Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A German Shepherd arrived at Toronto Animal Services last week with what appears to be some kind of back end problem. Whenever he stands still, it looks like his legs are kind of buckling under his weight. When he walks, it much less noticeable. It's difficult to tell if it's in the hips or in the knees.
TAS has a policy of not putting dogs who are not healthy up for general adoption. Other avenues are sought out to find homes for these dogs but still, their chances for finding owners in a decent time frame are more limited.
This GSD, now named Riley, is a very amiable fellow, and so we all waited anxiously for the vet to finish Riley's health check and give us the diagnosis. The vet was undecided but then finally, with some "consultation" from one of the staff, decided that Riley was well enough for general adoption ... but just.
The first time I took Riley out for a walk, he got several compliments because he is, after all, a very handsome dog. One was from a woman who seemed to be pretty familiar with the breed. She talked about his coat (needed a brushing but otherwise healthy and thick) and his size (a little underweight but with a proper diet ...) and about his stature which was tall at the shoulders and slanting down to his hips. I mentioned that he had problems with weakness in his hind end which was why his back sloped like that when he stood still but she took no notice of that and said that I was very lucky to have such a great dog. I thought she was just being generous.
A week later, I saw this documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, on CBC and then it hit me that the woman wasn't being generous, she was being honest. She really did think Riley was a great dog and apparently, if I enter Riley into a dog show under the auspices of the British Kennel Club, they would find him to be a great dog as well.
If you've watched the doc (it's essential information, really), you'll have noticed that in the segment focusing on GSDs, all the champion dogs in the ring have walking disabilities. It's so fucked up but that's what the show breeders breed for now. Half dog, half frog as the narrator says.
Now I always thought I was pretty well informed about the dog world. After watching Pedigree Dogs Exposed, I realized how wrong I was. There's a whole sick world out there of show breeders, creating their horrible abberations, inflicting their artificial breed standards on generations of long suffering dogs, all in the name of vanity.
Riley's hind end weakness isn't nearly as bad as what the GSD's in the documentary are suffering, but still, it is a minor handicap he'll have to live with. And live with he does with no complaints. That's why Riley really is a great dog. He's uncomplaining, friendly, smart, focused. He's a champion for the same reason every other dog, pedigree or not, is a champion: because he'll make a great best friend.