First, it appears that Darrell and his other brother Darrell are working on the goatheads. Their progress is slow and steady. Much to their dismay (I’m giving them characteristics they probably lack), the rain continues and the goatheads are outstripping them. So, today, I bought a “hula hoe”. It has sharp blades on both sides of the stirrup-shaped head. You set the head on the ground and drag it through the beastly goatheads. It severs their stems. NEVER RAKE goatheads because you will spread the thorns that may have developed. I’ll have the wheelbarrow nearby and lift the plants into the wheelbarrow. Periodically I’ll dump them into heavy trash bags.
I am planning to breed Chase to a pretty red girl named Daisy in September. We are doing her health testing now so it seemed to me a bit of information about what I’m looking for and how I use test results might be enlightening. My normal routine is to have hip and elbow x-rays taken which I submit to The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to examine for evidence of hip dysplasia – now or in the future. If there is question about one or both hips, I will have another set of x-rays taken to submit to PennHip, which takes a different look at them. Daisy’s left hip is “mild due to subluxation” according to the OFA. She’s scheduled for a PennHip x-ray next week. It would help so much if her mother’s hip evaluations were posted on the OFA website, but all that is listed are results for her eyes and the Degenerative Myelopathy test Having health information about the parents is part of determining a dog’s fitness for breeding. Daisy has “Normal” elbows. Daisy’s dad has OFA Good hips. Chase has OFA Good hips. In my opinion, Hip Dysplasia is not directly heritable. So, you may breed a “Good” dog to an “Excellent” dog and get a “Fair” or a “Mild” rated hip. You may breed a “Mild” to a “Fair” and get “Good” hips. When dealing with the hips, I try to always breed to a better rated dog – and then I cross my fingers. It is my most sincere belief that OFA and the IRS are closely related. All you can do is your best – and then hope like crazy.
I also test for Degenerative Myelopathy (“DM”), unless both parents have been tested and are DM Normal as is the case with Daisy. DM is a neurological disorder that, if it becomes symptomatic at all, will show up when the dog is at least 9 years old. Only dogs that carry two genes for DM will ever become symptomatic. So, as a breeder, I want to be sure that no puppy is more than a carrier (has only one DM gene). Daisy and Chase are both are DM clear, so we do not have to worry at all about this disorder in the puppies.
If the parents have not been tested for PRA (an eye disease that will cause blindness if the dog carries two genes for it), or are line-cleared, but no one has been tested for several generations, I test the prospective bride. Daisy’s test is back and she is PRA clear. She will undergo a second eye exam this month during which the veterinary opthomologist will look for signs of eye disease. We used to call this a CERF, but now OFA has taken over the program and it is renamed. Chase is PRA clear and his annual CERF tests have all been normal.
There are also cosmetic tests for which DNA markers have been discovered. I test my dogs for “Pink” which is “ee” or “Clear Red.” It means the dog does not have black hair mixed with the red colored coat. Some “ee” puppies grow up to be a pale cream and some darken to appear to be a regular red. There is debate about whether the “ee” also results in a lack of black pigment on the nose, lips, and around the eyes. Chase is EE – meaning he does not carry pink. Daisy’s results are due back by the first of next week. However, since it takes two “e” genes, and Chase has only “E” genes to contribute, we will not have pink puppies. I also test for “fluff”. While fluffy Cardigan puppies are about as cute as they can be, the softer, more profuse, sometimes longer coat is not well-suited to dogs that are outside a great deal or that work in herding or tracking. Chase does carry the “fluff” gene, so Daisy’s results on this test are of immense interest to me. Just for fun, I also ordered a test for the recessive black. In many breeds, black is a dominant color. That is not the case in Cardigans. Black is recessive to all the other colors. Whether or not Daisy carries black is unimportant in this litter because Chase does not carry it so there will be no black puppies. However, if Daisy carries black, some of her children may carry it as well and, if bred to a dog that carries it, will produce tri-color Cardigans. It’s only a point of interest.
No dog is perfect. The job of the breeder is to produce puppies with few (or no) health-related issues. I prioritize my breeding — Temperament is always first. Who cares if a dog is healthy or beautiful if you cannot live with it. Second, I breed for health and soundness — a long, happy life is the goal. Finally, I breed for beautiful — a dog that meets the Standard for our breed, a dog that is solid, balanced, and moves strongly. Sometimes we hit the jackpot and get a stunning dog that is sound and sweet-tempered. THAT is a win.
In the course of doing health testing to rule out disease and physical flaws, we receive test results. I absolutely believe in making those results publicly available. It is helpful to others who might be breeding to see the results from particular breeding combinations. Since my goal is to leave this breed a little better than I found it, I am opposed to secret test results. Even more odious is when someone sees the health results and bashes the breeder who had the tests performed and then posts them. How many breeders want to be publicly bashed because they posted information that Daisy has one hip that was rated Mild Due to Subluxation. Driving our conscientious breeders underground by a witch hunt does not advance the breed.
I’ll let you know soon if Daisy carries Pink, Fluff, and Black. Meanwhile watch for reports about this cute girl and her studly boyfriend.