The Never-ending Quest...

...a brief on breeding, health and opinions

In my last article I mentioned that no one has that perfect, flawless bloodline. This is the grail of the serious dog breeder, a goal we set for ourselves to achieve, that we keep grasping at and hoping we are "pure" enough to reach. I also feel that it is an unattainable goal, although a noble one. Different people interpret our breed standard differently Ė what one sees as ideal, another may not. I know this from personal experience Ė Victor and I see differently on many aspects of our own dogs, although we also have common ground. Someone may feel as though they have produced the ultimate Borzoi, as close to the standard as possible. Yet another will wonder how the other can possibly feel that way. Such is the nature of the beast named Opinion.

One opinion that the majority seems to agree with is that we, as breeders, should take into account the health of the breed when choosing paths on our quest. A triumphant result of these concerns has been the creation of the Borzoi Health Registry. Although still in itís infancy, it matures daily as breeders submit information for inclusion into the database.

Over the past year, I was made more and more aware of health concerns in Borzoi Ė much of it coming via the Borzoi discussion lists on the internet. If the information was not coming from the experienced breeders based upon their multitude of experiences within Borzoi, it was coming from those exploring the depths of the internet and passing on the treasure they had found on various websites. My bookmarks are ever-increasing as I gather this shared information, grateful for every tidbit. The more I read, the more concerned I become. I began testing my dogs, although some are being done in hindsight. I have a long way to go, as I wish to even test those I have no breedings planned for. I want to be made aware of any possible problem before I possibly compound it. As I receive any results, I promptly send them to the health registry. Every little bit helps.

The Health Registry can be an invaluable tool if used wisely. Of course there are drawbacks. People submit their information voluntarily. It has to get there before it can be utilized. Of course, come people may not wish to submit information regarding any problems they have had, and for good reason. In my internet experiences I have seen peopleís names dragged through the mud for no good reason. Certainly, no one wishes to provide fodder for gossip, although I applaud those who have listed such information. Unfortunately, this will damage some of the usefulness of the health database, but it does open up another area for discussion. No decision should be based solely upon such an impersonal method as a database. Itís a fabulous tool for research, but you should still get your hands dirty and talk extensively with those who have dogs that interest you. You can learn so much more by taking the time to phone and question and listen and learn. Donít just assume that because there are no problems listed for a dog that they are "free and clear" with other certifications.

Then there are health problems that defy testing, the most prominent one in my mind being that of bloat. This brings us back to the subject of Opinions. Some people do not believe that bloat is inherited, that it is an environmental cause. Some believe that it is a virus or bacterial problem, such as recently discovered in human ulcers. Others believe that there are inherited physical characteristics that will predispose a dog to be susceptible to this dread disease. I tend to believe that the physical characteristics are inherited yet require an environmental trigger. Itís all we can do to agree to disagree on the subject of bloat.

I am by no means an expert on health issues, and the above constitutes yet another Opinion. I know I will be perusing the information in the databases, as well as contributing, and I hope to see many more people do so. Someday when there is more information on the canine genome, we will be able to make even better decisions within our breeding program, but for now we must rely on our knowledge, the knowledge provided by others, combined with what is in our heart.