Scottish Deerhound Connection: The aftermath of Westminster

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.

Some people invest simply because that’s how they get their pleasure, being the co-owner of a big winner. But some are looking for a financial return, not just ribbons and glory.

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.

Best of all, there are thousands of greyhounds looking for homes every day, all over the country. You can actually get one!

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,  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.)

Filed under: pets, connected — Christie Keith @ 11:07 am

24 Comments »

  1. Every time the greyhound adoption folks are out when I run errands, it’s all I can do not to adopt one. I love the breed, always have.

    Guess I need to make room for Driver the foxhound when he retires AND for a greyt retired racer some day!

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 19, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  2. I originally converted “120 puppies” to “120 litters” when I read that — which for a big dog, means I (in my head) overestimated the population by a factor of maybe ten. Then I read it again. Oh.

    Wow. There really aren’t very many deerhounds.

    I counted the 2010 litters registered with ESCR, the only English shepherd registry that publishes any registration information. 59 litters. Many litters are not registered with ESCR, though there’s no way to really know how many. But 59 litters is a basement figure.

    And as we are frequently told, our breed doesn’t even exist.

    Not much to add, other than, wow, not very many deerhounds.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — February 19, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  3. I found this a bit confusing:

    “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.”

    because Hickory DOES have a co-owner:

    http://www.twincities.com/news/ci_17407467?source=rss&nclick_check=1

    Can you expand a bit on the point you were trying to make here?

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 19, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  4. I know she does. I’m not sure on what’s not clear… we might start to see some “investors” who expect more than ribbons and glory, and think they’ll get MONEY. We don’t have that now, because, you know… no money.

    Comment by Christie Keith — February 19, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

  5. It’s fairly common for people with money to become co-owners and underwrite the cost of campaigning a top show dog. In the ’80s, there was a huge fight over a Westminster BIS — the original owner wanted her retired as a pet (which is what she was originally) with some work towards obedience titles. As I recall, the owner ended up taking a second on her home to buy them out.

    There really isn’t much money in investing in a show dog, though. It’s not like a racehorse, an animal who in theory could return a massive amount on investment in earnings and stud fees (look up Seattle Slew sometime for that). The people who put up money to underwrite a show dog’s career are really in it just for bragging rights — although the people they’re actually paying, the handlers, can pull down some big bucks for campaigning a top dog. Show handlers have contracts that spell out extra payments for winning — so much for best of breed, more for a group placement, group win, BIS, Best in Show at a national specialty, Best In Show at Eukanuba/Westminster/Crufts, etc. Plus expenses, of course, and they can be considerable. I was at Crufts the first year the UK changed their quarantine law and a lot of American dogs came over. There was one who ended up winning the group, and the handler sent for his partner to help prepare the dog for the finale. The co-owners footed the bill, and I don’t have to tell you that the last-minute purchase of a first-class fare from SF to London ain’t pin money.

    But even on a less-high flying example, the costs of winning at the top levels are so expensive that a handler with client whose dog has has the potential to complete at top levels will often suggest the names of rich people who are looking to buy-in as co-owners.

    Fortunately for the original owners and the dogs, at the end of a show career, most of these top dogs enjoy the lives of housepets, with no “value” to their investors, who move on to put money into the Next Big Dog.

    I have always though about it as the social status of owning a racehorse for people who are well-off but not THAT well-off to run with the super-rich who play the racehorse game. And there is some cross-over: The head of the group of friends who won the Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide? Dog show people. :)

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 19, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  6. Yes. I’m aware of these things. But the phrase “it’s always tempting to … take some financial support from a co-owner” in the context of what I thought I was understanding Christie to say (up until that point) was creating the impression that that does NOT go on in the Scottish Deerhound world. When – of course – it does.

    So I was just interested in some clarification of what she was getting at. Hopefully without too much pain.

    I DO have some awareness of these things. Do some googling on Kirby and John Oulton and LouAnn King.

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 19, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  7. Not much to add, other than, wow, not very many deerhounds.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — February 19, 2011

    Not to mention … in a small breed like Deerhounds, most of the puppies are sold back and forth amongst a small group of people who all mostly know each other and will almost all registered their dogs, so it’s probably a very accurate count of the number of Deerhounds in the country.

    Compare that to the people who buy a, say, Golden or Lab and say, “what they heck, it’s just a pet” and never pay to register — or those Goldens and Labs who aren’t registerable at all.

    There are no doubt THOUSANDS more Labradors born every year than the AKC registration figures reflect, but the Deerhound numbers? Probably spot on.

    And Lis Pat…oh yeah, I forgot about Kirby. THAT was mess.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 19, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  8. Has Lis posted in this thread?

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 19, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  9. I confuzled my small dogs for a minute … multitasking. :)

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 19, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

  10. Fortunately, most sighthounds are large and therefore not appealing to the average person who wants a family dog between 40-60 lbs. I doubt if Hickory’s win will change that. This not a breed that is easily commercially bred in mills, another plus. This means as Christie pointed out, it will take 2 years before enough litters are on the ground to tempy the Faddists, and by then, they’ll have moved on to another breed that matches their decor better.
    I am thanking my breed’s lucky stars that our BOB got passed over in Group in favor of the ambulatory Swiffer. Safe for another year! We IG folk have enuff problems with unscrupulous breeders as it is!

    Comment by Deb — February 19, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  11. Has Lis posted in this thread?

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 19, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    I haven’t.

    I’m glad deerhounds are relatively safe from Sudden Popularity, but I’m attending a science fiction convention, and don’t have much to add to this particular subject.

    Gina, the convention I’m attending is Boskone. Next year, our Guest of Honor is John Scalzi.

    Comment by Lis — February 19, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  12. I question the assertion that the aforementioned Swiffer qualifies as ambulatory.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — February 19, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  13. Hi Christie – –
    What A terrific discussion of your “favorites”! This is such a fab breed – – I have only had the pleasure of knowing a few, but loved them immediately.

    I am a giant breed devotee (on our 4th rescued Great Dane), and it still amazes me that the number one reason Danes are relinquished is “they got too big”… I am grateful there are precious few Deerhounds so that, as you so artfully pointed out, the “impulse” will have worn off by the time a pup is available.

    Also, thanks for the smooth “hand-off” to consider greyhounds. I hadn’t thought about how similar these breeds are.

    Great job, as always! SO awesome to be a part of this team!

    Comment by Dr. Robin — February 20, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  14. Oh God, co ownership nightmares. I don’t think any breed is ever spared them.

    In Frenchies, the lawsuits over the past few years have seemed to by fly so thick and so fast that “keep your head down and your mouth shut” has almost become a mantra.

    As to this:

    most of the puppies are sold back and forth amongst a small group of people who all mostly know each other

    It took me three years of concerted searching, networking and phone calls to convince someone to sell me my first show Frenchie.

    Now, every third person I run into blithely tells me “Oh, French Bulldogs – my brother/sister/grocer breeds those”.

    Nostalgia – I has it.

    Comment by Frogdogz — February 20, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  15. And worse – a colleague at work, upon learning I was a dog person – said to me “Oh, my wife is involved in French Bulldog rescue”.

    French Bulldog Rescue. Would have been unthinkable not that many years ago . . . . . :-(

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 20, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

  16. Thanks for trying to direct attention to retired racing greyhounds! My greyhound is curled up next to me as I write this. They are sweet, smart, quiet, and amazingly beautiful when they run. They are sprinters so they don’t need as much exercise as some people think and can be great apartment pets. Consider adopting a 45 mile an hour couch potato!

    Comment by kb — February 20, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  17. I can remember the first story I ever read about a puppy mill raid that involved a Frenchie. I even remember the name of the dog – Darla. She had one ear – the other had been cut off, possibly to get rid of her identifying tattoo.

    This year, my little tiny Ontario, Canada based rescue has had six foster Frenchies. Six. A decade ago, we weren’t registering six litters in the entire country, in the entire year.

    Stateside, rescues who once handled a dozen dogs a year are handling twice that per week. We’re seeing Frenchies pulled from kill shelters – Frenchies no one came looking for. For the first time ever, I have heard of French Bulldog rescues having to say ‘no’ – we have no more room, we have not enough money.

    We are the poster breed for over popularity in a short period of time – from obscurity to celebrity pet du jour.

    Comment by Frogdogz — February 20, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

  18. Retired greyhounds are amazingly adaptable. As a breed, they are exceptionally eager to please their handlers. I wonder if the same could be said about sled dogs.

    Comment by Approvalseeker — February 21, 2011 @ 12:45 am

  19. I remember the stunned outrage with which it was reported on our breed email discussion list that someone saw a Papillon – a PAPILLON! – for sale in some petstore. There was much gossip about how someone let a Papillon slip to a commercial breeder (the Papillon community was pretty tight in those days, too) and much gossip when presumably the culprit was discovered. Apparently said individual claimed to have been tricked by the commercial breeder seeking the dog, while other stories said that $$$ simply talked.

    And yes – I’m talking about one dog. Papillons frequently have small litters – sometimes even singleton litters. Not particularly financially productive. So early on, it’s a pretty sure bet that the commercial breeders were using larger Poms, smaller Shelties – whatever it took to boost the breed size. And registering – and selling – them ALL as Papillons – riding on the breed’s popularity following Kirby’s win at Westminster.

    There was a pretty rapid and pretty dramatic “shift” in breed type once this started going on. Which makes sense when you consider the use of other breeds to boost the numbers. And since this all pre-dated AKC’s Frequent Sire DNA program (not by much, unfortunately) there was no way to prove anything. People would (and still do, to this day) proudly show me their “Papillon” purchased from a pet shop or over the Internet or from some local breeder, and I frequently find myself looking at a dog that resembles a Papillon about as much as a Collie resembles a Golden Retriever. Yeah, they both have hair, but that’s about as far as it goes.

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 21, 2011 @ 5:48 am

  20. @Approvalseeker: Why wouldn’t it be? Of course they’re not the “same” as greyhounds, nor are they the same as pit bulls, but all you have to do is read some of the stories of sled dogs that have been posted and linked to here and you’ll see that they form deep bonds with humans — those they work with, and those they “retire” with later.

    But does it matter? Do they have to be “exceptionally eager to please” to deserve a happy life and to be treated as individuals?

    Comment by Christie Keith — February 21, 2011 @ 9:37 am

  21. The assistant manager at our local shelter once told me more or less that he could see no reason to make an effort to work with or save dogs with “issues” because, after all, there were so many NICE dogs that needed homes. He referred to all dogs as “it”, which I thought was revealing.

    Apparently for a lot of people, any dog that doesn’t meet their definition, often rather narrow, of “nice”, is disposable. Over at YesBiscuit one commenter clearly put “strays and ferals” in the Not Worthy Of Consideration category.

    It needs to be repeated over and over, as PC does, that the statement “Every dog deserves an individual evaluation” means just that, and it includes “working dogs”, fighting dogs, “livestock (puppy mill) dogs… all of them, not just so-called “pet dogs”.

    Comment by Susan Fox — February 21, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  22. As long as that individual evaluation is not the Sue Sternberg Assess-A-Hand, of course. (This comment is not directed to any of the posters in this thread – just acknowledging that even with “individual evaluations”, some shelter personnel continue to insist that only “bombproof dogs” are worth the resources.)

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — February 21, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  23. Since the WVM conference was mentioned, well, uh, I have some requests for attendance.

    Kitty Kindergarten – you can watch re-airing on the conf. TV
    New standards for treating heart failure in the dog – also on TV.
    Some behavior thingey for dogs.
    Feline Cardiomyopathies: Diagnosis and Treatment, 5 PM today
    Couple of EM sessions – up to Dr. Tony
    Dx of canine hypothyroidism – today 5 pm
    Treatment of Infectious Bronchitis and Rhinitis in cats – Lappin Lappin! Today at 10 AM
    Practically everything in Gastroenterology
    Everything in Immunology (sorry!), especially the Q&A with Richard Ford
    Infectious diseases – Lepto
    Antimicrobial resistance Part II – 4-5 PM today
    Canine mast cell tumors – 2 PM today

    And of course something in reptiles and birds.

    Comment by CathyA — February 22, 2011 @ 6:14 am

  24. Oh crap, It’s Tuesday isn’t it?

    …….banging head on desk.

    Nevah mind.

    Comment by CathyA — February 22, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

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