Monday, December 26, 2011

Beautiful Manufactured Dogs

This Christmas I received as a gift from a friend a book she has treasured for 20 years. It is a book full of paintings of dogs from the earliest caveman depictions to present day. What's fascinating is how some dogs have changed and others haven't. It appears that rat terrier type dogs and greyhounds have been around for centuries. They must be hardy and helpful breeds. Some breeds have changed a lot -- and not for the benefit of their health.
For example, pekes and pugs have had their snouts shortened so that now they have breathing problems and allergies. They used to have pug noses, but they weren't flat up against their skulls the way they are now. People bred these dogs to look this way, and in the process, made the breeds less hardy.
Possibly the most damaged breed is the King Cavalier Spaniel. Breeders worked to create smaller and smaller dogs with tiny skulls. Because of this, these poor dogs now can have brain diseases. Their brains are too large for their skulls and they begin having seizures or fits. They scream in pain because it feels to them that thousands of knives are stabbing them all over their body. The only way to relieve them is to put them down. You can have a pup checked to see if it carries the gene for this problem, but some breeders hide it. One champion Cavalier won ribbons and trophies for being a perfect example of the breed and was retired early from the ring because it had this brain disease and had to be euthanized.
A few years ago, one of the top champions in the world was a tiny peke that fainted while its photo was being taken after it won Best of Show. They had two fans pointed it the dog, but it still overheated and fainted because its nose is so flat against its skull that it can barely breathe.
So, before you swoon over that 2-pound teacup chihuahua or yorkie or the cute peke or pug with no profile or the small, delicate Cavalier, remember that these dogs were manufactured by man and man is not always wise in how he manipulates nature. As the TV commercial used to admonish, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

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