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BREED RESCUE – THE CASE FOR PUREBRED DOG BREEDERS
By Dan Sayers

"This article first appeared in the October 2010 AKC Gazette Irish Water Spaniel breed column and is reproduced here with permission. To subscribe, visit www.akc.org/pubs."

While sitting down to lunch with co-workers the other day, our receptionist indicated that she and her fiancée were discussing the possible addition of a puppy to their new family.  Barbara had Goldens growing up and she wanted her very own ‘first dog’ to be one of these extraordinarily companionable Retrievers.  My thought upon hearing this was that hers was an informed decision, since she was already experienced with the breed and its social, physical, and grooming requirements.  Of all the dogs available to her, this outgoing young lady would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable companion (other than her soon-to-be husband, of course.)

So, I was somewhat perplexed by the response from a few of the people sitting at the lunch table.  Jason and Naomi asked in unison why Barbara wouldn’t ‘rescue’ a shelter dog instead?  Their tone was somewhat accusatory, inferring that an otherwise perfectly suitable dog would be sentenced to death if she acquired her dog from any other source.  How much more noble, they proposed, would it be for Barbara to actually “save” a life, as opposed to merely “adopting” one, or, heaven forbid, “buying” it?  The whole conversation seemed less focused on providing a dog with a good home than it did with the desire to see that someone else does the politically correct thing.

Our impromptu exchange that afternoon got me to thinking about what this word “rescue” means and how it pertains to those of us who are committed to the health and welfare of purebred dogs.  Over the past two decades, breed parent club’s have formally organized their own rescue groups and have, dependant upon the breed, been either called into action only sporadically or been all but overwhelmed by the volume of dogs in need of care and rehoming.  Through a network of cross-country volunteers, these clubs have time and again answered the call for any dog in distress, no matter the circumstances that caused its situation to become dire.  Monies used to facilitate a rescue are raised through private contributions and through often-innovative events that accompany specialty shows and various functions held throughout the year.  Although the focus is always on a parent club’s specific breed, very often a dog that “looks like” the breed in question will benefit directly from the hands-on action and the none-too-deep pockets of club members.

What if it were possible to rescue more than just individuals?  What if complete families or even entire communities could be rescued?  Well, this is precisely the role of the very best breeders of purebred dogs.  With every thoughtfully planned litter, tested for physical and mental soundness and carefully placed in homes that last each dog’s lifetime, breeders are literally ‘rescuing’ their breeds from oblivion. This is as true for the Golden Retriever as it is for the Irish Water Spaniel, for without breeders’ clear understanding of and adherence to the Standard, any breed is vulnerable to disappearing.  Visionary breeders understand that our dogs are more than commodities to be salvaged by the well intentioned.  They are a living testament to the incredible journey that both our species share together, and their lives are every bit as worthy of being rescued.

The next time you hear it suggested that the ‘rescued’ dog is the only dog to get, please don’t hesitate to let the speaker know that you’ve been voluntarily rescuing an entire breed for a long, long time.