Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Goodbye Maisie




Maisie arrived in my life on the 16th February 2006 - a four year old working Flatcoat who was looking for a new home because of a temperament clash with two other dogs she lived with.

She came home with me that day and became part of our family... a wonderful, firm-but-fair foster mum to the dozens of rescues that have passed through our doors in the past six years. She was always an independent soul, though, and she was also the calmest, steadiest Flatcoat I have ever known. Economical. An observer who never missed a trick.

With fellow rescue, retriever x Luka, still with us

Maisie is also the dog that opened my eyes to the miracle of selective breeding when it is done right.


Monarch(ess) of the sand-dunes... on Anglesey

It was Maisie who took me out picking-up for the first time, who had me in awe at her skill and determination in finding shot birds and bringing them to me, across a raging torrent of a river once, despite not being the strongest of swimmers, not letting go of the bird once retrieved, despite disappearing underwater as she jumped in. On one other memorable occasion, she saw a pheasant fall in a sheep field and - never one to much listen to her amateur handler - set off to retrieve it, only to hit an electric fence that had been left on by mistake. I yelled to try to stop her but, a dog on a mission bred into her, she continued, picked up the bird and returned through the fence. There was a muffled cry as she hit it, but she didn't drop the bird and came and sat in front of me, her eyes proud and shining.



I've told this story before and my detractors leapt on it as evidence of what a cruel and horrid person I am. But, really, Maisie's unwavering grit is a tribute not just to the dog but to the generations of breeders that made her.


Out picking-up... total focus

So since 16th February 2006, brave Maisie with the big heart has been my shadow. And today was the first day in almost seven years that I went on a walk without her. Through force of habit I kept looking back to check on her,  expecting to see her, as she always is, walking a few steps behind me.

But she wasn't there... not kicking the autumn leaves with her feet; not paddling in the chalky puddles on Salisbury Plain; not sneaking off after a rabbit when I wasn't looking. 

An eclectic fashion taste... "oh, I just threw it on.."


And now I'm home, she isn't on the rug under the kitchen table where she always is; not hovering by the kitchen worktops, waitng for my back to turn so she can whisk an unguarded piece of toast into her mouth. 

Nope. The fastest paw in the west is in a freezer at my vets in Marlborough.




A couple of months ago, Maisie started retching - just occasionally, like a touch of kennel cough; only it wasn't. And then about two weeks ago she started to find it difficult to eat the kibble part of her meals, preferring softer food. I took her to the vets. I thought there might be a problem with her mouth. But there was nothing obvious and when she wolfed with some relish the large biscuit the vet gave her, I tried to convince myself that I was imagining things. I turned down the offer of an x-ray and a sedation to examine her in more detail. I knew in my heart, though, that she wasn't right. But I also knew that at 11 years old I was not going to put her through too much to find out what it was. Not my Maisie, who hasn't had a day's illness her whole life.

And she's been OK... quiet, but still eating and still coming out on walks. She came out with me yesterday for 1.5hrs and jumped in and out of the car just fine. 

Last night, though, she didn't want her supper and, during the night, I was woken by the sound of her retching. She'd thrown up bile. I lay with her a while on the wonderful Orvis dog bed in the hall. She enjoyed the stroking but then got up and took herself off to the rug under the kitchen table. Her place. 

This morning, we returned to the vets. They examined her and looked glum. Well, she's a flatcoat, you see... And, hey, as we all know cancer in Flatcoats is as much a legacy of all that selective breeding as the ability to find and retrieve a bird. 

They took some blood and while we waited for the analysis, Maisie jumped up on to the sofa in the waiting room and curled up with her head on my lap. The results were pretty dreadful - kidneys clearly in trouble and calcium levels through the roof. They said they could give her steroids to perk her up for a while. But I refused, and as she was so comfortable on the sofa, with her head on my lap, I asked if they could put her to sleep there. And so they locked the front door and lovely vet Edward  - always so gentle - inserted a canula into her leg and I hugged her, telling her how much I loved her, as the life ebbed from her. My Maisie, also known as Maisie Moo, Moody and Moo. Gone.

Afterwards, we x-rayed her and found a 5cm tumour between her lungs. It was pressing on her trachea and oesophagus, which explained the retching and the problems eating.  It is almost certainly lymphoma. I asked them to open her up and take some samples, which will be sent off to Cambridge Vet School for their research into Flatcoat cancer.

X-ray clearly showing the mass (centre) - a 5cm mediastinal tumour


I will also register her death on the new Death Register for Flatcoats set up earlier this year by Cambridge.

Maisie - "Lyneholme Iris" - was 11 years old. Not a bad age, I hear you say. And that's true. And she had a healthy life full of love, good food, good walks, good fun.

This Christmas, no Maisie in a silly elf hat

But there are too many flatcoats that die from cancer; many of them much younger than Maisie. I'm too sad tonight to rage much about it, but breeders and breed clubs need to be doing so much more than they are doing.

It's wonderful that Cambridge has set up the Death Register, but insane that it has to be anonymous and infuriating that the Flatcoated Retriever Society here in the UK doesn't proclaim its existence on its home page (instead choosing to bury it three levels down). It needs to be properly publicised and more of an effort needs to be made to inform vets and pet owners that it exists.

It's also insane that so many flatcoat breeders play down the dreadful rate of cancer in the breed (over 50 per cent dead by on average 8/9) by claiming that other breeds would be found to be just as bad if only their breeders were as honest.

And it's even more insane that they think it is enough to give a few quid to the researchers in the hope that one day a genetic test will be forthcoming, while continuing to breed dogs, over half of which are programmed to die before their 8th/9th birthday - and some of them far younger. Last week it was a seven-year-old. Today, I heard about a two-year-old Flatcoat dead from stomach cancer. 

What else should they be doing?

Well an open database for starters, with worldwide buy-in, so we can start to see the patterns in the pedigrees and openly select for longer-living lines - should they exist. We need full disclosure; ideally records kept of every Flatcoat born and died.

I believe we should also be thinking about MHC testing - a different kind of DNA testing, now available, that helps breeders select for stronger immune systems. After all, cancer is an immune-mediated condition.

And we also need to be thinking about some careful outcrossing. It may not prove to be the solution, but it is worth a try. 

After all, what do you do with a poisoned river? You dilute it.

I'm afraid I don't do the Rainbow Bridge stuff - although I know it brings comfort to some. The only place Maisie is now is in my heart. And that heart beats with the hope that one day I can have a flatcoat in my life and not have to live with the fear that they will be taken too soon.





The pictures of Maisie in the beautiful graveyard here in Wootton Rivers, where I live in Wiltshire, were done for Pedigree Dogs Exposed over four years ago. We never used them in the film, but the picture of Maisie lying in the snowdrops above was used in the BBC brochure promoting the international version of PDE. Photoshopped on to the gravestone was: RIP The Pedigree Dog?

57 comments:

  1. Jemima, so sorry to hear about your loss. Maisie sounds like a delightful and talented friend, and it was nice of you to share her story with us. I'm sure she had a terrific life with you and was lucky to find you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so, so sorry for your loss. It sounds like Maisie was a wonderful (and beautiful!) dog and that she had a wonderful life with you. My sympathies.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am so sorry to hear your loss Jemima. I hope you will feel better in time. Losing favorite dogs is so hard. Hope you find another Flatcoat of your dreams, don't give up on your beloved breed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So very sorry Jemima and Jon.
    Maisie was a very lucky girl to find you both.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm sorry to read this. Maisie had a wonderful life with you, and in your heart and memories she will always be glorious.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So sorry for your loss. Now on my second flat-coat. The first, Shadow died at 10, quite suddenly but we don't think it was cancer. My golden retriever had to be PTS due to bone cancer in the leg - it's so sad to see them fade, but there comes a time to say goodbye - however hard it is. I am sure you will have fond memories of Maisie for ever - flat-coats get under your skin with their love of life - I adore the breed, as I know you do.

    ReplyDelete
  7. So sorry to read of your loss of Maisie. No matter how many dogs we have, each one is an individual and each loss is as massive as the last, and breaks us a little more.

    You should feel happy that you enabled her to live the life she was bred to do, fulfilling her genetic needs. Not all dogs are as lucky.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You are in my thoughts Jemima - just seen this. A very sad day for you.
    x

    ReplyDelete
  9. Annie Macfarlane28 November 2012 10:39

    I'm so sorry to hear about the death of Maisie. Things have to change. Far too many people are experiencing the pain of losing their dogs. This news made me cry.....I feel your pain! So sorry for you and Jon. I know your dogs mean the world to you both. Another gentle soul taken. When will they wake up? xxxxxxxxxxxx

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sad news Jemima. I guess most doggy people some time or other find a much-loved family member suffering incurably, and do what's best for him/her however much it hurts. If it helps, you're not alone. "Don't give your heart to a dog to tear" wrote Kipling, but we do again and again: because they repay, many times over.

    In combatting cancer, one way forward is certainly an open database such as the Poodle Health Registry, US-run with support of among others the UK Standard Poodle club. Relying on breeders and owners, their info is far from complete but to use my native vernacular, owt's better'n nowt. The technology is not rocket science and has been around for some while, but people are always slow to catch up.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh damn, so sorry Jemima and Jon, but so happy that Maisie lived, loved, laughed and saw the countryside on your long watch. In her life, she did a lot of good and that continues forward. Nothing loved ever dies. As long as you and Jon are alive, Maisie lives in your work and in your memory. She passes on quite a lot to quite a large number of dogs and people. Not a bad legacy.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I remember the day you house checked me (when I had Dylan in 2007), Maisie came with you and got on so well with Ralli and Dyl. What a beautiful unforgettable girl she was. She had the best life ever from 4 years old and I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. R.I.P Maisie xxx

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dear Jemima, I admire you so much for being able to let Maisie go as soon as you knew there was going to be too little quality of life left for her. The 'only a little longer' is always for us, isn't it, not for them. I had a Moo as well, but she was a Minnie Moo, a MooMoo and my best girl. She was put to sleep in January of this year, and I know, looking back, that it was long overdue. The next time I am faced with this decision, I hope I can be as brave and wise as you. Best wishes.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm so sorry to hear that Jemima :'( ..this news made me cry.. Maisie was so funny with her food stealing ninja skills :) ..my thoughts are with you.. R.I.P Maisie

    ReplyDelete
  15. So sorry, Jemima -- what a wonderful post to her memory and a call to support breed research.

    "It's insane that so many flatcoat breeders play down the dreadful rate of cancer in the breed (over 50 per cent dead by on average 8/9) by claiming that other breeds would be found to be just as bad if only their breeders were as honest."

    So depressing and that breeder refrain is sadly so common in other breeds. Oh, if only X breed would also acknowledge problem Y; the problem is that other breeds don't have breeders as honest as ours.

    Well, no -- the prize is not for acknowledging the problem (though let's be honest, many breeds only have their health problems acknowledged by breeders/clubs because primarily pet owners and vets and researchers and illness/death rates make the problem impossible to fully bury away...). The prize is ending up with a healthier, longer lived breed because responsible breeders and breed clubs actually DO something and support health programmes, research, databases and so on.

    May more breeders and clubs start to act, rather than tout their 'honesty' while denigrating/ignoring researchers, health schemes and attempts to gather data. And may flatcoats have a better future through your efforts to raise these issues here and in your films.

    ReplyDelete
  16. A good owner would have notice long before the dog had a problem, so despite you self trumpeting as a health expert you failed you own dog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You win the lowest and rankest form of reply award. Your hatred has poisoned your humanity with it's smug judgmental knowingness.

      ~Ann Cardon

      Delete
    2. She did notice; if you'd bothered to read her post properly. So cancer in Flatcoats is so magically curable that it would have made all the difference, eh?

      Sigh. There's nothing like kicking somebody when they're already down, is there? I'm sure Jemima can fight her own battles, but really, do you have to be so spiteful?

      Delete
    3. Your comment made me feel disgusted - it is malicious and untrue. H

      Delete
    4. And people think I'm bad. I might give the idiots a hard time but kicking a grieving woman in the teeth is beyond even me.

      My condolences, Jemima. Kudos to you for helping Maisie to help others, even after her death, both by contributing to studies and by sharing it publicly, even though I'm sure you knew you'd get some comments like that from our good anonymous.

      Delete
    5. Unlike you, I'm not afraid to put my name to a post. What a horrible comment to make to someone who has just lost their dog. What a sad person you must be!

      Delete
    6. Of course, there had to be at least one voice attempting ridicule and condemnation.
      Unfortunately, in this world we have created, no-one can stand up and speak out against injustice of any sort without the perpetrators of that injustice seeking to bring them down by any means.

      Very sorry to hear your sad news Jemima. Many of us will have lost a good freind and can identify with your grief.
      Also sorry to see that there are callous folk who will try and turn this aginst you in order to hurt and insult.
      It clearly demonstrates the low calibre of some of the people you are up against when you are simply trying to improve the quality of life for the future of dogs and their owners.

      Maisie sounds like an exceptional character and you write as someone who feels priviledged to have shared life with her.
      This is how we should all feel about our companions. We should tolerate their foibles and celebrate their qualities as we do with friends.

      It demonstrates respect.

      Thoughts are with you.

      Mike

      Delete
    7. You really are a disgusting coward. How dare you make such unjust comments about a woman who gives so much of her time to help dogs. You don't even have the guts to put your name to your comment unlike Jemima who champions a cause she truely believes in and puts up with morons like you. I just hope that no dog has to live with someone as cold hearted as you obviously are.

      Jemima my heart goes out to you and Jon. Just the worst thing to happen. Having lost four out of our five flatcoats to cancer it is obvious something needs to happen to change this awful situation.

      Maisie was such a beautiful girl. So very, very sorry.

      Delete
    8. Lesley Blissett1 December 2012 11:11

      I always think that people such as the anonymous who posted the nasty, cruel comment are cowards and just evil people, if you truly believe what you are saying you back up your belief with your name, however, nearly all people who leave such derogatory comments and don't leave their name are evil minded yahoos with nothing better to do. Perhaps if anonymous tried to do some good in the world he/she would not have the time to post such cruel and evil remarks. Jemima has done such excellent, good and kind work with dogs and has saved so many lives with her rescue group that to treat her such as anonymous has done is beyond belief, probably a disgruntled breeder!

      Jemima and John, you have my sincerest condolences I just cannot begin to understand how you must be feeling, I know that I would be absolutely devastated, you are such a strong person and I admire you greatly. I never met Maisie but she sounds and looks absolutely amazing!

      May God be with you!

      Delete
  17. My heart goes out to you.
    I can't imagine how you feel .. but rest assured you made Maisie the most happy pup during her time with you.

    RIP Sweet Baby girl, Maisie.
    God Speed, little one!

    xoxoxox

    ReplyDelete
  18. my sympathy on the loss of Maisie...thank you for sharing pictures of your beautiful companion.

    julie pear

    ReplyDelete
  19. Malin Johansson28 November 2012 16:34

    I am so sorry for your loss. Big hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Remembering that the English "spirit" evolves from Latin "spiritus" (breath) brings me comfort when losing loved ones. PBurns put it well above: “nothing that is loved ever dies.”

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am so sorry for your loss of your friend. There is nothing like watching a dog do the work she was bred to do!

    I hope your work contributes in some way to breeders pushing to have longevity as a prominent breeding trait. Having the age of the dog when it died in all pedigrees would be a wonderful opportunity for breeders to make wise choices.

    May your memories of your time with your friend bring you joy. Our loved ones live on in our hearts forever.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I cried reading this and she wasn't even my dog!

    So very sorry to hear that you've lost your lovely Flatcoat, Maisie.

    She even managed to look dignified with an elf hat on her head...

    ReplyDelete
  23. I am so very sorry your dear friend Maise has left your side. That she is in your heart...a place of eternal love.

    Ann Cardon

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm so sorry for your loss Jemima. I think it was very brave to post this on the blog at such a vulnerable time, knowing there would be the potential of some poisonous replies like the one above (15.08). By no means do I always see things
    your way, but I would hope that irrespective of personal views on PDE, the majority will be sympathetic enough to realise that we are all the same when it comes down to it. We love our dogs and mourn their passing. RIP Maise.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Often in flatcoats their exhubarent nature makes it difficult to spot early signs of any health issues.

    Jemima we may have had our disagreements but I do feel sad to hear that Maisie is gone and I am sure you are as sad and tearful as any decent flatcoat owner would be. Each one is special and they never truly leave us while they are in our hearts and thoughts.

    Polly

    ReplyDelete
  26. Sorry to hear this horrible news, Jemima. I am equally sad to hear about the cancer problems amongst Flatcoat Retrievers (which I was unaware of).

    ReplyDelete
  27. Jemima, I´m so sorry to hear this. I feel with you. I lost one of mine a couple of weeks back, years before his time was due. A Rough Collie with some of the old traits still there - the intelligence, the lively strong body and the gentle spirit. To follow him tracking wild boar or tracking a person was something great, and so was looking into his marvellous eyes. I too wish I could believe in the Rainbow Bridge, but I don´t. Here´s what I believe: a good thing cannot be totally lost. It changes the story of our own lives, it changes us, and we can pass that on to other people. Breeding dogs selectively for a purpose over so many centuries made the world inhabitable for us, right? We can keep those traits for the benefit of people in the future. Their lives will be better for it. And the good thing will not be lost.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Rest in peace. What a wonderful life she had with you. Susie xx

    ReplyDelete
  29. Jemima I had trouble reading your story of Maisie! Tears kept obscuring the print. There are no words that will ease your pain..but perhaps ONE day there will be a genetic test to determine which dogs carry the genes for this dreadful cancer. when there is that is when you will truly begin to heal. I have not had the pleasure of knowing many flat coats..but of the few I have met I admired them very much for their keen intelligence and sweet natures. they are beautiful, wonderful dogs..and with a human who recognizes their potential..they are AMAZING! Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Your loss has made me very sad, please accept my condolences. H x

    ReplyDelete
  31. So very sorry for your loss of Maisie. It sounds like she had a wonderful life with you and your family.

    It was a very selfless act you had done by letting her pass peacefully, then to let her go on suffering. I only hope I can have the courage you have, to do the same for Kyuss when the time comes.

    - Pennypup

    ReplyDelete
  32. I am so very sorry for your loss. I know Maisie will live in your heart forever. Thank you for the lovely photographs of your girl.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Jemima, having recently lost our NSDTR Keira (for whom we are still deeply grieving) we realy feel for you and offer our deepest condolences. You have written the most amazing epitaph for Maisie and we can only hope that in her passing she helps with the research into cancer.

    Once again, our thoughts are with you all.

    Ian and Diane Thompson
    Ambertollers

    ReplyDelete
  34. What a fortunate dog Maisie was to have found you & to have lived the life she did! I am so sorry for your loss - I hope that your many wonderful memories of Maisie provide you with comfort. She sounds like a wonderful girl.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "And that heart beats with the hope that one day I can have a flatcoat in my life and not have to live with the fear that they will be taken too soon."

    In the meantime, would it be worth finding a breeder who has done an outcross, so you'd get a 3/4 Flatcoat, 1/4 other retriever breed (that has a low risk of cancer)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hugs to you for your loss and kudos for your sharing of information and willingness to find out what the issue was even though it would no longer benefit her, or you (at least directly.)

      I am just now getting into breeding, and used the Optimal Selection test to find a mate for my bitch that had different haplotypes on Chromosome 13, where the MHC is (in addition to other testing and selection criteria.) Not a perfect test, but a move in the right direction!

      Susan Mann, Brodie and Arie

      Delete
  36. So sorry for you loss. My thoughts are with you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Please accept my condolences on your sad loss of a very dear friend. You have given your Maisie a full and fulfilling life and I am sure that she loved you as you loved her. I hope that your contribution to medical research helps to tackle the dreaded cancer in all dog breeds, pedigree or otherwise. I greatly admire your Work in trying to raise breeding standards and the importance of genetic diversity.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Sigh..you do what you did..Maisie had experience with one last bird, a tough bird for sure yet dependable to do the best for her.

    Not to detract from Maisie in honour of her life I would like to share a story of unconventional compassion, a story of character out of the norm, character criticized likely and misunderstood by most.

    A good, respected friend and I were driving north to bush country very early one Sunday morning along a two lane highway through well forested country.

    We had been driving easily over an hour, sun still not fully apparent, all the while not encountering any traffic either way.

    We were deep in conversation when in the distance, a kilometer away on the flat straight road ahead a car approaching in the opposite lane. Conversation continues, when maybe a hundred metres ahead the car approaches.

    About that time from the opposite side of the road a red fox bolts out in front of the approaching car and is clipped hard in the back hind - both vehicles traveling about 90 Kph. By the time we encountered the now spinning fox, still alive but with no use of back end..my friend, who was driving, all within seconds swerved into the opposite lane and hit the fox fully with the vehicle. There was no discussion or indication of intention, there was no time..seconds. We continued on, silent for some time along the deserted road with conversation stopped mid speak.

    At the speed we were going there was no doubt as to the outcome of the little red fox who decided to cross the empty road at a point in time when two vehicles and a fox converged when for hours all three respectively were isolated from each other or any other..I often ponder that as well as many feelings about that situation.

    For many, they would be quick to chastise such quick action behaviour as whatever..for me witnessing the whole of seconds in slow motion long time provided a character reference of pure intuitive and reactive compassion for the animal. An initial incident that surely was destined to provide too long suffering for the fox..there was opportunity to end suffering..the call was made with the first vehicle striking the fox and my friend, in such quick processing, did what he knew was best. I am not sure I could have done what he had in as quick thinking as he had. There was no question I/we would have stopped and to end its suffering but it wouldn't have been any easier for us and only more moments of suffering for the fox. Perhaps this was a way selfishly not to endeavour in a certain unpleasant act of compassion directly..we never discussed it..there was no point.

    Was it a pleasant experience? One of blood-lust? It couldn't be further from that. No our silence for what was probably 45 minutes to an hour was one of sorrow, reflection and perhaps gratitude that, although unfortunate, we were in the wrong spot at the right time.

    You do what he did.

    My point is that you don't need to ponder this or that anymore than necessary and sometimes quick resolve to relinquish suffering is the best we can do.

    Sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  39. What an incredibly heartbreaking post, so sorry for your loss

    ReplyDelete
  40. Deepest condolences on the loss of such a beautiful and faithful friend. Our thoughts are with you in this saddest of times.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Anonymous28 November 2012 15:08
    You really are cold hard unfeeling, you words and attitudeare ridiculous.Your behaviour is not clever and only shows you to be malicious individual.

    At the risk of making yourself look sillier still, I would also like point out that perhaps you should read the entire post before passing comment, Jemima DID NOTICE.


    Nicola

    ReplyDelete
  42. So sorry for your loss.

    "so we can start to see the patterns in the pedigrees and openly select for longer-living lines"

    This is a point where I feel the preservation of diversity and the quest to produce 'safe' dogs with very low likelihood of getting genetic diseases starts to clash in a way. There are cosmetic physical characteristics that cause dogs to suffer, which could be easily bred away from if breeders accepted this and worked at it. Then there are genetic diseases that have been mapped and can be tested for, and these could be eliminated entirely from the population within a few generations and no significant loss of genetic diversity if breeders would all agree to test, arrange matings accordingly, and only to keep clear offspring for breeding. Then there are conditions which we know to be genetic, but for which the genes responsible have not yet been identified.

    For this latter class of problems, the solution often suggested is to discard lines that have this sort of problem and stop breeding them. Once upon a time, I would have agreed, but now I'm beginning to realise it's more complicated than that. While it may go some way to cutting down the incidence of that particular disease, you lose also all the genetic diversity that line contributes to the breed, and any positive things the line may have to contribute with it.

    As an example, I'm aware of a dying line within a breed I am interested in, in which hip dysplasia occurs. However, this line appears to have very little or no incidences of any of the other diseases that plague this particular breed, many of them rife in popular show lines. Frequently I have seen breeders of these show lines slamming this line because of the hip dysplasia in it for reasons that I can only blame on backstabbing breeder politics. Is it right that this line should die out just because it has hip dysplasia in it, when the people condemning it have everything else in their lines? What if this line should die out, and then a year later, a lab somewhere discovers the genes responsible for hip dysplasia and makes available a test?

    Diversity is under pressure now more than ever because of antipathy directed at dog breeding from animal rights extremists and also from the current fad for 'designer' mongrels. In the past, bottlenecks have occurred for reasons of conformation and what does best in the show ring. It would be rash and regrettable to impose yet another bottleneck because of well-intentioned yet vague and wasteful breeding strategies attempting to reduce health conditions. That line that looks safe now may, after being used by everyone and concentrated for several generations, turn out to carry some other genetic disease not even on the radar right now.

    I agree with all the measures you suggested in your article. Let's keep databases of when dogs die and all kinds of information about health and make it available to the public and to scientists. I would encourage people to use lines that appear to be safe in their matings. But let's not rush into anything drastic before we have more information. Just something to think about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Breeders already discard a great deal of genetic material just from selection for "correct" type. Show breeders who are concerned that strong health selection will reduce genetic diversity should probably think through how type selection does the same.

      Delete
  43. So sorry to hear about your loss! Maisie was lucky to have become a part of your family.
    I experienced much the same with my Flatcoat soon 2 years ago. The occasional cough turned out to be lymphoma.

    I've lost two Flatcoats aged just 7,5 other 8 years and 3 weeks. Cancer in Flatcoats is a terrible thing. Thought long and hard about other breeds because because of the cancer issue, but now I have a 5-month-old Flatcoat puppy. I made it a point to find several dogs that reached 10+ years in the pedigree.

    I so appreciate your work towards more sanity in dog breeding.

    My thoughts are with you.
    /Susanna

    ReplyDelete
  44. So sad to read your post. I lost my dog to lymphoma, a mutt with very uncertain parentage. Saying goodbye to one's pup (no matter what the age) is just so, so sad.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Sorry to read of the loss of your faithful companion. My thoughts are with you.

    ReplyDelete
  46. So sorry for your loss Jemima. Our pets are beloved and are true companions.

    With regard to this particular breed, I happened by chance to get chatting to a man who breeds flat coats the other week. His lack of scientific understanding of genetics and disease was alarming. His barbaric training methods and flawed understanding of canine behaviour (dominance) horrified me. He boasted about biting a dog on the ear when it got out of line. I tracked down his website and absolutely no mention of Cancer rates. But then that didn't really surprise me given his ignorance. Who are these people!?

    ReplyDelete
  47. http://www.flatcoatretrieverspurdeys.co.uk/characteristics-of-breed

    Hmmm....no mention of cancer rates here.

    ReplyDelete