Tag Archives: dog health

Blue Blue Merle

Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication aka Vinnie Westminster 2012 Best CollieWhile watching the 2012 Westminster dog show, this dog was the one I wanted. What a beauty! Then a Collie-knowledgeable friend commented that he should never have won Best of Breed because of his merle-to-merle breeding. Huh?

I started googling. 2012 Best of Breed Collie GCH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie for short, is son of Wyndlair Avalanche, aka Aiden, top breeding collie in the US. Aiden was the only pup born from a deliberate merle to merle breeding, and he is deaf and almost if not fully blind. Because of that, Aiden has never been shown. But being AKC registered, his pups from a registered female can be registered, shown and bred.

The patterns of white and colour called merle are produced by a congenital glitch that might be accompanied by blindness, or partial vision, and deafness. It’s like white blue-eyed cats being deaf. Lots of dogs, including non-merle looking ones, carry the gene for merle coats, so it may or may not come out in their pups. Mixed with non-merle genetic material, the chances of getting the physical problems of the merle gene are not significantly great.

Breeders take a dog’s full lineage into account in choosing parental pairs in order to minimize congenital problems. That’s why pedigree papers go back so many generations. You do not deliberately breed a pair likely to pass on major physical problems. Well, to produce Vinnie’s dad, his kennel did.

Double Merle Collie

Wyndlair Avalanche aka AidenIt seems I’m not the only one starstruck by a dog like Vinnie. The demand for merles has increased, but getting them is luck of the draw. It goes against all good breeding practices to breed two merles together in hopes of increasing the odds of getting a greater proportion of merle puppies. Wyndlair Avalanche, Aiden, is the product of such a breeding choice. The only pup of the litter, Aiden is vision- and hearing-impaired, but he has a magnificent merle coat.

ad for all merle litterMaybe from him would come the jackpot – an all merle litter, as was advertised  by another kennel about pups sired by Aiden.

This is breeding to supply market demand. That is what puppy mills do.  A movie makes every kid want a Dalmatian? Let’s get the assembly line moving and fill that demand! Labradoodles become the new fad? Crank ‘em out! The exotic look of merle Collies becomes the new must-have? A reputable breeder takes chances with the physical soundness of their pups and the future of the breed? Apparently so. Aiden’s pups sell like hotcakes.

With his son Vinnie winning Best of Breed at Westminster, dad and son’s stud fees just went way up. Vinnie produces beautiful puppies, I’m sure, and with him Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie, Westminster Best of Breed Collie 2012not being a double merle, they might be physically sound. But they carry in their genetic structure the ticking timebomb of deafness, blindness and other congenital problems. That will affect the health and wellbeing of Collies for many years to come.

I had been hoping Vinnie would win the Herding Group so that he could vie for Best in Show. I am very glad now that he didn’t. Sorry, Vinnie.

darlene austin and magic sept 2010 st thomas fire musterFrom my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 23, 2012, reposted with fond memories of Darlene Austin, my “Collie-knowledgeable friend”, and her beautiful Magic.

The 2017 Westminster Dog Show was held Feb 13th and 14th. Congratulations to  Rumor, the German Shepherd, and all the dogs.

(see comments below)

Schmeichel, the Greatest Dane

Peter Schmeichel 1991 from WikipediaThe name Schmeichel is well-known to two groups of people, soccer fans and Coronation Street fans.  Peter Schmeichel is a great Danish goalkeeper who played for Manchester United.  It was in his honour that young Chesney Brown named his Great Dane puppy.

Schmeichel the dog has been on Coronation Street since 2003.  We watched him grow up.  Sometimes we wondered where he was when months would pass without sight of or reference to him.  Then he’d reappear – and steal the scene.

This week, on Corrie’s Canadian airtime, Schmeichel was euthanized.  It was the saddest death scene I’ve seen in a long time.  He had not been feeling well and liver disease, probably cancer, was the vet’s diagnosis.  It was a very sad time for Schmeichel’s fans and fans of Young Great Dane Schmeichel and ChesChes and his friend Kirk.  They have both been Schmeichel’s lifelong faithful companions.

Liver disease claimed the life of my beloved German Shepherd Jack, so I know how Chesney feels.  Here’s information on symptoms and treatments.  It’s not a problem associated more with Great Danes than other breeds.  There are those too.  Addison’s Disease, bloat or gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism and cardiomyopathy are named as particular dangers for the breed.

Gastric torsion or bloat is common in all deep-chested dogs.   Precautions to take are avoid vigorous exercise right before or after eating, feed more small meals rather than one large one, and put food and water bowls in an elevated stand to lessen chances of gulping air down with the food (click here to see my easy way to raise bowls).  If your dog has severe stomach discomfort, get him or her to a vet Schmeichel's death scene with Ches and vetimmediately.  Gastric torsion (flipping and twisting of organs) can kill very quickly.

Cardiomyopathy is associated with either heart beat irregularity or heart congestion.  It claimed the lives of two Doberman friends of mine (here).  It can kill quickly or slowly, but either way, it’s not curable.

Hip dysplasia is where the bone doesn’t fit properly in its socket and is a common problem especially in large breeds (but can affect small dogs too).  Care taken when they are pups can help.  A food that helps their body and bones grow at the same rate so their bones give adequate support for their weight.  Keeping your dog from getting Schmeichel with Ches in clinic penoverweight at all ages avoids extra strain being put on bones.

Like other giant breeds, Great Danes don’t have a long life span: 7 to 10 years, so Schmeichel’s on-screen lifetime was accurate.  Still, like Ches, I hoped he’d live another ten.  Ches went through every emotion and response when faced with the finality of his dog’s illness, but he reluctantly made the right decision.  Weigh the probabilities in pain and trauma for the dog against the possible outcomes, and don’t let the dog suffer needlessly so that you feel you did everything you could.

Schmeichel 4 on Coronation Street set with trainer, Ozzie and actorsI wish the real Schmeichel all the best in retirement.  He, also named Schmeichel, is the 4th dog to play the role, taking it over from his grandfather.  He truly will be missed.  (He was, not surprisingly, my scene of the week pick.)

In Memoriam: Mya

Last night a friend called.  She and her husband had to put their lovely young dog to Doberman Pinscher Myasleep.  Mya, a beautiful Doberman Pinscher.  On Saturday, she was ill and her vet diagnosed her with Dilated Cardiomyopathy.  They were familiar with this heart disease, a congestive failure too common in Dobermans.  They knew it meant probably only months left of life.  But with Mya it went blazingly fast.  By Tuesday, she was so sick and tests showed nothing could be done.  So they did the only humane thing they could.

The Doberman they’d had before, Sasha, also developed it.  They took her to the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and found out that it’s a common congenital problem for several breeds of large dogs, but especially prevalent in Dobermans.  It usually hits anywhere between 2 and 6 years of age.  Perhaps Dobes are more prone to it because of their huge chests and huge hearts.  Both Sasha and Mya had big hearts and loved their people and their friends, both dog and human, deeply.

Doberman research at U of Guelph

The disease progressed in Sasha quite rapidly, but slowly compared to Mya.  Sasha became part of a research experiment at the OVC in Guelph.  A doctor wanted to find out why this disease is so prevalent in Dobes and can it be eradicated.  After a few months of living with it, Sasha succumbed to it.

My dog Jack missed Sasha; they were best friends.  We’d go to the park he usually met her at, and he’d watch the road.  Every truck that sounded like hers would cause him to run to the fence, looking and hoping.  Jack never got to know Mya.  He was getting old and sick himself, and Mya was a very rambunctious puppy.

My new dogs, after Jack passed away, became friends with the young adult Mya.  She was much bigger than either of them, but they played and chased each other.  They’d just hang out together and go to whomever they thought might have treats and mooch.  Mya’s long, pointed nose would push into your pocket to see what you had.

We ran into her just last Friday evening, along with several others of Mya’s good friends.  So she had a fine time, running and wrestling.  That was her last run, but it was a good one.

When your house is too quiet

Last night, petting the cats lying beside me, I thought of how quiet Mya’s house must dogs wearing poppiesseem without her there.  She was an only pet.  It would be different for me, I thought, if one died there are others.  There still would be the life sounds of 4-footed creatures.  But then I remembered when Jack died and, soon after, a cat Henry.  With both of them, there was a huge hole in the house.  A void felt by humans and other cats alike.  New ones come along and make their own place in heart and household, but the memory and loss of the ones who are gone remain.

You will be remembered, Mya, and you are loved.  Rest in peace, beautiful girl. Feb. 6, 2007 – June 28, 2011