-spotted low uric acid (LUA) puppies could introduce the normal gene back into the Dalmatian population without losing breed type. His plan was to breed the LUA dogs that best fit the Dalmatian standard in each generation back to AKC Dalmatians. He apprised the Dalmatian Club of America (DCA) of his
project in 1976.
In 1981, with approval from the DCA, the AKC approved the recognition of two dogs from his fifth generation LUA Dalmatians. But soon afterward feelings within the DCA changed, leading to a contentious few years within the club, and ultimately, to the AKC rescinding the right for the LUA dogs' offspring to be registered. The LUA project continued without DCA support, with a few litters a years. LUA Dalmatians competed successfully in United Kennel Club shows, and in obedience and other performance events, but they were still banned from AKC registration.
Then, in 2006, the DCA opened the matter again and voted to support the breeding and testing of the LUA Dalmatians, with a vote on registration to follow in 2008. The AKC generally defers to parent breed clubs, such as the DCA, on matters of opening registration to non-AKC registered dogs, but it has on occasion registered dogs descended from crosses to other breeds, or dogs from a breed's native land, if the parent club can show a good reason, such as one related to health. The club must then vote, with 2/3 of those voting in favor of registration, for the AKC to consider opening the registry. The 2008 DCA vote had less than half voting to allow the LUA Dalmatians' registration.
The AKC Health and Welfare Advisory Committee looked into the matter, issuing a report in Fall, 2010. They concluded that the LUA Dalmatians are essentially purebred and that their inclusion in the Dalmatian gene pool would be good for the breed's health as long as not everyone rushed to breed to them (which would potentially create a genetic bottleneck and cause their genes to be overrepresented in the next generations).
By now, the backcross project has dogs that are 11 to 15 generations down from the Pointer cross. In an 11 generation pedigree, there are 4095 dogs, of which only one is a Pointer, and of which only 10 to 15 are LUA Dalmatians. The dogs are considered to be more than 99.5% Dalmatian on average.
The AKC Health and Welfare Committee stated: "Because the introduction of the low uric acid dogs into the AKC registry gives Dalmatian breeders a scientifically sound method of voluntarily reducing the incidence of the condition, this committee strongly recommends some controlled program of acceptance of these dogs. Where the strict health and welfare of the breed is the over-riding concern, no other argument can be made. Individual breeders can be free to make their own
decisions about incorporating the normal gene. However, it would be a disservice to the health and welfare of the Dalmatian breed to not allow the normal gene to be reintroduced."
In June 2011, the Dalmatian Club of America members voted by a 55 to 45 percent margin to register the LUA dogs. In July, 2011, the AKC agreed to open its studbook to them. The registration numbers of these dogs and their descendents will contain a letter that designates their Pointer ancestry so that breeders can make informed decisions about integrating them into their bloodlines.
Now, at its October Board meeting, the AKC has published the exact guidelines for registration, below. It's a lot of reading, but the gist is that only descendents of this original Dal X Pointer cross are included in the open registration, and only those descendents that have at least one copy of the normal gene. Whether this is enough to effectively combat the health situation in Dals in debatable; probably not, since it would create a bottleneck of breeding to this one line. But perhaps with success a peption can be made to create a second unrelated LUA line. It is clear the AKC (and the Dalmatian Club of America) don't wish to create a situation where everyone can run out and cross their dal witha Pointer and register the offspring. So it's a compromise...but it's a step.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.
Dalmatian Registration Procedures
Following a motion by Dr. Davies, seconded by Dr. Battaglia, it was VOTED (unanimously) to adopt the following procedures to be used for registration of
Dalmatians descended from “Stocklore Stipples” known as LUA (low uric acid) Dalmatians, effective November 1, 2011.
1) An Open Registration application is required:
a) Include pedigree for the dog. While application only calls for a three generation pedigree, the pedigree in this case must go back to and to document that the dog in questions is a descendent of Stocklore Stipples,
NS 601000. All dogs in the pedigree must be AKC registered or AKC registrable.
b) Include photographs of the dog, as required as part of the Open Registration process.
2) Application is reviewed and pedigree researched by AKC staff.
3) The dog must be tested for the normal SLC2A9
4) Only dogs tested as homozygous or heterozygous for the normal SLC2A9 gene will be registered under this program (see 6 below). The test results will be recorded by OFA, with OFA covering the cost of this recording
for one year, and the DCA covering the next two years. The results must accompany the Open Registration application.
5) Applicants that qualify will be registered with an “NY”
prefix. The same “NY” would also appear as a registration prefix for all of their descendants.
6) Any descendants of Stocklore Stipples that do not test as homozygous or heterozygous for the normal SLC2A9 gene would not be eligible under this program to receive the “NY” prefix directly as the whole purpose
of the Open Registration was to introduce the normal gene into breeding programs at the option of the breeders. Such dogs, which only carry the same mutated gene as in presently registered Dalmatians, would be eligible to apply for AKC registration, which would include the NY designation, provided both parents are AKC registered dogs, at least one of which carries the NY designation. Such registration of these dogs during the Open Registration period can only be accomplished as a member of a registrable litter.
7) If it comes to AKC’s attention that any imported dog is a descendent of Stocklore Stipples, that dog would receive the “NY” prefix. Each application is researched and handled on a case-by-case basis.
8) The Open Registration period will be for three years (November 1, 2011 through November 1, 2014). However, the policy on imported dog will remain in effect indefinitely.
9) Frozen Semen may be registered only if the dog that produced it is deceased, and if it meets the requirements above. Any living dog must meet the Open Registration procedure, after which its frozen semen may be used to produce an AKC registrable litter.
10) Once a dog is registered under this procedure, any
descendants may be registered under regular AKC registration procedures. This would include any litter whelped prior to the dog’s registration. As prior
registrations of such litters was previously prohibited by AKC, any late penalty would be waived.
Back in 2004, a question came up on the Dogwriters' list about how writers manage their time. Being a pro, and always willing to share my knowledge with others (and having other actual real and pressing deadlines) I of course responded. I was reminded of it as I was writing my column today. Looking over it, not much has changed, except that you should now replace the phrase "spider solitaire" with "facebook."
6:30--- wake up. Get ready for busy day.
6:31--- check e-mail
7:00--- feed dogs, eat breakfast
8:00--- walk dogs
9:15---return, check e-mail, answer saved e-mails
10:02---time for spider solitaire
10:30---writing seriously now
10:45---walk around house randomly
11:30---play with dogs
11:45--uh-oh, almost lunch time, better buckle down
12:30--check regular mail
12:45--back from checking mail (too early, not there), better write something
1:15--check regular mail again---it's here!
2:00---write, damn it!
2:05---writing for real now
4:10---this is all I've written today??? Start writing for real
4:40---chack e-mail; vow to stop checking e-mail
5:30 walk dogs
6:45--practice dog agility
7:05--writing scared now
7:24---answer e-mail describing how I waste time on a typical day (check e-mail for responses approximately once every five minutes for rest of night)
10:45---spider solitaire, give out dog treats for tricks
11:00--read novel, go to bed, vow tomorrow will be different. Get ready for a busy day...
Back row: Minka, Isis, Omen and Dixie. Front row: Sissy, Savannah, Hypatia, Wolfman, Stinky and Beanie. Not pictured: Kitty (in season, which would have made for a quite different photo).
Should I be upset that my most requested story is "The Goat Story," an e-mail I wrote of our morning's adventures several years ago? It stars several of the dogs in the photo above, who have since passed on. They look so sweet, don't they? Read on...
The e-mail was entitled: Free Salukis---to any home. It took place on (or next to) our acreage in rural Georgia.
This morning we were walking the dogs when I heard barking that seemed to be coming from the far side of the fence. That area sometimes gets a tree over it, and sure enough, a limb was on the fence and the barking was coming from the far side. Dammit. I crawled over and started calling, following the barking, and eventually came upon Jeepers. Jeepers, being my good dog, came almost right away, and I used one of the three leashes (Bad decision #1: three leashes for 13 dogs?) I had with me to hook him up and start leading him back.
Problem was, I sort of thought I’d heard two different dogs barking, so I called to my mom to find out if anybody else was missing. Before she could answer, I spotted Kitty, also outside of the fence. Mystery solved. Crisis over. Probably just a bunny. Kitty was on the other side of a downed tree so I just casually called her. Bad decision #2: not taking the chance to grab a loose dog when I had it.
Suddenly, more barking---it was Wolfman barking in the distance with his “I GOT SOMETHING BIG AND I NEED BACKUP!” bark. Dammit again! I lunged for Kitty but she was already crashing off through the underbrush to help Wolf. I started toward the barking, pushing through kudzu up to my thighs with legs as heavy as dream legs, dragging Jeepers behind like an anchor under a kudzu sea. I lost one shoe. Kept going. Jeepers seemed to be doing his best to help his buddies just by slowing me down, an evil plot, so I finally decided I had to let go his leash and plow on without him while he stayed behind. Bad decision #3: A dog in hand is worth two in the bush.
I finally clawed my way through some thickets, scratched, bleeding, and one shoed, to stop and stare at Wolfman, Kitty, and Beanie (where did he come from?) attacking a giant feral goat (where did HE come from?). A GIANT feral goat! Kitty and Beanie each had one of its hamstrings, and as fast as the goat could kick them off they were coming back for more. Wolf had the goat's head and neck—mostly head, between the horns (this seemed a bad choice, but I'm no goat killing expert). The goat butted him and sent him flying through the air, over and over, and as soon as he skidded to a stop he was back on his feet and on the goat again. I snatched up a stick, since I knew hands are invisible to salukis in hunting mode, and began yelling and pulling and swatting and doing what I could to get them off, but the dogs were oblivious even though I was using all my strength and voice. Finally... I was able to hold Kitty and Beanie off enough to turn to Wolf, who didn’t care what I did. But eventually I had all three in a stand-off, the goat and I facing the three of them as I brandished my stick. The goat stood firm, even allowing me to hold him by one horn. Time for some quiet talk, goat whisperer stuff, and to decide who would get the last two leashes. The goat was closest---keeping him calm was the key to keeping them off---but would a 200 pound feral goat walk on a leash? Would ia leash even hold him? Should I...Bad decision #4: Put the leashes on somebody, anybody, don't just stand there!
Because that was when I heard a loud crashing, and out from the woods hurtled another two goats with three more salukis—Sissy, Stinky, and Jeepers (with his leash flying behind) right on their tails. My goat threw me to the ground and took off to flee with his friends, and Wolf, Kitty, and Beanie took chase. DAMMIT! Now I had three crazed goats and six blood thirsty salukis running amuck in the woods, and on the other side of the fence, still in our yard, but barely, was my mom trying to contain seven more salukis who were going berserk. I was so out of breath from breaking through kudzu I kept falling as I tried to chase them.
I began to realize just how bad a situation this was—if the goats ran out of the woods and across the field, the dogs would follow, and eventually they would cross a 55 mph highway. Unless the goats stopped. I decided if they got another goat down, I would have to let them kill it so I could catch as many dogs as possible while they were diverted. I was horrified at the thought, but even more so at the idea of my six salukis running across the highway.
Fortunately, the goats kept running in circles, wisely I suppose avoiding the open field. I could hear them crashing through the woods, catch an occasional glimpse of a goat or dog part. I realized the key to the situation was Wolfman, who lived for the hunt—catch him and the others may not be so keen on continuing without their “headman.” One of the goats broke away from the others, with Wolf on his tail. My mom had now climbed over the fence to help. I tried to yell for her to catch Wolf when he went by her, but I was too exhausted to get the words out, and just managed to squeak “Catch…him!” Bad decision #5: Be explicit, even when you can't breathe.
And so my 70 year old mom threw herself on a giant feral goat (she told me later she thought that’s what I meant by "him") and somehow, she says, this goat seemed to know she was trying to help, and he stopped and backed into a fork between two trees next to the fence. Problem was, this allowed the seven dogs inside the fence to reach through and try to bite him--not to mention Wolfman saw his chance now that his quarry was cornered. I saw my chance too. I lurched and stumbled, gasping, to them—and was able to tackle Wolf! I got the leash on him, but now what? There were still two running goats and five chasing salukis. I tied Wolf to a tree where he started going crazy. Bad decision, but for once, one that didn't bite me in the butt.
One by one I was able to catch the other dogs as they came to see the "caught" goat---or in some cases as they barreled past still chasing or hanging on the others. One by one each dog was passed through the other property's barbed wire fence and then over our field fence---while we tried to keep the cornered goat still and while making sure the excited/jealous dogs inside didn’t jump them. Then we had to try to use our too few leashes to secure them so they didn’t run back around to the downed fence area. Finally we had everyone but Wolf, and we got him through under great protest. I lost my other shoe somewhere. I am bloody, bruised all over, and I can’t stop coughing from being so out of breath.
Anybody want a saluki? Good with livestock.
There was post script to this: Two days later I went in for my annual physical. I was covered in bruises from goats and dogs. The nurse nodded politely as I explained, and handed me a brochure for battered women.
OK, out with it: The designer dog--er--elephant in the room. Or on the website. Yes, I wrote a book about designer dogs. "But how, Caroline, how could you write about those overpriced mutts that are helping bring down apple pie, dog shows and the American Kennel Club?"
It took some soul searching (and a glance at my bank statement). When I was first approached by Weldon Owen
, a book packager (and we can talk the differences between book packagers and publishers in a future entry) to write it, I sighed and regretted I'd be turning them down. I've been an AKC participant for most of my life, and I enjoy the perks my AKC dogs allow me. Writing about designer dogs seemed so traitorous.
I thought some more. I studied my bank account some more. And, as I try to do every decade or two, I opened my mind. Not everybody wants to compete. Not everybody wants one of the 150 or so AKC breeds, or even the 450 or so breeds registered elsewhere. And this IS America, home of the free, and home of the freedom to choose an AKC dog, a mutt or even a designer dog. Withholding information is never the answer, and I'm egotistical enough to think I'm the best source of that information. Who better to present the truth about designer dogs? Who better to say we can't subtitle it "Better than purebreds" or some other unsubstantiated claim? So I agreed. Well, yeah, I did try to convince them I should write under a pseudonym, but that was a no. Apparently my name has value. How inconvenient.
So, here's the truth about designer dogs: In some cases, they work. Look at the huskies running the Iditarod; most are mixes. Look at the lurchers (sighthound x non-sighthound mixes) favored for poaching in Britain. The longdogs (sighthound X sighthound mixes) so successful at coyote and jackrabbit hunting in the western United States. Want to succeed at flyball? Get a BorderJack or BorderStaff or one of the other crosses bordering on insanity. Breeds, like cultures, evolve. We strive to hang on to cultural artifacts and antiques, but that doesn't mean we don't stop inventing. Every pure breed we now have was once a novel invention---perhaps even sneered at in its infancy.
But let's be truthful: Most designer dog breeders aren't out to make a better hunter or worker. They're out to make a better companion, and their main claim that these dogs are better (besides the fact that most are cute as h**l) is that they're healthier.
Here's an excerpt from the book: When kennel clubs began registering purebreds, they allowed any dog of that general family type to be registered as the breed. At some point, registration closed, leaving a fixed number of potential sires and dams. What wasn't known at the time was that all of us, dog or human, carry from five to seven recessive genes that, if we carried two copies of any one of them, would
result in some type of hereditary disease. Because humans are a bunch of mixed breeds, we don't often end up with a mate who carries the same bad recessive gene
as we do, so it's unusual to produce an affected child. Because those early canine sires and dams carried some random bad recessives, and because all present-day purebred dogs descend from them, there's a fair chance that dogs carrying that same recessive gene might mate, creating a puppy with the disorder caused by that gene.
The solution? Widen the breeding options, deepen the gene pools to create crossbreeds that don't share the same bad recessives. That's one argument for breeding dogs by design. The trouble is that idea works only within limits. Cross two breeds that share the same disorders and it doesn't work at all. Cross two hybrids again after the initial cross, and you're right back where you started---maybe even worse off: those hybrids will stand a good chance of carrying recessive genes and producing pups with two of the recessives and thus
two disorders. A designer dog should never be just a random mating to "see what happens." Instead, the best mixes blend breeds that can reasonably be expected
to produce desirable physical and behavioral traits.
I can't stress this enough: Just as with a purebred, your source is critical. Most of the designer dog breeders I interviewed left much to be desired in their knowledge of health or genetics. One memorable one had a clearly hydrocephalic designer dog puppy that was being touted as their poster puppy for good health; another had a puppy with a leg I swear was attached backwards! Well, it WAS a novel design...
Too many internet breeders jumped at the chance to produce puppies they could charge twice as much for as they could puppies from same-breed matings. To be fair, many purebred breeders are equally naive and money-motivated. Cave canem, buyer beware and all that.
As for the book, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful books I've been associated with--and fun. The folks at Weldon Owen were a dream to work with, my editor, Peter Cieply, made me look smart, the photography by Anna Kuperburg
was stunning, the models captivating, the owners thrilled and the text gave me a chance to be both fanciful and factful (Is that a
word?). And I got to meet some pretty cool dogs!
For example, there's the Chesador, whose profile begins with: Attaboy--shake it out! This sportsman loves a good dousing, be it from splashing along in the surf or dog-paddling around the lake. If you share the Chesador's enthusiasm for all things active, you'll get along swimmingly...
The Jack Chi: All saunter and swagger, the Jack Chi acts like he's the biggest deal on the block. But despite his bold braggadocio and bad-boy image, he's a trickster and a charmer. And though he's happy to be scrappy, he
also craves a cuddle...
...And 34 other breeds, all represented by dogs who are very special to someone, and just as cherished and deserving as any purebred.
I just sent back a dog book proposal. For the second time. It wasn't one I wrote. It was one I evaluated. And for the second time, it got a no-go from me. This actually makes me sad. I like it when good dog books are published. Many times after evaluating a manuscript (after my initial spurt of envy has subsided) I put in a request for a copy of the book when it comes out. So I'm not happy when I have to finally say, "Don't send it back to me. Ever."
So today's entry is a recycled one, from an article I wrote that appeared in the Dog Writers Association of America's newsletter, Ruff Drafts:
You were given the green light to submit a pet book proposal. You worked on your proposal and sent it to the acquisitions editor, visions of contracts and dollars dancing in your head. But then somebody ruined
everything: some idiot rejected your proposal! Who would do such a thing?
It depends on the publisher, but many times the person
who would do such a thing is a veterinarian, dog writer, or dog breeder that the publisher asks to evaluate the sample chapter for readability, information and
appropriateness. I have been that person at times, and I have talked to others who have been that person. And here is what I can tell you: We are lazy. We like it when writers make our job easy.
Writers make the job the easiest by submitting a well-written proposal that meets the target readership and provides useful, specific information. A good proposal requires very few comments or even brain-power from
the evaluator to give a recommendation that the publisher should go with it.
Writers make the job second-easiest by submitting a proposal that is clearly bad in the first few pages. Sure, it takes more effort on the evaluators' parts to write comments and explain why they can't recommend it, but after they've gotten to the point where they suggest the author not even try to write anything beyond his name in the future, there's not much more to say.
Following are some of my favorite writer types--besides the "I Can Read Directions and Write a good Proposal" type:
1) The "Fantasy Con" writer: Nobody likes to think
they're being conned. That was the case when I read a proposal about---well, let's call it Earthdog. Good topic. But when the authors claimed the potential audience was all Terrier owners (plus Dachshund owners) and then bolstered that claim with the registration statistics for the entire Terrier group---including Bull Terriers and all the others than don't do Earthdog---they were either dumb or thought I was. Then they multiplied the annual registration figures by 13, which they claimed was the average age of terriers and so represented how many
were living in America and how many books could be sold. According to them, the book had the potential to sell at least a hundred thousand copies. Another publisher ultimately bought the book. A couple of years later I saw it in the remainder pile at a warehouse bookstore. Why would anyone want to mislead a publisher into writing something that won't sell? With the advances most publishers of dog books pay, you are only fooling yourself because you'll end up writing a book that won't pay you back for your efforts.
2) The "I Could Have Written That" writer:
Plagiarism---it should not even have to be mentioned in this article. Except I run into it. A lot. The most blatant case was when I noticed the author's style had suddenly changed. As I read further, I realized I agreed with what she was saying. I mean, REALLY agreed with it. Why, it almost sounded like something I'd write myself...Because I had. A quick check of one of my own books found the pages she'd lifted for her proposal. It's very bad form to plagiarize---and very bad luck to plagiarize from the evaluator's own work! I'm willing to think the author was not that foolish---that with all the copying of sections from books to people's websites, she may have lifted it from a website who in turn had lifted it from the book. Either way, not acceptable.
3) The "I'm Too Busy to Write a New Proposal" writer: Yeah, join the club. But generic text is the single most common reason that a breed book is rejected. The sample chapter is the writer's chance to show off why they should be chosen to write about this specific topic. Yet many choose to submit a generic chapter on a generic topic that's obviously lifted from their last book. Write about a topic as specific to that breed as possible. Don't submit a chapter about grooming, for example, if you're writing about Greyhounds. Write instead about adopting a track greyhound or about the breed's health peculiarities. The same is true for the proposed Table
of Contents; include breed-specific sections. Don't promise sections on jogging with your Pekingese, de-matting your Basenji, teaching your Basset Hound not to
counter surf, or weight pulling with your IG. And yes, I really have received some of these.
4) The "I'm an Expert Because I Am" writer: Scholarship can be another problem area. Dog people tend to think they are experts simply because they have owned dogs for a long time. And while this does give them some expertise, it also makes many complacent about continuing education. I often read training chapters that could have been plucked from the 1960s, veterinary chapters with outdated information, and even grooming information that has no basis in reality. (And yes, as a writer I have been guilty of this as well. For
example, neutering does NOT reduce the rate of prostate cancer, as I recited blindly for years until I happened to look it up. Oops.) If you know something for a fact because you've always known it for a fact, assume it's not really a fact until you find a source that proves it's a fact.
5) The "Don't Ask Me" writer: The writer's job is to explain, not to refer readers elsewhere for an
explanation. Don't take care of the Yorkie grooming chapter by saying "ask your breeder to show you" and "take him to a good groomer." You can add this advice, and even some URLS to detailed websites, but your book's job is to explain, not refer. I once evaluated a book that could have been boiled down to about six lines of text: "To learn about (feeding, vaccinations, training, grooming, competing) ask your (veterinarian, trainer, groomer, breeder)." I felt like telling the author he might consider asking them and then writing down
the answers. Actually, I probably did tell him that.
6) The "They Has Copyeditors For That" writer: Grammar counts. Sure, a copyeditor will fix grammatical mistakes, and even rewrite sentences and paragraphs to make them more readable. But they charge by the hour, and a manuscript with a lot of problems is going to cost the publisher a lot of money. And that gets noted on an evaluation. Why pay somebody to write a book when you already know you'll be paying somebody to rewrite the same book? A writer would have to be the world's expert on a topic to get away with essentially hiring a ghost writer to make up for sterling text such as "If you're dogs mouth is smelling badly, than he may have a problem, you will have to look for by opening it's mouth, and looking to see if they're teeth are infected which happens if you don't brush them and this can effect the heart too." Of course, having written this, I am now very self-conscious about this paragraph's grammar...
7) The "See How Smart I Am?" writer: Writing style
counts--and here evaluators will differ greatly. But some styles will get red flags from almost any evaluator. On one extreme some writers seem to revel in showing off how much smarter they are than the reader. They use fancy words where simple ones would suffice, and they skip over information that's necessary to make the rest of a section understandable. They include sections of information that while true, really aren't useful. "Dogs with immune-deficiency diseases may have problems with phagocytosis. Phagocytosis is an essential feature of the immune system. Phagocytes are found underlying the mucous membranes and skin in the bloodstream, spleen, lymph nodes, meninges, synovial membrane, bone marrow and around blood vessels all over the
body. Phagocytes are either in the tissue(histiocytes, synovial macrophages, Kupffer cells, and such) or in the blood (polymorphonuclear leukocytes, monocytes). If you suspect your dog may have an immune-deficient disease, consult your veterinarian." You know at this point the writer really wants to add, "because they are the only ones nearly as smart as I am."
8) The "Let Me Write This Really S-L-O-W" writer: On the other extreme are the writers who assume being new at something is the same as being mentally challenged. "You will want to find a veterinarian for your dog. One way is to ask friends. Find a friend with a dog and ask what veterinarian they go to. Ask whether they like him or not. Another way is to look in the phone book
for your city. You will need a phone book with yellow pages (these are the pages that list businesses---and are yellow). Look under "V" for veterinarian. Here you will find a list of veterinarians in your area. Caution: Some listings may be from out of town. You will need to check with them to see where they are located. Another
way to do this is to check the phone number prefix. Once you have located a veterinarian in your area, call the number listed." At this point, the writer really should add, "If you are actually reading this intently you really should not own a dog as you are way too stupid."
9) The "Third Time's a Charm, Right?" writer: Yes,
people actually send in drafts, complete with notes that they will fill in certain sections if the publisher really wants to see them, or will fix the typos if they get the job. Yeah, that always makes a good impression. Wonder if he plans to send in a draft of the completed manuscript.
10) The "What's a Subheading?" writer: It's not the lack of subheading alone, but what including one could have done to help. The amazing thing about using subheads is that they point out where your organization has gone astray. Surely subheads would have helped the sample chapter that combined collar placement, nutrition, nail care, vaccinations, and a touch of history in the same section dealing with how to teach your dog to sit. I hope. A sample chapter is not your chance to write every stray fact in one place. Really.
11) The "You Get the Idea" writer: OK, figure it out. If the book you are writing the sample chapter for is supposed to have 50,000 words and 10 chapters, and you submit a sample chapter consisting of 1000 words, do you think maybe mathematically there may be a problem if this is truly a sample of how your chapters will be? The request was for a sample chapter, not a sample subheading.
12) The "You Can't Tell Me What to Do" writer: More often than not, a proposal isn't all bad or all good. It may show promise in some areas but suffer from poor scholarship, lack of detail, or bad advice. The proposal goes back to the author with comments from the evaluator and an offer to resubmit the proposal. Often, these comments are the result of a lot of work and fact-finding on the evaluator's part. This is why it's a good idea to try to address them in the re-write. The writer can follow the evaluator's suggestions or can dispute the evaluator's assertions, in the latter case backing up the refutations with evidence or opinions that very often do sway the evaluator's or acquisitions editor's opinion. What the writer should not do is ignore the comments. But as often as not, the writer, who either cannot read or assumes the proposal is going to a different evaluator, instead resubmits essentially the
same proposal in perhaps a different font size. This does little to impress the evaluator.
To be fair, most proposals are neither hit-you-in-the-face good or bad. These are the ones that make an evaluator work making detailed comments and suggestions on how to make the proposal better on a second chance.
So how do you get a good evaluation the first time? Assume this sample is the only chance you'll have. Don't mislead, don't cheat, don't cut corners. Research your facts. Make the text specific to the topic or breed. Write in practical detail, and assume readers will rely on what you write. Assume your readers are smart but not educated in your topic. Organize. Proof read. Proof read again. Consider an evaluator's comments and address them one way or another. And sacrifice a chicken by the full moon.