January 21, 2010
The following are some comments I originally posted on WindRidge News page that now belong here:
(original date) December 18, 2009
Now that the hoopla surrounding the AKC 125th Anniversary show has died down, and the end of 2009 draws near, it is important to take time for introspection. Uppermost in our minds is the question, what are we doing for the German Shepherd Dog breed?
Having done your job researching the breed (if you are reading this then we assume you have), you are aware of the many controversies surrounding German Shepherd Dogs specifically and purebred dogs in general. By addressing some of the controversies, it will help us assess our progress and inform you of our breeding goals. So buckle your seatbelts it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Fresh from the AKC show site in Long Beach, let's begin with perhaps the number one thread on German Shepherd VN boards:
Why show in the AKC ring?
In case you are extremely new to the breed and unaware of this controversy, let me explain it as succinctly as possible. Most German Shepherd breeders have separated themselves into various camps centered around narrow breeding goals.
A decade ago, the camps were generally American (GSDCA/AKC) show lines Vs German (SV) show lines. These two camps were in bitter conflict over #1 conformation and #2 temperaments. The American camp was claiming to breed for the "flying trot" of a herding dog and the German camp claiming to breed for the conformation and temperament of the "working" dog. The factions became so entrenched that the European movement to classify the American show lines as a separate breed, ASL, began. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and more and more breeders are now seeing the benefit of combining American and German bloodlines. Although conformation extremes are still predominately what is seen in AKC rings, the movement toward moderation has begun to take hold for the betterment of the breed.
Now days, the battle rages within the German camp splitting into "show lines" and "working lines" with a further subdivision of "East German" Vs "Czech" working lines and now another split between "sport" and "personal protection" working lines. Will the madness never end???
Of course, the split between breeders over coat texture and color has gone on since the first Standard was written. That is an entire topic in itself and too complicated for this conversation.
OK, back to the original question about showing in the AKC conformation ring. As in all human endeavors, there is the tendency to form camps centered on two basic philosophies, "moderation in all things" and "the more the merrier". As it turns out, breeders participating in AKC conformation competition generally fell into proponents of the latter philosophy. In fact, in order to be pacesetters, the more the merrier was taken to such extremes that more angulation turned German Shepherds into not so merry cripples. And it was the American dogs wobbling on their hocks and flat pasterns that finally sent an aghast public running from the AKC German Shepherd ring (and of course the horrible temperaments completed the package).
The great worldwide uprising began against American German Shepherd breeders with chatroom condemnation and online videos of German Shepherds gaiting with egg beater hocks and painfully flat pasterns. The outrage became so great that simply by showing in the AKC ring labeled you as an enemy to the breed. And like it or not, that remains the general impression today.
So, why are we, who profess to be in the "all things in moderation" camp, competing in the AKC ring? I'm glad you ask! It is because we hold the belief that change happens from within. If you are unhappy with something, you can either grumble and complain reactively or change the situation proactively. If you want to change the way German Shepherds are judged in the ring, then present judges with an alternative to the usual crap they see. Retrain their eyes. Breed and show healthy dogs that truly conform to the written Standard instead of the current popular style seen in the ring to bring about change. Do something meaningful instead of just complaining. That in a nutshell is why we are showing in AKC conformation.
Since we began showing, what have we seen? First, the number of German Shepherds being shown has shrunk down to nearly nothing. It is rare to see anyone but professional handlers in the ring showing the same few bloodlines over and over. In general, the males and females are nearly impossible to distinguish by secondary sex characteristics. On the average, the dogs being shown are narrow and slabsided with pinched in elbows. You see a lot of collie heads, snipey muzzles, and light eyes. Rears are beginning to improve with shorter and less curve of stifle, but hocks have gotten so long that going away is as dirty as ever. Fronts remain much too upright and prosternums are nearly nonexistant along with faulty upperarm angulation. Viewing the forequarter from the side, there appears to be a straight line from upperarm to neck. Shoulder layback is also much too upright and layon is flattened from insufficient spring of ribcage so that from the front view, the animals appear made of paper. Bone is egregiously lacking to the point that "substantial" is an adjective apparently ignored by breeders. Croups remain short and steep with high tailsets destroying the curve of the topline with an aesthetically displeasing speedbump. There are a large number of mole coats and fading pigmentation. However, pasterns are improving.
Temperaments are little improved. It has become less apparent because the few dogs being shown have been trained to overcome their shyness by never looking at anyone or anything except the bait handlers stick to the dogs' noses. However, it remains a sad commentary that rarely do you see a dog confidently glancing about the ring or readily approaching the judge with full eye contact.
There is much to overcome in the AKC ring. However, this brings us to why we entered Hunter in the AKC 125th Anniversary All Breed Show. Handlers we knew were aghast! WHY would you enter a six month old German Shepherd puppy?? Don't you know she'll panic, get stress diarrhea, spook from the noise, embarrass you, etc.? To all the negativity, we just smiled because we knew our bloodlines produced something they'd never seen: a perfectly sound and beautiful puppy that could handle anything the world threw at her. And we were right.
From the airline delaying our flight making us wait 8 hours at the airport so that we arrived dead tired the night before the show to thousands of people, noises, dogs, strangers, flashing lights, and crazy commotion for 2 days, Hunter took it all in stride. Not only that, she loved it. She never once showed any fear or anxiety. Although it was the very first time she'd been in a show ring, she happily stood for exam, kissed the judge, and confidently gaited beside Laur'en. Outside the ring, she loved all the people lavishing pets and praise on her. Literally hundreds of people came up to us to meet her and get a closer look. Over and over people told us they didn't know German Shepherds could be so beautiful and sound. Possibly the most frequent comment was that they'd given up on GSDs years ago, but after meeting Hunter they once again fell in love with the breed.
Hunter drew a crowd wherever she went in Long Beach. Just walking down a street or playing on the dog beach, people came up to us just to pet her and ask where we found such a beautiful German Shepherd. And never once did she cower or act any way other than a true representative of the most noble of breeds, and we are so very, very proud.
So, that is why we show. Because the truth is, there are so many people who gave up on German Shepherds that we want the chance to make them all fall in love again.
Discussions on additional controversial topics to be continued. Next topic, stop blaming the AKC for the GSD Standard.
(original date) December 16, 2009
Please watch this BBC documentary on breeding purebred dogs. This is what we have been screaming about for over a decade. It doesn't have to be this way. Purebred breeders can produce sound, healthy dogs if they will do the research and put the welfare of their dogs above ego and greed. STOP INBREEDING NOW needs to be the public cry! We have been screaming against inbreeding for over a decade, and finally, people are taking notice.
We are proof that it is possible to have healthy, mentally sound purebred puppies that still represent the breed standard by using genetically diverse pedigrees. So while this documentary shows the horrors of most purebred breeding practices, it doesn't have to be this way in the future. You, the public, can stop the madness by only buying puppies from breeders who understand the genetic crisis and breed with as much diversity as possible.
(original date) November 1, 2009
On Thursday, October 30, 2009, two men with criminal intent invaded the home of a Tulsa family. It was early afternoon, about 1:30, when Cory Gage heard a knock at his door. Not recognizing the men at his door, Mr. Gage ( like so many of us who are sick of solicitors and Jehovah's Witnesses) chose to ignore them and assumed they left. When he heard the doorknob jiggling, he knew something was wrong and went to get his gun. It was just in the nick of time, because the men kicked in his door and would have likely killed him if he hadn't greeted them with a muzzle aimed at their faces.
Mr. Gage got off one round that lodged in his screen door before the criminals fled. Luckily for Mr. Gage, he missed because even though a home invader deserves being shot, few homeowners want to live their lives knowing they killed someone. As reported by Tara Vreeland, The News On 6, Mr. Gage stated, "It's just scary how easy it would have been just to take somebody's life like that. Honestly, it scares the hell out of me. It also bothers me that I was put in this situation where I had to make that choice."
I'm telling you this true story because one of the most terrifying crimes we can imagine is Home Invasion, and it is on the increase. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's report, Crime in the United States, 2008 ( updated September 2009 ), overall violent crime was down 2.3% in 2008; however, Burglary and Theft were up. The FBI doesn't list Home Invasion specifically in its report; instead, the associated crimes of Residential Burglary and Theft are reported.
In 2008, Residential Robbery increased by 4,431 incidents and Residential Burglary (what most of us consider home invasion) increased by 84,075 incidents. Furthermore, daylight Residential Burglaries (times when our family members are home and awake increasing the likelihood of violence) increased by 66,539 incidents. In the suburbs, Residential Burglary and Theft were up 3.5% and in metropolitan counties, Residential Burglary and Theft were up 4.4%.
Compare that to Nonresidential Burglary decreasing by 41,019 incidents during the same time period.
That comparison tells me our families are increasingly in danger. Criminals have become so callous and emboldened they prefer to kick in our doors and kill, rape, and rob us than risk being seen in public. And consider this, the statistics for 2009 aren't yet available. Common sense tells us that the worsening economy will show an increase in burglary and theft for 2009.
We, like most rural Oklahomans, are gun owners; however, like Mr. Gage, I would hate to be put in a situation where my only recourse is to take a life. That's why I am so very grateful to have my German Shepherds. They give me peace of mind knowing that my family and property are protected 24 hours a day from anyone stupid enough to break into my home.
January 20, 2010
I'm beginning this page by sharing a song that moves me whenever I hear it. It's been sung by many people over the years, but IMHO, this is the best rendition by an artist who made this song her own, Sammi Smith.
Sammi Smith is a musician from what was the last great musical era in this country. Unlike so called "artists" of today, she didn't rely on studio tricks to sound good. Instead of using electronics in an audio processing technique called pitch correction to turn a talentless singer into a perfect pitch prodigy, her clear, soulful voice occasionally faltered and cracked honestly with emotion. You can hear true loneliness in her voice as she draws us into "Help Me Make It Through The Night".
Born in Orange, California in 1943, Smith grew up during the post WW2 era when this country had fewer rules and regulations governing the way people lived. Her father was in the military so the family moved frequently living for short periods in Texas, Colorado, and Arizona before settling in Oklahoma. "I don't know how I got started," she told Irwin Stambler in the Encyclopedia of Folk, Country & Western Music, "but I was working at a club called Someplace Else (in Oklahoma City) six nights a week when I was eleven." By the age of 12, Smith had dropped out of school and become a professional singer; at just 15, she was married.
1967 was a turning point in her life when through the help of Johnny Cash's bass player, she signed a contract with Columbia Records, moved to Nashville, got divorced and recorded "So Long Charlie Brown, Don't Look for Me Around"
During her time with Columbia Records, Smith met a Columbia studios janitor and budding songwriter named Kris Kristofferson, and in 1971 she recorded his song," Help Me Make It Through The Night" on the Mega Records label that went to #1 on the country charts and #8 on pop music's Billboard.
Smith will always be remembered by music aficionados for her part in the "Outlaw Country" movement of the 1970s along with her friends Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Hopefully, people will also remember her work in Arizona on the San Carlos Apache Reservation that led to the organization of a country music program to fund the reservation's construction of a new school.
On February 12, 2005, at the age of 61, Sammi Smith died in her Oklahoma City home. Although Smith made the music charts sixteen times, received CMA awards for Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, she is barely remembered by the average tin eared listener today...and that is a true (and sad) commentary on what is now passed off as music.
Do something nice for yourself; take 3 minutes or so to listen to a beautiful song from a singer who lived the hard times she sang about
So, settle back, crank up the volume, grab a bottle of Jack Daniel and listen...cuz all I'm takin' is your time.
Help Me Make It Through The Night