No, I have not decided that breeding for beauty trumps breeding for health. But as I wrote in an earlier blog, I have come to wonder what degree of health perfection we can realistically expect. If a dog is in pain---that is not acceptable. But at what point does "discomfort" become "pain?" I've had allergies all my life; I have certainly experienced "struggling to breathe" and ocular as well as nasal discharge. My knee hurts most of the time. My ankle hurts all of the time. Like most people, my life is not discomfort-free. Yet I wonder if I would pass the Fit For Function, Fit For Life veterinary exams if I were to win at a KC championship show? And I wasn't even bred for show!
There's a difference between chronic pain and lack of health perfection. And here is where the tests fail. Evidence that a hairless Chinese Crested has a razor nick or burn? That's something the conformation judge should worry about, not a veterinarian. I've nicked myself with a razor before (well, actually I've looked like I was attacked by a wolverine at times) yet I did not need a blood transfusion nor was I in agony---actually, I scarcely felt it. Yet evidence of a single nick can be used to disqualify a Chinese Crested based on health reasons. Anyone who's ever used a clipper on a dog has probably goofed and caused some clipper burn at times; not optimal, but again,
reason to disqualify for health reasons---but only in Cresteds? The judge may fault the dog for improper coat...but is that a health problem?
The same goes for skin problems: again, there's a difference between a dog with oozing sores and one that has some reddened folds. I've been clearing woods the last few weeks; I have plenty of poison ivy and chiggers causing lots of itching, reddened skin and worse right now! Irritating? Yep. Painful? Nope. But I sure wouldn't be passing that vet exam.
Most dogs that failed the health check did so because of eye problems, and since we don't have access to their actual paperwork, we can only surmise it was due to tearing, corneal irritation or eyelid conditions. The Bulldog is said to have failed because of a scar on her cornea from a puppyhood injury. She apparently has no signs of irritation or pain or present problems. I had a toy rhinoceros horn stuck in my eye as a kid; I think I have a scar. Whatever, it doesn't bother me now. But again, I would be striking out at the vet exam.
The veterinarian checks also include lameness. I thought the judges already did this. At least at AKC shows, I've seen dogs excused for lameness where you could barely see that the dog had a slight hitch, and the dog didn't seem to have any problems coursing or doing agility. Judges are trained to look for movement; chances are, they've keenly observed thousands more dogs trot than the average veterinarian has. So it seems peculiar that a
veterinarian is now needed to oversee the judge's evaluation of movement. Or is it that some breeds are labeled lame because they are not the efficient movers that most purebred dogs are supposed to be?
I admit: I love a dog that can move. I couldn't handle showing a Neapolitan Mastiff. Bulldog movement doesn't excite me. And I'd be urging that Peke to run, run like the wind (or at least a gentle breeze)! But just because they don't float effortlessly around the ring doesn't mean they're lame or in pain. We humans aren't all track stars. And even weightlifters make lousy sprinters. Most of the rest of us would be challenged to do the runway walk, much less finish a walk-a-thon. Some of us shuffle, some of us sway, and some of us even limp, but here's the thing: we may not be fit for function, but we are fit for life!
To be continued...