I love dogs.
Everyone who knows me knows how much I adore all dogs.
(Except ones that drool. I can deal with poo and vomit but doggy drool makes me retch. Sorry Newfoundlands) I am one of those women that calls all dogs she meets “darling.” I only regret that it took me so long to welcome a dog into my heart.
I feel ambivalent about dog shows. I know that dog show people find them fun. I’m not sure how much fun the dogs derive from them. I’m not astonished to learn about the poor Irish Setter found to have been poisoned at Crufts this year. Apparently it is suspected that a competitor intended the poison for the dog that eventually went on to win the breed category. This does not surprise me in the least as this sort of doggy beauty pageant is guaranteed to bring out the worst sort of competitiveness in people. We’ve all read about those beauty pageants in the US where twisted families dress four year olds up as Cindy Crawford and get them to sing like Dolly Parton for their own shot at fame and glory. There are some very strange people in the world.
I know a lot of people are against breeding to sometimes extreme conformation standards: I hate to see brachycephalic dogs with noses who short that they can’t breathe properly and overheat; or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with heads so small that their tongues (and brains) don’t fit into them, bred from dogs who carry agonising Syringomyelia in their line. Or those poor Neapolitan Mastiffs bread with so much spare jowly skin around their heads that it often becomes sore and inflamed, leaving the poor dog constantly in pain. Whenever I see a poor effed-up British Bulldog I cry inwardly with pity for the poor thing. These are just the examples that spring to mind. There are plenty more, not to mention the severe genetic problems caused by inbreeding and the fact that a lot of show-type people seem to ignore these issues in the hope that they will go away.
That people still breed and buy Pugs to look as they do disgusts me. You can always hear a Pug coming. Its grunting breathing is so noisy because it has such a small nose. Their bulging eyeballs mean that they cannot play with other dogs in case their eyes are scratched. This seems to make Pug owners twitchy and distinctly unfriendly if you have a bouncy, playful retriever.
I am completely aware that there are lots of crossbreed mongrels who need a home and yet people are overbreeding designer and purebred pedigree dogs. There are all sorts of issues around this and I acknowledge all of them, though it’s true to say that the poor crossbreeds, marketed as designer dogs, traded on the internet who end up destroyed or in rescues for years have a worse life than pedigree dogs bred and raised by loving families, but then lots of people who sanctimoniously express their disgust at purebred dogs conveniently forget all about that.
What I will say is that our Oscar is our first dog and we got him when our children were smaller and we had had no experience with dogs. Rescue shelters would, quite rightly, not rehome a dog with an unknown history to our inexperienced house with unpredictable humandog puppies. I totally understand this.
For us, a known breed was some indication of the likely temperament and disposition of a dog: German Shepherds are wonderfully clever and obedient but protective, sometimes possessive one-person dogs, for instance; collies are fantastic but need to be keep occupied at all times otherwise their superior intelligence can make them neurotic. Beagles are bred to be self-reliant and run off. That sort of thing.
It was important for us to choose a dog that would love all members of the family; that would be friendly and happy and laid back and gentle that would have no hint of aggression in its character and breed standard. A friendly, sweet-natured dog is essential in a crowded London suburb.
We chose the flatcoated retriever and I would now never consciously choose a different breed because I love them so much. They can be a handful and need firm but sensitive handling and training as they are very empathetic, but (almost) all the flatties I know are an absolute delight. When the time comes to replace Oscar in our hearts (as if that could ever happen,) I shall be looking to rescue a flatcoated retriever.
Imagine, then, my joy to see that a flattie had won the Gundog Group at Crufts. “Dublin” is a fantastic, constantly wagging and smiley example of his breed. More importantly, for me, he looks like a real dog that loves to jump into muddy puddles and get into mischief.
I was delighted that he won Reserve Best in Show but, to my mind, he should have been the Supreme Champion. He was robbed.