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Fontana’s OFA report arrived in the mail today. We are happy!

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A Gift on a Beautiful Spring Day

Today Andi, now known as Mandy, left for her new life in California. On the way home from the airport, I decided this beautiful spring day was too stunning to waste, and I stopped at the park to walk and train with Willow. She did amazingly well, doing over 50 retrieves, including some in the pond. As we were heading back to the car, we had the luck to see this incredible black rat snake basking in a tree above our heads. These are among my very favorite animals, and he was just what I needed to lift my mood after sending Andi on her way (and the stress that always comes along with dealing with air cargo).

There’s some confusion about exactly what species he could be: https://herpunit.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/the-ratsnake-mess-for-dummies/

Regardless, he’s stunning!

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Honesty is Bad! UPDATE

***EDIT to say we are thrilled that our phone call to OFA today revealed that Andi indeed was graded “fair” hips and normal elbows, which are both passing scores! She is still going to her pet home and will be spayed after her first heat cycle, but naturally we are pleased she passed her OFA prelims!****

I was amused today to find out that I’m being discussed in one of the many ignorant groups of self-proclaimed “dog snobs” online. They are young, silly, petty, and inexperienced in both life and dogs, but cause a lot of pain to many people. That said, I can mostly laugh it off any more. My reputation and my dogs speak for themselves, and my life is largely unaffected by the attempts they make at internet abuse.

When I first saw the latest screen-shots (that well-meaning friends send me when they see I am being trashed in one of those groups), I admit I laughed. However, the current thing I am being shit-talked for is health testing my dogs, and admitting one of them has hip X-rays that, while not awful, are not as good as I’d like to see. She has no issues whatsoever, and will lead a normal life. Any day now, I may find out she even actually passed her OFA hip pre-lim evaluation. Her hips are very close to being passing grade, if they are not actually good enough to pass. But, regardless, even if she had horrific hip dysplasia, I wouldn’t lie about it.

So, wait a minute. Let us review what is happening.

I’m being roasted because I health test my dogs, and I’m honest about the results. 

I’m being roasted for having such high standards for health and temperament that I placed a dog I had high hopes for in a pet home, as she’s just not quite what I think is ideal in a couple of areas.

And we wonder why breeders lie about and hide health and temperament issues?

Let that sink in. We want to hold each other accountable, sure. Does this mean when someone does the right thing that we should shame them and make them regret that noble act?

Do any of these Mean Girl bitches actually think the breeders of the show style animals they prefer have never once produced a dog with fair or borderline hips? Is there a point to their bullshit?

The advertisement I posted to find a home for Andi mentioned that she is only 35 pounds (a fact) and, I said, in quotes, that she was a “mini-golden” of sorts. This was merely light hearted honesty about the dog’s actual size. She was not bred with any intent of producing miniature goldens, so posting such in dog groups online is libel. It was stated that I breed dysplastic miniature Goldens. This is patently untrue.

That being said, I have no issue with purposely breeding small, beautiful, healthy, awesome companion or sport golden retrievers, and I may even attempt to do so in the future. It’s just that taking an honest, caring breeder’s post about making a mature and difficult and ethical choice for a loved animal, and shaming that person with misleading lies, is disgusting.

It’s fucking disgusting, and it’s why breeders hide health test results, justify awful temperaments, and generally feel like they have to lie.

The cycle of back stabbing and nothing actually changing just continues, while the breeders who simply brush things under the rug or lie remain exalted heroes. In the mean time, Andi is headed to a repeat client in California, where her name “I’ll Show You The Stars” couldn’t be more fitting for a former NASA employee.

I have integrity, and I’m never going to be sorry about that, however hard anyone may try to make me wish I didn’t.

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Please DON’T Spay and Neuter

Modern brain-washing has nearly every pet owner racing to the vet to remove hormone-regulating, normal, healthy organs from their pets, and before the animal is even mature. Just today I happened to see a link for an organization that claims “tens of thousands” of dogs and cats die annually just because their sex organs exist. The link wasn’t about overpopulation, but was trying to claim that dogs drop dead left and right from pregnancy, whelping, and having a uterus. This is not only untrue, it’s ridiculous propaganda. Certainly, uterine infections in particular are a terrifying risk any owner of intact, older bitches knows to watch out for. But, the rates do not justify panic, and certainly not pediatric altering.

Altering at any age is damaging, though the procedure has clear benefits as the bitch ages. It becomes a game of weighing costs and benefits, and there are cases where it’s clearly worth doing in a mature animal. There are not any notable benefits to neutering most normal male dogs at any age. Exceptions, in the form of registration issues, health issues, housing multiple intact dogs in one household, poor genetic temperament, etc will always exist. However, there’s almost never any excuse to do it before full adult maturity. It’s not that outlandish to compare it to castrating a male child at five years of age. Why on earth would you do such a thing , and with such proven heart-breaking effects? There’s a long list of reasons, from the purely vain to the vitally important, not to alter before 24 months of age, if ever, and I’m going to discuss some of them here.

The first, the most benign, and the most obvious to the average pet-owning person would be the incidence of thick (and yes, to me, ugly) dead hair that that covers the shoulders, stifle/thigh area, of most neutered and spayed golden retrievers and other coated breeds. Also, the dog’s entire coat often changes. It’s not attractive, it’s harder to maintain, and it tangles more easily. It dries more slowly, making the animal more inclined to hot spots and skin infections, and it’s harder to find ticks and fleas in such a dense, dead, useless coat. Naturally, burrs and such are a bigger issue, too. Meticulous grooming, hand stripping, constant brushing, and routine bathing can keep senior spayed bitches and neutered males looking good, but there’s no question it’s more work.

Another issue is obesity. Absolutely, if your dog is fat it is your fault, whether he’s altered or not. But, there’s zero question that altered dogs need less food. If you’re someone who struggles with projecting human emotions onto animals, and cannot resist feeding pleading eyes, you might consider not altering for this reason too. Most dogs I have had altered needed a drastic cut in their daily intake in order to maintain correct body condition. I also had to increase exercise significantly to maintain attractive and healthy muscle tone, especially if the dog was still working/competing, and needed maximum body condition. This applied heavily to keeping neutered, older sighthounds in safe and proper condition to continue their favorite hobbies of lure coursing and racing. It could apply to service dogs as well, and to dogs that compete in agility and obedience and other such sports.

That leads me to performance animals and pets, and how they develop and grow. Joint health is a major concern for any Golden Retriever owner (and many other breeds of course). Actual hard science shows that your Golden is literally two or more times likely to have hip problems, crippling ACL tears, and other joint problems if you pediatric alter. Read that sentence again, and tell me why you’d EVER do that to your puppy that you love. Here is the study in question: Golden Retriever Altering Study Keeping your puppy lean (also proven by studies) and not altering him are the two biggest things you can do to protect his health, and are two of the main areas where the average American pet owner goes very wrong. I am aware of many well-meaning owners who think their dog is lean, and are even proud of it, but the dog is quite over-weight. They have simply never seen a healthy dog at correct weight. Very few of them exist in the USA outside of the professional dog world. Even there, many conformation show people purposely make dogs fat for the show ring, trying to force maturity on young puppies, and trying to create “breed type” with obesity. Food is not love, and those cookies suddenly won’t seem worth it when your dog is dying years before his time, or suffering horrible pain and needing expensive surgery. If eating is the focal point of your friendship with your pet, or meal time is the highlight of his life, it may be time to introduce a lot more exercise, training, walks, and bonding activities to his routine.

On top of the joint issues, a related reason to not alter young is the normal growth and maturity of the dog. Altered animals grow up narrow, weedy, taller than they’re supposed to be, and with poorly formed chests, narrow immature heads, and oddly straight/incorrect angles in their fronts and rears. Males and females alike will have underdeveloped sex organs, including micro-penis in males. At best the animals are awkward and unattractive looking. At worst, well, nothing that causes such dramatic and un-natural physical changes can possibly be healthy. This improper growth and lack of maturity is likely related to the vast increase in joint and structure issues in pediatric altered animals. I can spot one instantly at the park, from a great distance. Again, you may not care if your pet looks mature and correct, or even have the knowledge to be able to tell. But, surely you care about his health?

If there’s one thing that almost all dog owners worry about, it’s cancer. Animal rights lunatics, well-meaning vets, and even your neighbor will probably tell you that altering prevents cancer. But, they are wrong in a complicated way. It may prevent low incidence, highly treatable cancers such as testicular cancer. However, it increases the incidence of MUCH more common and MUCH more invasive and deadly cancers. In Golden Retrievers, the increase in fatal cancers, even in adult bitches altered as older animals, may even trump the risk of pyometra. This is especially true if one is an attentive and serious dog owner, who would notice a pyometra very early. Here is a study that outlines these serious cancer risks, specific to retrievers: More Science Stuff Here!

Temperament is also shown to be negatively affected by early altering, too. While I myself have observed same sex aggression reduced with altering in males, I have seen it increase in females. I have also witnessed the annoying, socially obtuse, perpetual puppy behavior some pediatric alters exhibit for life.

I have seen owners alter a puppy because they couldn’t handle a heat cycle, or didn’t want a male that learned to lift his leg to pee on walks. Personally, I am hard pressed to imagine circumstances where an owner could not manage one heat cycle for the life long benefit of his animal’s health, even if it means boarding the animal for three weeks, one time. I offer this service for free to buyers of female puppies who are reluctant to manage a female in heat. Also, if one is so rabidly opposed to male dogs exhibiting normal dog behaviors and/or to training the animal to have manners, then perhaps a dog is not the ideal pet.

I will not address pet overpopulation, spare saying that if you are a responsible owner, you won’t contribute to it, and such discussions are ludicrous when making medical decisions for YOUR personal animals.

There is merit to arguments that more casual pet owners, the sort which would never read a blog about dogs and probably haven’t even heard of pyometra, should alter their pets for the greater good. Their dog may benefit from it, given the owner’s casual level of interest in animal husbandry. The over all dog population may benefit since such handlers may be ill equipped to manage intact animals. If such a novice buys a puppy from me, I still maintain that the animal should remain intact until 18 months of age at a minimum, and I will help them with any issues. Once the dog leaves my hands, it’s no longer my decision, but any health guarantee I might offer is void if the dog is either raised/kept fat or altered before maturity.

In summary, altering at any age should be a carefully considered choice. In some breeds, including Golden Retrievers, an attentive owner might consider never altering, or altering at eight years of age, due to cancer risks. In no situation (except the very rare and very bizarre medical exception) is altering any dog before 18 months of age a reasonable choice. I hope this posting helps my friends, clients, and others understand why I am so passionate about this issue, and why it is one of my few blanket policy deal breakers when selecting suitable homes for my puppies. It comes from a place of great caring and a lot of research, as well as both academic study and personal observation.  Thanks for reading!

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