On January 26, we whelped our
first litter in over four years - six puppies...50% white. Frankly, I was dismayed. Two
days later, one of the colored puppies, a beautifully marked, but tiny, black brindle
bitch, died. The remaining two colored puppies, a dog and a bitch, are also flashy
brindles. I cant help but contrast this litter with the first one we whelped 25
years ago - by Ch Gray Roys Minstrel Boy x our beloved Ch Scher-Khouns
Tarantella. There were six puppies in that litter, too - five plain brindles and the
barely flashy, future Ch Scarborough Silversmith, SOM. At that time, we were disappointed
in Tarantellas litter, too - only one possible "show prospect," and five
very plain brindle puppies at a time and place when it was difficult to even give brindle
We didnt know how lucky we
were. The only bitch in Taras litter, Scarborough Soliloquy, became a Dam of Merit
and lived happily for 13 years as my mothers pet and protector, and several of the
plain dogs could have been shown (nice looking and no monorchids), if we hadnt
accepted as gospel the then-current "truism" that plain dogs just couldnt
win. Come to think of it, that "truism" is still equally "true" today.
But as Bob Dylan said, the times they are achanging. As we approach the year 2000,
we may be just beginning to see completely plain dogs and bitches as a solution to the
ethical dilemma of routinely breeding flash to flash, knowing that a percentage of
the puppies are almost sure to be white, and a percentage of the whites will probably be
deaf. Maybe Im just getting old and unreasonable, since weve certainly whelped
white puppies before, but I find that I simply cant accept those odds with
equanimity anymore, especially after our current "50/50" litter.
Of course, its true that
the American Boxer Club has relaxed its stand on white boxers a tiny bit, with the new
By-Laws and Code of Ethics approved April 19, 1994. Breeders still cant breed,
register, or sell their whites and checks, but at least we are no longer expressly
forbidden to place them in pet homes. That means that the breeders who believe it
is morally wrong to kill healthy puppies of any color can now find good homes for them
with a clear conscience. And with more and more pet owners getting ILP numbers for their
white and check dogs and competing in AKC performance events, perhaps well finally
reach a point at which backyard breeders wont be able to advertise and sell
"rare white boxers" for outrageous prices anymore, because the existence of
not-at-all-rare white boxers will no longer be veiled in secrecy.
But whether we believe in culling
or find the idea abhorrent, that still leaves us with the problem of knowing when we breed
two flashy boxers that a percentage of the litter wont even be registerable on
limited registrations, and a percentage of those puppies may have a health defect -
deafness - that will make them difficult to place in good, permanent, pet homes.
Dr. Bruce Cattanach (of
"Bobtail" fame) has reported that there is a movement in Britain to get the UK
Breed Council to acknowledge that flashy show boxers all carry the gene for white, and to
accept the position that breeding flashy boxers together to produce whites is unethical.
If the Breed Council were to take that position, plain boxers might at the same time be
promoted for both showing and breeding in the UK (Dec. 98 ABC News Bulletin,
I dont agree that breeding
flashy boxers together is unethical, but I do wish we had a wide selection of outstanding,
(genetically) plain boxer dogs and bitches to choose from here in the U.S. -
"solids" that, according to Dr. Cattanach, cannot produce white puppies.
Unfortunately, that old "truism" - that its difficult or impossible to win
in the showring with a plain boxer - has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Almost
everyone sells their completely plain puppies (white on toes and chest only) as pets at
the crack of eight weeks...and almost no serious breeder gives even the most typey and
attractive ones, especially the males, a shot at a show career.
Obviously, its going to
take a concerted effort by a number of American breeders to turn this situation around (I
understand from "e-mail" friends in Norway that the situation is pretty much the
same there). But I, for one, am going to start looking right now for that beautifully
bred, genetically plain stud dog that will complement my flashy champion bitch...whether
hes a champion or not. If youve got one, I sure wish youd advertise him,
because frankly, I dont even know where to begin.