A gentle, prideful reminder of why dog breeders do what we do, the legendary dogs that enable us and the people who inspire us, by a breeder of over 300 AKC Champions.
A reader sent a copy of What Is A Breeder which he said was "all over the internet" but the author was not credited nor did they include the dedication.
Annoyed, I rifled through filing cabinets and found the original copy from The Dog Newspaper 1986, a later reprint from the original Canine Chronicle newspaper and another reprint from a 1990 Kennel Review Magazine.
Then, memories flooding back because it was my husband who had inspired me to write it, I reached up to the top library shelf and retrieved The World Of The Akita - T.F.H. publications © 1996 and yep, there it was in "Chapter Eight – Breeding The Best".
I sat there lost in thought, aching for Bill Andrews who made being "a good breeder" possible; his intuitiveness about which bitch to keep and his strong arms to hold me when I cried over a lost puppy. I think about how others are struggling with their own dreams and genetic puzzles and the pups that didn't turn out. If this old article helps you stay the path, I'm happy to share it. (reprint permission granted, see terms below)
ABOUT BEING A BREEDER - INTRODUCTION
There's only one path to success as a breeder and it's mostly uphill, winding across the rocky terrain of commitment in such a way as to get a lot of people lost. We can set goals by the dozens, be blessed with good looks, good dogs and a huge bank account. We may hire the best handlers, read all the right books, and travel in the best circles. We can soak up knowledge like a sponge and spew out platitudes by the hour. All may bring short term satisfaction but there's only one thing which earns respect from one's peers and lasting success as a breeder.
It is unwavering commitment to ethics and excellence. AKC records reveal that it takes about five years before most people give up. Only a handful spurn the short cuts, and making a personal resolution to arrive at their destination, begin the climb to high ground.
Make no mistake - walking the lofty path of commitment is the exact opposite of having one's head in the clouds! It means being grounded in a realistic obligation to the breed, to the sport, and most of all, to personal standards of integrity.
WHAT IS A BREEDER?
Webster's gives us some interesting definitions: "To nourish, cherish...to generate, engender...to cause, to occasion...to bring up, to nurse and foster," and more to the point, "to produce by special selection of parents or progenitors."
Anyone who puts two animals together for the purpose of producing young does "generate, engender, cause, or occasion" the propagation of that species or breed. Most breeders, thankfully, "nourish, cherish, bring up, nurse, and foster."
Ahh, but here's the rub: Only a handful of persons involved in the production of companion animals can be said to "produce by special selection of parents or progenitors." A Breeder (with a capital "B") is one who thirsts for knowledge but never knows it all, one who wrestles with decisions of conscience, convenience, and commitment.
A Breeder is one who sacrifices personal interests, finances, time, friendships, fancy furniture, and deep pile carpeting. A breeder gives up dreams of a long, luxurious cruise in favor of turning that all-important specialty show into this year's vacation.
The Breeder goes without sleep (but never without coffee) while watching anxiously over the birth process, and afterwards, every little sneeze, wiggle, or cry. The Dog Breeder skips dinner parties because a litter is due or the puppies have to be fed at eight. He or she disregards birth fluids and puts mouth to mouth to save a gasping newborn, literally blowing life into a tiny, helpless creature that may be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams.
A Breeder's lap is a marvelous place where generations of proud and noble champions once snoozed. A Dog Breeder's hands are strong and firm and often soiled but ever so gentle and sensitive to the thrust of a puppy's nose. A Breeder's knees are usually arthritic from stooping, bending, and lifting puppies but are strong enough to enable the Breeder to show the “keeper” in Sweeps!
A Breeder's shoulders are stooped and often heaped with abuse from competitors but they're wide enough to support the weight of a thousand defeats and frustrations. A breeder's arms are always able to wield a mop, support an armful of puppies, or lend a helping hand to a newcomer.
A Breeder's ears are wondrous things, strangely shaped (from being pressed against a phone receiver), deaf to criticism yet always fine-tuned to the whimper of a sick pup. A Breeder's eyes are blurred from pedigree research and sometimes blind to his own dog's shortcomings, but they are ever so keen to the competition's faults and are always, always searching for the perfect specimen.
A Breeder's brain is foggy on faces, but recalls pedigrees faster than an IBM. It's so full of knowledge that sometimes it blows a fuse. It catalogs thousands of good fronts, hocky rears, and perfect heads... and buries in the soul the failures and the ones that didn't turn out.
The Breeder's heart is often broken but it beats strongly with hope everlasting - and it's always in the right place!
Oh yes, there are breeders, and then, there are Breeders.
Barbara (BJ) Andrews © September 1986 ~ Dedicated to Bill Andrews and Akitas O'BJ
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