Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Protestant Reformation Of Dogs Is Missing Its Martin Luther

Jemima Harrison, whose Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog through some oversight was missing from my sidebar, has a new post up today regarding the death of her friend Gina Spadafori's Flat Coated Retriever Faith (Faybee) at the absurdly young age of seven. For anyone not keeping up, FCRs have an impossibly large genetic predisposition to cancer (50% of all such dogs will succumb); it was thus a huge gamble when Ms. Spadafori purchased bred Faith, even despite her considerable due diligence on the parents' health. [Thanks for the correction in the comments, Jemima.]

What I found utterly puzzling about Ms. Harrison's post is that it fails to link to a 2013 entry on that same blog mentioning Ms. Spadafori's admirable Mackenzie Project, an attempt to outcross FCRs with other breeds in an effort to reduce the incidence of cancer. But looking for that website today will yield you nothing; the only trace of it is that post at Jemima's blog now.

I will not here speculate on the reasons Ms. Spadafori removed that from circulation, having not asked her. But what I will say is that it is painfully obvious that dog culture generally needs to change. The ribbon society members who can write this wretched treacle eliding their dogs' short, painful lives as having "chosen well" have surrendered any claim to "improving" their breed whatsoever.  Kennel blindness even among those who ought to be knowledgeable enough to understand the danger of genetic bottlenecks is so rampant that even Niels C. Pedersen at UC Davis recently appears to have pussyfooted around the real hazards facing FCRs in a report on that breed's genetic diversity: "... the Flat-Coated Retriever is increasingly recognized for its comparatively good health...." Compared to what, exactly? Pedersen's report comes off sounding like the gag, "But other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?": so much whistling past the graveyard.

Patrick Burns sounds the right note: "So how do you avoid cancer in a Flat-coated Retriever?  You stop buying Flat-coated Retrievers. It's just that simple." The reason for this is obvious: dog culture is itself debased by people who lack even a rudimentary knowledge of population genetics, and in fact are hostile to this knowledge. If the AKC vaguely resembles a "Stalinist Switzerland", the broad public is having none of that (less and less, in fact). We desperately need new, sound ideas about dogs and how to breed them, based on demonstrated genetic principles. Dogdom is ripe for a sort of Protestant Reformation; all that is missing is its Martin Luther.


  1. Hmmm. Well given that we were 'talking' about this yesterday, Rob, you could have straight-up asked why I hadn't linked to the earlier post. The answer? Most of it was about a specific request three years ago from a UK gamekeeper. The mention of the McKenzie Project was a line or two at the end - and, as you point out, the website is not live at the moment. It didn't seem as relevant as the other two "further reading" links I gave.

    Not entirely sure if you are suggesting a conspiracy, but there isn't one.

    I also believe I told you yesterday that while slow-a-coming, the McKenzie Project is more in stealth-mode than dead in the water.

    Finally, if you had read my blog properly, you would have realised that Gina did not "buy" Faith - she bred her. The McKenzie project was prompted by the death of Faith's mother, McKenzie, when Faith was four years old.

    1. I did, Jemima, you just never answered.

    2. Yes, forgot that she had bred her. Will make appropriate corrections.

      I still think it's important. It gives the appearance that the church ladies of the FCR world have won, even if they haven't.

  2. PS, my blog, through some oversight, is still missing from your sidebar... ;-)