Thursday, May 6, 2010

Enough, already!

This week, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have featured articles about dealing with canine cancers, and possible ways to prevent their occurrence. The articles center on the WSJ reporter's late, great Golden Retriever, who died of cancer recently. She (the reporter) noted, as did I a few posts back, that Goldens are especially susceptible to cancer, but also points out that other breeds have health issues, too. Examples include Dachshunds, who are vulnerable to back problems; Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, who are at risk for mitral valve disease; and short-nosed breeds like Bulldogs, who may have breathing problems. The authors go on to share suggestions for at least partially counteracting some of the environmental factors that can increase a dog's risk for becoming a cancer statistic.

Not surprisingly, both articles drew a lot of reader comments. Unfortunately, more than a few commenters suggested that people eschew purebred dogs in favor of adopting mixed breeds from animal shelters. These commenters seem to think that by adopting a mixed breed dog, an adopter will dodge the canine cancer bullet.

Don't get me wrong: I think adopting a shelter dog can be wonderful. I've done so myself: my first dog as an adult was a wonderful mixed Poodle named Molly, who lived with me for over 16 years. I have dearly loved every dog I've ever had the privilege of living with, but I speak of Molly as the dog of my soul.

And she died of cancer: specifically, mast cell cancer, one of the most common canine malignancies.

Aside from the fact that mixed breed dogs are certainly vulnerable to cancer and at least some of the other canine ills that beset purebred dogs, I am getting so tired of the contention that opening one's heart and home to a purebred dog denies a home to a shelter dog. I'm sick of the assertion that this is an either/or proposition. I'm as weary of these "dog wars" as I was of the so-called "mommy wars" that raged when my daughter was little.

A woman can be a good mother whether she works outside the home, devotes herself to full-time at-home parenting, or -- as I did -- split the difference by running a home-based business. Similarly, a person can be a committed dog guardian no matter where she acquired her dog: from a reputable breeder, from a rescue group, from a shelter or -- as I did -- split the difference by acquiring a dog from more than one of these sources. (No, I'm not saying that people who buy dogs in pet stores are bad owners -- but, for the purposes of this post, I just don't want to go there).

Rather than focus on the differences in how we got our dogs, can't we simply agree that we want our dogs -- no matter what their breed or mixes -- to live longer, healthier lives? Can't we agree that a discovery regarding cancer in Golden Retrievers holds promise not only for Goldens but for all dogs? Can't we please call a cease-fire to this purebred-vs-mutt conflict and focus more on how we can work together?



Anonymous said...

Susan, as usual, you write insightful commentary, mix it with facts and personal observations, and challenge your readers to think long and hard about their biases. That sound you hear is me, standing and clapping, and encouraging more dog owners to quit their back biting and work together.
Linda R

Susan said...

Thanks so much, Linda. You made my day!

KathyF said...

A few weeks ago, a reader of my blog wrote to say her dog had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same cancer that killed Bailey. Her dog was a mixed breed, and only lived a few weeks after diagnosis.

Cancer is the enemy here. We need to find a way to cure, treat or prevent cancer in our best friends, regardless of whether our best friends are golden retrievers, mutts, or humans.

Susan said...

Hear, hear, Kathy.