By Christie Keith
February 19, 2011
Gina’s trying to get a week’s worth of work done before she heads for the Western Veterinary Conference next week, so of course, you know what that means…
The Scottish Deerhound had its fifteen minutes of fame recently, after the lovely Hickory took top honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Show. I went from getting 2-3 Google alerts a month on the phrase “Scottish Deerhound” to getting several hundred in a few days. Should those of us in the deerhound world worry about popularity cursing our breed?
I don’t think so. Partly that’s because most deerhound breeders are careful to the point of near-paranoia about who gets puppies, but “most” isn’t all, and greed is a huge motivator for a lot of people, so that alone won’t protect the deerhound.
What I think will protect my beloved breed is this: There are almost no Scottish Deerhounds. I mean, we registered around 120 puppies last year in the whole country. Even if breeders wanted to ramp up their breeding capabilities to fill a sudden spike in demand, by the time those few who would be willing to do that could get enough litters on the ground to meet the demand, the demand would have burned itself out. People who pick the kind of dog they want based on a Westminster win aren’t the kind to stick around for two years on a puppy waiting list. And even I, who have been in the breed for decades and was getting my last puppy, Rawley, from a good friend, had to wait a year.
What could happen, and I think is a valid concern, is that our breed could attract more attention from those who are more concerned with ribbons than the dogs who earn them. That could be problematic.
The Scottish Deerhound is a sensitive breed, and doesn’t do well on the road. Hickory lives with her breeders, Scott and Ceil Dove, on a 50-acre farm where she can run and play in the fields and snuggle on the sofa in the evening (which, as Rawley tells me, is what the Scottish Deerhound was bred for).
But since there is no money in this breed — the huge stud fees some breeds command are directly linked to how salable the puppies are, not as pets but to other fanciers, and that’s directly linked to how many dogs of that breed are shown, and how many of them do a lot of post-breed ring winning — it’s always tempting to those showing a really beautiful hound to take some financial support from a co-owner who is, essentially, investing in the dog.
Still, I’m not sure even that will happen. As you can see from how Hickory buried her face in her handler’s side when the paparazzi got too annoying, this isn’t a breed that likes a lot of hoopla. One-on-one, no breed can beat them for loving companionship, but in a crowd, they’re easily overwhelmed.
One other interesting side note to the saga: I was contacted by my local NBC affiliate the day after Westminster, asking if they could come interview me about the breed and tape some footage of Rawley being adorable. I agreed, and when I posted about it to Facebook, it turned out that dozens of deerhound friends all around the country had received similar requests, and gone on their local news, too.
When I was interviewed, I was asked, “What advice would you give to someone interested in getting a Scottish Deerhound?”
I said a bit of what I said here — that there are so few dogs of the breed in the world, that it’s quite hard to get a puppy, and they’d be in for a long wait. I also talked about all the reasons this isn’t the right breed for everyone — the usual patter about their love of running, their size, and all that — but I added something else.
If, I said, you really love this breed, not because they won Westminster but because of their wonderful qualities — the loving way they gaze at you, their deep connection with their people coupled with a calm presence in the house, the way they are wild and free and beautiful in the field (or at the beach or park!) but, once adult, quiet at home, their grace and athleticism — consider adopting a racing Greyhound.
Greyhounds are more similar to the deerhound in personality, temperament, and other lifestyle factors than any other breed. They’re a little smaller — a plus for most people — and they have a short coat — ditto — and as an added bonus, they come in all the colors of the rainbow, unlike deerhounds, who come in any color you might want as long as it’s gray.
Well, my recommendation got cut, as I kind of assumed it would. And as far as I can tell, everyone else who made the same suggestion saw it land on the digital version of the cutting room floor.
Too bad. It demonstrates that many of us who keep and love our purebred dogs, despite all the problems in the purebred dog world, do care, and actively advocate, for dogs less fortunate than ours. And that we’re not selfishly hoarding all potential deerhound homes for ourselves, and ignoring the plight of our breed’s cousins, the greyhounds.
And, had even a few of those cut words aired, some dogs might have found good homes.
Interested in adopting a greyhound? Start here.
Photos: Top: Scottish Deerhound Connection logo by KT Jorgensen. Second: Rawley at 12 weeks old,Â with me, by Gina. Third: Lillie with roses, by me. Fourth: Dylan, AKA Ch. Caber Feidh Rockin’ Robin, FCh, SC, GRC, ORC, VC, in the field, courtesy of Terri Campbell. Bottom: A Greyhound. Really. Not a Scottish Deerhound! (Stock photo.)