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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Seeking a path towards a proof of concept

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Over 150 puppies introduced into the world by Chatham Hill Dogs since 2004.   So we're pretty new at this.  But at an average of 11 dogs per year it can certainly be said we aren't over-breeding.  We're not making millions off of this journey so for the veterans out there that claim we're exploiting our dogs, Really now?  Are you serious?  Lets look at the outcome of the puppies produced here.  If according to the statistics I should have seen 30% of my dogs come up diagnosed with Cancer by the age of 3.  That hasn't happened.  I should have seen 40% of them pop up with a bad hip or knee before 24 months.  Well, haven't seen that yet either.  In fact We've had 2 dogs.  One Hybrid and one purebred turn up with congenital defects diagnosed within the first 8 months, which means they were born that way, possibly premature development, not likely hereditary.  Both were corrected via surgery.  All the rest.... are thus far fine and dandy.  So if I can say my outcomes don't reflect the miserable statistics provided by the rest of the breeders out there, then perhaps there's something different in how we're approaching this breeding process than the rest of them?  But, the stone throwers tend to stick to their guns and demand we do things their way?  Well, the results haven't really been stellar in their own outcomes.  So, thank you for your concern, but we'll continue doing things our way.

Outcomes are really all that needs to  be presented.  Because the outcomes are what really determine if the goals you've set out to achieve have been worth the journey taken and the best way to prove that the choices you've made are better than the outcomes presented by others.  A really simple concept.  So if we review how the status quo have been doing things the same way for several decades and the statistics have not changed significantly in either direction then see how their outcomes thus far have provided us with what we have today with respect to the overall health of our dogs.  Its clear the way they have done things for so long has not worked.  By focusing their priorities on the physical health tests and rolling the dice to achieve a value from these screenings that are determined to be satisfactory they find an excuse to ignore the detrimental effects of line breeding and inbreeding.  COI (the coefficient of inbreeding) takes a back seat to scores based on a physical examination.  DNA based tests do have merit as being conclusive indicators of passing on negative hereditary problems, but physical screenings are a toss up.  They provide you with an assessment of the dog being tested on the day of testing.  It is not a way to predict the future health status of this dog and definitely not a way to determine the outcome of the offspring produced from this dog.  In fact most breeders will put up a disclaimer on their websites or in their puppy contracts that will say that regardless of all the physical health tests performed there is still no guarantee that the puppies produced from the tested parents will be free and clear of any of the physical problems the parents passed.  

Veteran breeders expect a lot of disclosure up front from Chatham Hill Dogs.  It seems like a way to get us to answer for our choices and be scrutinized for our decisions and to somehow put their egos on overdrive because they've chosen to do things the same way its been done for generations. When this inquiry suddenly gets flipped on those who do the inquiring there seems to be this resistance to just comply with simple basic requests before we engage them with information that by all means is ours to share with whom we feel like sharing it with.  There’s a lot of breeders out in the world with this sense of entitlement hovering over them like the methods they employ are far superior to all others when in fact those methods are just different.… Its really amusing to see how emotional they get about wanting to know all about how you do things yet don't feel like sharing who they are first.  Silly I know.  

Its been our experience that when there is interest from a family looking for a companion or even a couple or an individual searching for a pet, its not seen by them as difficult to provide some pretty basic information before we decide to continue our conversation with them.  After all, sharing our life with complete strangers doesn’t sit well with us.  Call it an evolution of our own ideologies based on our own experiences with animal rights activists, veteran breeders in our area, and various breed clubs, and local kennel clubs also in the area.  Now we can comment all day long on our experiences here on this blog, it would be sharing our perspective, as we’ve had to live it.  Yet for some reason there are people out there who think we’re lying about what we’ve experienced.  

It all boils down to confidentiality.  At least in the USA, information as simple as a vet disclosure can wind up with a number of things happening as a result.  The interested parties can use this bit of information to fill in the blanks towards obtaining other pieces of information and gain access to personal data that they can use to really play havoc with identities.  If all you need is four parts of information to get to an account then you can feed the personnel of the service in question the three parts you did get from whatever disclosure was provided.  For example.  If someone wants the last 4 digits of your social they can call into a service like a Netflix with your name, address and home phone and get them to reveal the last part of the information since you already provided the first three.  Yes, it really can be that easy.  So when we disclose information, its only after we've completed our checks on the inquiring parties.   And we don't invite anyone into our home and on our property without securing a small deposit.  This allows us to avoid allowing many of the same people who like to throw stones at us, on behalf of some of their own and very often twisted ideologies, near our children, our dogs and puppies.  On the flip side as a breeder of hybrids there are some very hard lined supporters of purebred lines only, who might want to get lawyered up and attempt to sue us for using one of their dogs to create a hybrid.  And I really don't want to have to pull up the sleeves for a stupid legal battle with a set of dog mafia morons.

They feel we’re making blanket claims that are unsubstantiated while not providing our own evidence to back up our claims.   Seriously?  Our writings being shared here are the real world evidence we're providing based on our personal experiences.  The Blogosphere offers this medium like an open diary to allow any of us to express and share our journey with the people who are interested in learning about it.  If our experiences help them to understand something they are also experiencing or have experienced then on some level we've some common ground we can relate with.  For those who can't seem to understand that and don't like what they're reading...the luxury of this medium being on the internet is that you can choose to go to another site on the web with content you do agree with.  Basically changing the channel or turning it off to suite your taste.  

Breeders of so many other types of dogs are taking our claims about our experiences with our breeds of choice as an attack against them.  And they might be offended without realizing they really aren’t the subjects of these writings.  I can only share the experiences we’ve had with the breeders of our dogs and the breeds we’ve chosen.  So, there might be many breeders of Shelties and Corgis and Boxers etc etc…. perhaps Belgium Sheep dogs they've purchased or breed.  But if they haven't experienced what we have then they shouldn't take offense, they should feel great their own experience has been without any hiccups.  I'm only sharing my family's experience and it isn't all bad.  In fact most of it is awesome.  But, there's always someone with a real bone to pick and what we're doing is getting under their skin. So unless you are specific FCR Breeders or their minions ...take no offense.  But, even knowing this, people still do.

Which, we find pretty interesting.  Because its only people with a vested interest in their own operations, used to doing things their way that take offense to what we have to share.   Our guess is they’ve just been accustomed to doing things a given way for so long that the concept of actually confirming who they are for Chatham Hill Dogs is foreign to them.  Maybe they don’t like being ask to do something prior and would rather do the asking first.  So they refuse to provide a basic disclosure about themselves first even though they they are only interested in comparing notes with another breeder they have a bone to pick with.  Or in some way feel they have a right to ask anything based on their veteran status and expect us to just bend over for them?  Who knows?  There's no hate there for them, but based off our experience... we feel better proceeding with caution where in the past we were happy to just invite them in.

We would rather they look elsewhere if they decide our “need to know who you are” approach doesn’t fit well with them.  Besides we are admittedly still gathering data and are relatively new at this.  So these veterans may have questions that doesn’t really apply for us, yet.  Or perhaps they are owners of a completely different breed and find where we’re coming from is an attack on them and how they do things, shouldn't be the case.  Well, maybe it can apply if they in fact do the negative things we’re blogging about, but we only know enough about our own dogs and our breeds/ breeders.  So if this doesn’t apply in the circle of breeders they know, well then they can only take away from it the experience we’ve had and are sharing.  If there are parallels to your own experience then we have something you can relate with.  If its completely foreign to your own experiences …well, welcome to a peek into our world....  Not a given example of yours.

So for the purpose of sharing a little insight into how we make decisions and then course correct for the benefit of our dogs and clientele…. The dog pictured here is our our very first Male Cocker who we'll call "Dog - A".  He fathered  a litter with our Cocker bitch who we'll call "Dam-A" that we kept a boy (Dog-A1) and girl (Dam-A1) from for our breeding program.  We produced one litter of Cockers and decided not to produce anymore.  Our decision came from discovery of a life changing health disorder which was revealed in "Dog-A's" 5th year of life.

It was discovered that Dog-A had a hereditary degenerative condition to his spine.  And once discovered we basically pulled him out of the breeding equation for any future prospects of F1 litters.  He in fact never fathered another litter other than the one Cocker Spaniel litter.  "Dam-A" his mate provided 4 litters total… One Cocker Litter with "Dog-A"… and three F1 Chatham Hill Retriever Litters before we retired her.  We kept two of her F1 daughters. 

Her Cocker daughter "Dam-A1" had one F1 Chatham Hill Retriever litter before we discovered the condition of "Dog-A".  From which we kept a stud We'll call "Chattie-A".  And "Chattie-A" also fathered his own litter of Chatties before we discovered the problem with his grandfather "Dog-A", since it was a physical condition and there is no genetic test for it "Dog-A" was diagnosed with it after he showed signs.  And by his 4th year he did show signs.  Why is this significant?  Because based on this finding we removed "Dog-A", and his son "Dog-A1" before he could be used in any planning, his Grandson "Chattie-A" and all Chatties from this side from the breeding equation.  We then reviewed his past and still found nothing relevant to his disorder.  Even so, we still immediately made changes to our planned lineup for future litters.   

Now the chances of the puppies from "Chattie-A" ever throwing this disorder is not likely as F1 crosses.  But by having it in this line it certainly presented the possibility of presenting in future planned backcross matings.  So all of "Chattie-A" offspring were omitted from the equation.  Then with all the same care we put into screening for buyers of our puppies we also screened for adopters of the dogs we felt should be retired in order to proceed without the possibility of this degenerative condition in that line of dogs being reintroduced into our future planning.  If we knew then that we were going to move into a spacious 26 acre ranch with equestrian accommodations to provide a doggie wonderland, we would have kept them all as pets.  However at that time, they all were placed in wonderful homes or adopted by close relatives and we still maintain regular status updates with all these owners.  

So, all pups from "Dog-A and Chattie-A" were eliminated from the equation.  Both Cockers and Chatties. An entire line based on that one stud since we felt it was the responsible thing to do.  And we proceeded to start over creating F1 litters from Dam-A's F1 daughter, and three unrelated Cockers girls.  Four unrelated Bitches.  Using a mix from 4 unrelated FCR studs.  All of them carrying Black, Liver and Yellow genes.  So like its been said before, we’re on top of monitoring our dogs and making decisions that will not compromise the future of what we’re attempting. Remaining on course with our proof of concept.

The proof of concept being that outcrossing and avoiding inbreeding at all costs will provide a better long term solution for the dogs we produce with better results than the status quo who are using the same old template they have been for …. perhaps a century if not decades, depending on the breed in question. outside of that It will likely take several generations of F1, F2, and F1a and b variations before we have enough data to meet the expectations of the many doubters. If life lessons have taught us anything… when the ingredients in the gene pool are so depleted to a point where the continued use of what is there only results in a slow downward spiral, then you have to find another pool and add it to yours to force the issue of diversity.  And if history has proven anything…. Even when faced with the truth, many of those same people throwing stones won’t change or believe the data.  But our clients should benefit from it….  And are.

So, for anyone anxious for us to provide disclosure beforehand. Well, sorry, but you really do need to meet us on first disclosure.  Since, without knowing who you are, the possibility of opening our doors and our lives to people who would like to undermine us is extremely high.  And at one point we’ve actually welcomed anyone interested in what we were doing to come into our home and witness how we do things without knowing anything about them except they asked to visit and see what we're doing.  Our friendly outgoing nature resulted in literally inviting them into our home, so they could put together whatever strategies they felt could work to shut us down.  They obtained confidential records without our consent, reported us to animal welfare based on false claims and tried to leverage local kennel clubs and breed clubs to threaten us and bully us.  But their tactics didn't work.  It only gave us more resolve to do things differently and remain on course with the goal to continue outcrossing and avoid inbreeding.

Our Dog warden is very professional, a genuinely nice person and the crew he works with are also very passionate about doing the right thing for the welfare of animals.  So they were just doing their job to look into the claims  received from the people who we allowed into peek into our life.   Their own words only confirmed all claims were unwarranted and just plain outright lies, "you are providing a very clean home and environment for your dogs and your dogs are extremely well taken care of and visibly healthy."  And this was just a pop over visit during any day of the week, obviously in an attempt to catch us without any advance notice so if there was any lapse on our part it should reflect badly upon us, but that obviously just wasn't the case.  The feedback from our friendly neighborhood dog Warden, "well the breeders in the area are upset that you are cutting into their business and this threatens their ability to make money, perhaps moving to a farm would help them to take you more seriously and maybe not feel so threatened?".  So...we did just that.  ;-)    And we decided on getting a nice brand new equestrian ranch since even the best dog kennel outfits were just below our standards.  We also needed to make additional changes.

What this experience helped us realize, at least where we live, is there are a lot of breeders who actually depend on their dogs for the majority, if not all of their income.  And it kind of makes sense if you know the area, since there are extremely successful pet stores in our area that actually sell these pets on consignment.  And they are always stocked with puppies all throughout the year.  They don't socialize the pups and they don't know much about the breeds they are selling, the breeders aren't present neither is their contact information available for the buyers to ask questions nor the parent dogs around for the buyers to witness the temperament of the sire and dam.  But, for most of the buyers they really don't seem to care.  Because the puppies they are buying are sold via a business that exploits human impulsiveness to buy that cute puppy in the window.  And its very clear to us that that's not what we are about.  So, the breeders of all those puppies can continue to do things their way.  We, just needed to reboot the process and put more effort into caring about who is really buying our puppies.

So, we had to revise how we do things which required lawyering up and getting security surveillance measures in place.  Threats are harmless without action behind them, and since these visitors took action to harm us, and hurt us... When it concerns our family and our continued peace of mind.  It was just time to change things.  There is no disrespect intended towards other breeders.  But, just based on our experiences thus far we really don't want to take the risk of opening our doors to people who for whatever reason feel very strongly that they have a right to intrude on our life or dictate how we should live it.  Some have strong enough convictions to actually act out and attempt to force their will through threats and bullying.  So as parents with children and knowing our rights, we decided to institute a selective screening.  

For those of you like a certain Belgian Sheepdog breeder we've now had the displeasure of chatting with.  We understand you are used to doing things a certain way as formality set in place over the years.  We understand you have nothing but the best of intentions for your own dogs and we're not telling you that your ways are wrong or that what you provide to your clients is defective.  We just believe that that for all the time that things have been done according to the formalities and traditions put in place by the established clubs and registries that for people like ourselves who are looking for a companion dog with a temperament and activity level to match our own lifestyle that what we need is something different, made differently and not created inside the conditional restrictions put in place with old school beliefs and practices.  When faced with something different its easy for the established veterans to call it selling snake oil.   I'm sure there's lots of the same claims made among doctors and veterinarians who sit on either side of traditional and modern medicine.  But, you can always continue doing your thing and when we meet up in say a few more years...we can always compare notes.  

When you come to us with your own ideologies and continue to harp on and on about what you want to see without providing us with what we need to know before opening our life to you.  We just do what any normal person should do in that situation.  We ignore you, then if there has been any followup from those curious people with nasty things to say to us, we make fun of them.  If any of the above isn’t enough insight into our honest efforts for the welfare of our dogs and the breeding program we believe in and not enough to get you to understand that we just want to know who is on the other end, if trading your identity for a peek into our life is not a concept you feel is acceptable…

Then I’ll use a phrase put up on another blog I follow by a breeder who's efforts I admire…

“We have our own ideals for what we like in our dogs, if you don’t like it then feel free to look elsewhere.”
Jess of DWH


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