I am a boy from the South. I was brought up not to discuss religion, politics or sex in public. Although I have been a Roman Catholic all my adult life, I was raised in the local Southern Baptist church from my earliest memory until I graduated high school. I have fond memories of that time. It was an era before the Southern Baptist church became politically involved. In fact, it was considered downright rude, if not blasphemous, to talk politics in church. The one distinguisher of the Southern Baptists of that era was that every man was his own interpreter of the Gospel. I came away with the simple, perhaps simplistic, guide, “What would Jesus do?” There were spirited debates over the Bible. There were those that believed in a literal reading of the scriptures, those who though that the world was created in seven days. The majority opinion was that God had a different concept of time and created the universe over millions, even billions of years. The one thing I remember was that everyone respected everyone else’s right to have a different opinion. Sadly, today it is hard to find any forum where people respect each others’ differences and their right to hold a different opinion than their own.
I took part in a recent discussion of the interpretation of AKC standards. Over the years I have become a bit of a skeptic on the subject of standards. Some of our standards have been altered multiple times. It’s not that I object to changing a standard. It’s the reason for changing a standard that’s often an issue. I tend to bristle when an attempt is made to alter a standard to reflect the existing crop of dogs rather than describe the perfect example of the breed. I go with the simple, perhaps simplistic, “What would a breeder do?” I remember the late, great judge, Ann Rogers Clark saying, “Make them typey. Then make them healthy. Then make them pretty.” My interpretation of that advice is first make them able to do what they were bred to do, e.g., Cairns should be able to dig, fit into rocky crevices and go to ground.
Even more controversial are attempts to create a new breed to fill a void. One successful execution of that concept is the Black Russian Terrier. The BRT is unusual in that it was a government project. Developed by the Soviets during the post-World War II era as a guard dog for the Soviet army, the BRT was officially recognized in the US in 2004. Another ongoing project is the Silken Windhound. With origins in the 1980s, the Windhound is a much more recent breed. Admitted to the United Kennel Club’s registry in 2011, the Silken Windhound, has not yet achieved AKC Foundation Stock Service status. Borzoi breeder Francie Stull wanted a smaller version of the Borzoi, hardy enough for the harsh Texas terrain. From where I sit, Ms. Stull has achieved what few of us will in a lifetime, a whole new breed. And she did it the way that the breeders of old did it. Ms. Stull bred 200 Borzoi champions before she began her Windhound endeavor. She has field-tested her dogs, taking them out along with her horses.
Next time you are planning a breeding, look at your breed standard and ask yourself, “What would a breeder do?” And that’s today’s Back Story.