One of the most interesting dog writers in cyberspace is Susi Szeremy, a Pulik breeder/owner/handler. Yesterday Susi posted a piece on her DogKnobit blog about the British Kennel Club’s role in creating an anti-dog environment in the UK. I encourage you to read her article, “The Kennel Club: What Did They Think Would Happen?”, and consider what environment we are creating for ourselves here in the US.
Susi postulates that the Kennel Club’s attempt to work with the animal rights factions in the UK made it worse for dog owners, not better. I first became acquainted with the American animal rights element in the late 1980s when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States collaborated on the San Mateo County (California) mandatory spay and neuter ordinance, which effectively banned hobby breeding of cats and dogs. That battle, which we lost, taught me many things about defending my right to keep pets and about living my life in general. It basically comes down to this. No Apologies. I will live my life the way I choose, and I will not apologize about it.
To provide perspective, I tell those of you who don’t know me well that I am politically a Libertarian. I expect government to stay out of my pocketbook and my bedroom. I expect to be allowed to do anything I want with anyone who wants to do it with me. Here in Tennessee, the general rule is you can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t do it on the front lawn. I have an anthropological view of the American psyche. Most of us are descendants of men and women who left their native lands because they didn’t want to be told what to do. I’m not sure if it’s genetic or just a commonly held cultural feature, but I do think it causes the best and worst of our behaviors. Anyone who has tried to manage a large nonprofit event (like a dog show) knows that our fellow Americans are creative and industrious, but cannot be ordered to do anything. You have to persuade an American that what you want done is the right thing to do.
But back to that no apologies philosophy. Two-thirds of Americans own pets, and most of those pets are dogs. How we ever came to the point that we allow someone to tell us that are not allowed to keep and breed animals, I do not know. I do know that whenever I hear someone espousing their right to remove my rights, I tell them to inventory their own lives and ask which of their rights they are willing to give up. I don’t like facial piercings, rap music or Kim Kardashian, but I am perfectly willing to co-exist with those who do. I think many people who pursue vegan diets and insist on bacteria-laden organic foodstuffs are playing in traffic while running with scissors, but I think they should be allowed to do so as long as they don’t share the e-coli with me. In exchange I would like to be able to once again to have a medallion of beef with real foie gras and demi-glace or a late night dinner of veal marsala.
I do worry about the inculcation of our youth. Popular culture and the public school system is riddled with the animal rights agenda. My own children went to private schools where parents had some say about curriculum, but most of American children go through school systems where animal husbandry is portrayed as animal abuse. I have been successful in converting my own grandchildren, but most of their Californian classmates still think that shelter dogs are superior to purebred AKC-registered dogs. I’ll leave it to them to persuade their classmates when they get a little older.
And if we can’t reach a tolerance of each others’ behaviors, then realize this. My ancestors have been telling despots “leave us alone” for over 700 years. Neither animal rights activists, imploding local governments or increasingly detached registries will kill the will of breeders. We breed because we love the animals. Prizes are nice, but watching a splendid specimen you bred, playing in your own back yard is better. Man and dog have been constant companions for tens of thousands of years. Kennel clubs have been around less than two hundred.
While I generally keep a low profile around my neighborhood, everyone who has come in contact with me knows that I own multiple dogs, that my dogs bark at anyone who enters our drive, that our dogs are always fenced or on lead, that my dogs are well behaved and healthy, AND that my dogs are all AKC-registered. Anyone who enters my home knows that I have no dog-free zones in the house. My dogs will not bite your children, but I might if they annoy my dogs. Any dish with food on it left on the coffee table will be cleaned away. While the Poodle, Scottie and Cairn do not shed, the Italian Greyhound does. No apologies. I came to your house and endured your children showing me their latest refrigerator art or your teenager playing a gruesome and loud video game. I even went to your hipster party where I had my choice of two kinds of smoke-filled rooms, tobacco or marijuana. My doggy identity extends beyond my neighbors and friends. The girls at the Taco Bell drive through now know what an Italian Greyhound is, and the guy at the liquor store knows I have a Scottie and Cairn to complement my Scottie and Westie scotch decanters. Every one of my elected officials knows that Sealyham Terriers are rarer than grey whales or lowland gorillas.
Much of what I have written here may be alien to my readers, but that’s my point. Make no apologies about who you are. Do the right thing, and wait for world to catch up. And that’s today’s Back Story.