I am done struggling with how to write this blog post and I’m just going to write it. I apologize in advance for the length, but there is no way to succinctly state this.
Earlier this year, I was humbled and proud to be part of a community of people around the world who love dogs and contributed to the medical expenses of a collie that we all came to know as “Lad.” Sadly, Lad’s story didn’t have a happy ending. The end to Lad’s story was bitter, but the manner that collie (and dog) lovers around the world came together to help The Arrow Fund and Lad did soften the blow of losing such an angel.
Then, earlier this summer, I was again proud to be part of that community when it came to light that several (more than 12) collies were dead from starvation and lack of water and the survivors of the hellhole they had been condemned to were in a local animal shelter in Alabama. Once more, the collie community rallied, offered financial support, and other than one owner, all the co-owners and/or breeders were in attendance at the hearing in Alabama to get their dogs back. To that one owner, I say, “SHAME ON YOU! Your name just topped my list of people to NEVER place a dog with.”
Then, last month, a hoarding situation with collies in Texas began to scrawl across my newsfeed on Facebook. More than 90 dogs were seized, many of them pregnant. Within a week, that number being cared for by Houston Collie Rescue soared to well over one hundred. Once more, the collie community jumped in, offering financial support, sending doggie blankets, food, crates, and anything else that might be of use, offering foster homes, and I know of one veterinarian who flew to Texas on her own dime and gave much needed medical care to these dogs. How do you thank such an angel? How do you say thank you to the many clubs (not all collie clubs, either) who have pledged and gave much needed financial support?
And, shortly after that, there came the story of a hoarding situation involving Irish Wolfhounds, again in Texas. Once more, the dog fancy has rallied and the support to help these animals is coming in.
All the help provided to these wonderful, sweet, beautiful souls restores my faith in humanity…until I really start to think about it.
I still have faith that when there is need, the fancy will rally to assist those unfortunate animals trapped in hoarding or abuse situations. But, I wish I didn’t have to have that kind of faith. I wish that these situations never arose. And, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride…
I ask myself—where did these dogs come from? In the case of the collies in Alabama, the dogs came from some of the top show kennels in the country. The breeders on the dogs involved that were on the pages of this person’s Facebook account and his web page reads like a Who’s Who of the collie world. And, this wasn’t the first time this person had been involved in a hoarding/abuse situation. I know for a fact that several people tried to warn many who sold this man dogs that this was not a good place. The people who placed dogs with this man can claim all they want that they didn’t know and I will call “BULL.”
The case in Texas also makes me ask where did all these dogs come from? Even accounting for unsupervised, indiscriminate breeding over the years, this person started with some quality stock. The quality is still evident in the pictures of the dogs I’ve seen and been told by people who have hands on these animals many of them are wonderful representations of the breed.
I don’t know a lot about Irish Wolfhounds, but they aren’t an extremely popular breed, so I’ll go out on a limb here and say this hoarder had to have started with some good stock, as well.
I wish I had the answer on how to stop hoarding and abuse like these dogs have suffered. I do know that part of the answer lies in open communication. Call people. I had one breeder call me when she had a litter of puppies and she asked about that person in Alabama. I said I wouldn’t do it. That was enough for her. Another owner was being pressured into giving co-ownership of her champion male to this man. I’m good enough friends with this owner that when she asked my opinion about it, I told her that I would do bodily harm to her if she even considered that offer for more than three seconds and I would steal her dog before he’d go south. He didn’t end up in Alabama, either.
Open communication involves asking questions and answering honestly. The hard questions. The hardest question. “Would you place a dog there?” If you can’t answer, unequivocally, “Yes,” say so. Trust your gut. No more dogs should die and be left to lie in a kennel run (for days on end) or dumped in the woods because no one would take five minutes to ask others about the person you’re considering selling a dog to. Photographic evidence doesn’t lie and the even in this day of Photoshop, the vast majority of us aren’t good enough to doctor images. (Yeah, I heard that one, too.)
Another part of the answer to preventing these horrific stories from ever being repeated with more living, breathing, sentient creatures lies in being unafraid to take a stand and say “THIS IS WRONG!” Standing up and shouting that will probably cost you some friends. (It cost me—but then, I’m not sure the people who no longer want to associate with me were ever friends in the first place.) Show wins, pretty ribbons, and slick web sites do not equate to a loving, caring home where each dog is valued for more than bragging rights and what it can produce. Sorry, it just doesn’t. You can argue all you want that “respected judge So and So wouldn’t have put him/her up if he/she is such a terrible person and took such horrible care of the dogs.” Wanna bet? I’ve seen it happen, again and again and again. That’s how those show win photos with the pretty ribbons end up on those slick web sites.
Am I bitter? Not really. More like furious. We are so concerned with the daily attacks on the fancy by the animal rights activists and these cases just play us into their hands. These hoarders and abusers are held up as the poster children of what a “show breeder” is and how horrible “show breeders” are. We MUST start policing ourselves and preventing cases of hoarding and abuse like this from ever happening again, or someone else will be policing us. And, while that external policing will make my wish of never seeing cases like this come true, we won’t like the rest of what comes with it, because there won’t be companion animals, show dogs, and dog shows. And, wishing for my beloved collies to be a part of my life again isn’t a wish I want to be making.