Santos: Glorified Breeders


IN FEBRUARY 2007, I was at the office of the Philippine Canine Club, Inc. along the busy and humid E. Rodriguez Sr. Boulevard in Cubao, Quezon City.

I was both apprehensive and excited at the same time. I was already into my seventh year of being with a golden retriever but this was my first time to take the initial step in acquiring a show quality golden retriever. I was there to hopefully get referral to a reputable breeder.

I considered myself lucky because at that time, the personnel I inquired with told me that a popular breeder with several champion golden retrievers has a new litter on the ground. I was provided with the contact details and in no time I was able to get in touch with her.

Over the phone I was told that the sire and dam of the puppies have earned their respective Hall of Fame title. In the dog sport, that was a big deal. And I was so happy to learn that since I was the first to inquire, I will be given the pick of the litter.

On March 30, 2017, I was on my way home to Pangasinan with my very first show quality puppy who was sleeping soundly by my side. You may say that acquiring my first show dog was like a whirlwind romance. And you are right in thinking that in most whirlwind romances, a disaster is bound to happen.

When the puppy grew up, she did not turn out to be the way the breeder told me she would be. She was a big girl, with a big head; substantial bone, affectionate demeanor, and sweet face. But she was structurally unsound. She lacked the ideal skeletal angulations, depth of chest, tail carriage, and movement. In the jargon of purebred dog enthusiasts, she lacked the “type” called for by the breed standard. As such, she was presumed to be unfit to fulfill the phrase that says, “form follows function”. With such a conformation, my show quality golden retriever will not be able to perform her purpose as a hunting (gun) dog.

Phenotypically, she did not look like the quintessential golden retriever. And months later, I would learn that both of her parents were never cleared of hip dysplasia. Despite her inadequacies, I was still able make her a Philippine Grand Champion. And in the course of doing so, I have learned some sad truths about the dog sport in general.

A popular breeder does not always mean an ethical and quality breeder. Some of them tend to breed more litters than what is ideal. The more puppies are produced, the more show dogs are produced. These show dogs will likely become champions attributed to the breeder. The sheer number and frequency of breeding litters among these breeders restrict their capability to properly screen breeding pairs on structure, behavior, and health, and also to properly screen prospective puppy owners.

A mediocre dog may become a champion; it may take longer for it to earn its title, but if you have the resources, you may keep on showing the dog until it earns the necessary championship points. This is possible because there are judges who are not very familiar with the breed standard. Also, there are many other mediocre dogs being shown. If you didn’t do proper research and subsequently would be lacking with the correct motivation before acquiring your show quality puppy, you would end up with glorified breeders and mediocre dogs.

In 2016, Duterte was elected because his campaign rhetoric was popular. He presented himself as a strongman but a populist who vowed to take away the power from the so-called “oligarchy,” get rid the country of corruption, stand against China by riding the jet ski and put an end to the drug menace in six months, among others. Those who voted for him did not bother to take a second look on his qualifications.

Although it was said that his community was progressive and modern, he was already more than 20 years in office, and the talk of extrajudicial killings was already hounding him. He embodied the collective frustrations and aspirations of the ordinary Filipino, and that was enough. Two and a half years after he was sworn into office, it appears that most of his campaign promises were just that; rhetoric.

He is indeed a strongman. But the “oligarchs” are still in power, the serial corruption in the government is still around, the Panatag Shoal is already under Chinese control, and sadly; the drug problem is still an enigma.

Popular. Glorified. But reeks of mediocrity.

In 2010, I finally had my “genuine” show quality golden retriever. Her dam and sire were both sound and have their respective heart, hip, and eye clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. But it took me at least three years of waiting for that well-bred puppy. That was how determined I was not to be party to the degradation of the quality of purebred dogs, especially that of the golden retriever.

In that course of time spent “waiting,” I photographed dogs in the conformation ring to familiarize myself on the ideal structure, movement, temperament, and appearance of outstanding golden retrievers. I also researched on the pedigrees of successful bloodlines in terms of producing sound and healthy dogs and sought the guidance of master breeders. Moreover, I discovered that it was necessary to forge meaningful relationships with them.

This May, I hope that we will not make the same mistake I did when my inexperience and impatience got the better of me.

To channel Ninotchka Rosca, “Will we stand against those who steal, who scrape and bow, who continue with anti-women policies, who take advantage? Or will we stand together with those who will oppose any surrender of sovereignty, who are brave and will be brave?”

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