|Daisy with her cat Reggie|
I received this picture as an email attachment last week and it brought back so many memories. Although this Dal girl is known as "Daisy" to her family, she was "Viva" when she lived with me, and I owned her until she was about a year old. I kept Viva from a disasterous litter that contained multiple deaf pups, the kind of litter that gives breeders nightmares. Both parents and all four grandparents had bilateral hearing (they heard in both ears), but sometimes in this breed the genes line up wrong and even the most carefully planned litters can produce this. Because Dals are genetically "extreme white piebald" (with an additional gene that adds the characteristic spotting), deafness is always a possibility in a litter of Dal pups. The only way we could totally eliminate deafness would be to make the breed solid colored - no longer Dalmatians! By using BAER testing so that we know the exact hearing status of our dogs, we have a valuable tool that can be used when planning a breeding, but there are no guarantees. Genetic deafness occurs in many other breeds as well, and it is heartbreaking to have deaf pups, BUT it is a breeder's problem. We can identify any deaf puppies before the pups are old enough to go to new homes, so there is no excuse for a buyer to end up with an "unexpected" deaf puppy.
Viva was the only hearing female puppy in the litter she was from, so I kept her for awhile, showed her a few times, and she even won a few points. She was quite small and extremely cute, with pretty markings and sparkly black eyes, but she wasn't really what I wanted to go forward with. When Shelly & Ed contacted me about a Dal to fill the hole left by the passing of their beloved Herbie, I reluctantly decided to let Viva go, knowing it was a terrific home. Viva became Daisy, and is much-loved, well cared for companion and valuable member of the family, in the kind of home we all want for our dogs. She even has her own cat!
So now I am faced with a similar problem, placing Letty. I love this dog and she fits into my household perfectly. She smart, beautiful, easy to live with, a terrific housedog, and gets along well with my other dogs, but . . . I kept Letty knowing that she had a tail that might be a problem in the breed ring, and that she was not nearly as outgoing as I want my dogs to be. These traits were evident from the time she was 4 weeks old. I kept Letty knowing this, because she picked me from the beginning, and because she was so gorgeous otherwise.
Bad tails are a fault I truly abhor, and are unfortunately very common in the breed. Being common does not make them right, and just because some people show them does not mean that I can/will do so. Even more unfortunate is the fact that we have campaigned dogs with "doctored" tails, and people breed to them not knowing the dog has and will produce bad tails. I've waited a long time with Letty, hoping hers would come down and straighten out, but knowing that was not likely to happen.
The other issue with Letty is that she does not have the kind of temperament that I breed for. I love silly, out-going, bold, confident, happy-go-lucky dogs who love everyone. That is my goal as a breeder, and is typical of my dogs. We still have some of what I call "old fashioned temperaments" in this breed. Dogs that are a bit more reserved and suspicious, and slower to warm up to strangers. These dogs were very common when I first started, far less common now, but they still show up. Letty is one of these, despite enlightened socialization. She'll never truly enjoy the excitement and stress of dog shows, and I would never breed her because of this. Both bad tails and less-than-ideal temperaments are genetic in origin, and when they show up it's our job as responsible breeders to identify them and act accordingly.
So . . . I know there is a home as good as Daisy's just waiting for a wonderful dog like Letty. She'll be a great companion, but not a show dog or a producer. She'll stay here until a perfect home comes long, no matter how long it takes, and when she leaves I will shed many tears, but know that she will have a wonderful life. Just like Daisy.