Every February, in the weeks surrounding the Westminster Dog Show, I hear plenty of biased commentary and heated discussion about mutts versus purebred dogs. This year, the rhetoric has reached new heights- with all the speculation about who will become the Obama family’s “First Fido,” even “dogless” people feel compelled to join in the bantering and bickering.
Between my own dogs and my beloved patients, I have plenty of first-hand familiarity with the virtues and vices of the purebred versus mongrel experience. I can assure you, there are plenty of both! This is why I shrug my shoulders when confronted with people bent on convincing me that their preference should be my preference. Would I ever try to convince someone that one is better? No way- I’m a big believer in “live and let live” as long as no one gets hurt. Trust me, after raising three children and working with more dog loving clients than I can count, I’ve learned to pick my battles wisely. For example, if a client tells me their dog is a “German Shepherd”, yet I see before me an “Australian Shepherd,” I don’t try to correct my client. I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. No harm done because, whether the dog is from Australia or Germany I will treat his diabetes the same!
Just as in the case of mistaken shepherd identity, I choose not to participate in the battle of whether mutts or purebreds are superior. If I do manage to get suckered into such discussion, I employ a unique strategy. I encourage the debaters to adjourn their arguments and work together towards a common goal. You see, whether a person prefers mongrels or purebreds, what they have in common, besides their love of dogs, is the desire to eradicate puppy mills (large scale breeding operations that produce puppies for profit- often inhumanely). I suggest they use their mutual passion to teach others to never purchase a puppy online, sight (and site) unseen. And, be extremely cautious about an impulsive pet store purchase. They should invest their energy telling people that by buying online or from a pet shop, they may be inadvertently committing the next 10 to 15 years of their lives to taking care of an adorable, but inherently unhealthy, product of a puppy mill. One less purchase from puppy mills, even indirectly, is one step closer to their extinction.
What happens when I interrupt the “great debate” with my suggestion? Sometimes I’m viewed as if I am from another planet. Most of the time, my comments prompt some constructive and positive discussion with heads nodding in agreement, at least for a few minutes before the conversation returns to squabbling about mutts versus purebreds!
Wishing you and your dog good health,
Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine