Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Rescue Rant

Multiple times lately I've heard the sentiment of, "why would I want a rescue dog? I don't want to deal with someone else's issues" expressed. I've always known that a lot of people feel this way but this time the statements came from friends - and 'animal' people - who I thought knew better. The problem is that I'm so overwhelmed by reasons why this thought is complete crap that I end up sitting there dumbfounded unable to come up with a clear rebuttal. I usually use the quick and easy point of 'you can find a dog or puppy with any temperament that you could possibly want in rescue and usually it's the people who have issues and give up their pet, not the dog'. I'm pretty sure that no matter what I say, the people who think like this about rescuing pets will continue to believe that all "second hand" pets have baggage...especially since my point is usually answered with multiple stories about "my friend 'poopforbrains' who rescued dog 'iamlivingproofthatallrescuedogsareshit'".

I guess the part that I'm missing is the logic behind the thought that a puppy from a breeder is a 'sure thing' (since you can find puppies galore in shelters, the variable here in peoples' heads must be 'known lines' vs 'great big scary unknown', right?). Let's pretend for a second that nurture isn't even on the table and that it all comes down to nature.

*I'll put in the disclaimer that I grudgingly support responsible breeders... While not so secretly screaming in my head 'rescue all dogs dammit!'*

So, this whole thought that puppies from breeders are some kind of magical blank slate with 'perfect future dog' potential comes down mostly to knowing 'lines', right? This is where I'm stumped. Do people not realize how much variability there is in genetics? You can know the temperament of the mother, father, past litters, great grand can research 'lines' until you're blue in the face..and you STILL aren't guaranteed ANYTHING about the temperament of those puppies. This isn't even taking into account how much of a role nurture played in shaping the temperaments of those parents, past litters, the mother of the puppies is 'outgoing, social with great drive' and the father 'has never met a stranger'. So? How do you know how much of that is a rock solid temperament and how much is good socializing and training? You can't know.

What I understand, and what makes sense scientifically, is the more inbreeding that takes place the less genetic variability you'll have and the more 'certainty' you'll have about the puppies. In what world does this sound like a good idea??? Yeah, if I had a brother who was as charming, funny and good looking as I am I might be tempted to produce some super awesome kids...NOT! And when we find out at age 60 that we both have epilepsy...guess who now has epilepsy too? All of our fantastic little creepy inbred children!

I guess that people who want purebred puppies will just keep getting purebred puppies while sometimes perpetuating the 'rescue dogs are full of issues' myth. To me, temperament is far more important than breed (as in, there is no breed that I love so much that it would make not rescuing worth it for me) and I know that I'll always find my next dog in rescue. I also think that raising and training play a huge role, obviously, in how your dog turns out. I wish people wouldn't see it as 'perfect blank slate' on one side of things and 'messed up full of issues' on the other side...maybe a little more education in genetics is needed?

On another note, here is Ryan's standard run at Regionals a few weeks ago:
The idiot getting lost 23 seconds in is, in fact, not at all inbred (hopefully).

As a good scientist I know that the following has no scientific basis and is purely anecdotal BUT it's interesting in the whole nature/nurture thing: Ryan and his brother Zephyr are both high drive, play and tug with whatever you give them, try any exercise a gazillion times without ever slowing down and getting discouraged (in fact, repeating something seems to make Ryan go even faster..), crazy dogs. None of the other brothers that I've met are like this - they are super low key, barely break a trot doing agility and don't seem to be very interested in toys. Zephyr's owner and I both have other dogs who are also 'high drive', do anything we ask of them at super high speeds kind of dogs. Did we end up with the puppies that were genetically predisposed to be like this? Did we raise them to be like this? Did they feed off of our other dogs? Did we make our other dogs like that or were they also predisposed to be 'high drive'?  Was it a combination of everything? Who knows, but it's interesting! 

Ryan's Gamblers run

Ryan's jumpers run: