Minstrel Boxers, Vienna, VA
Recently, there was another
heated exchange of posts on the Boxer Mailing List on the ever-controversial
subject of white boxers. As a result of my stance on the issue of culling white boxer
puppies, I was charged by an experienced breeder and member of the BML of having an
agenda, as though that were some sort of crime. Well, the experienced breeder was right -
I certainly do have an agenda, and I'm pleased to admit that I do. Its simple: I'd
like it to be possible for all breeders, new ones, especially, to avoid what I believe is
the unnecessary ritual killing of over twenty percent of all boxer pups born. I think I
made my reasons clear by way of a tale I told to my electronic neighbors on the BML. I'd
like to share it with you here.
My recent sojourn on the Florida
Circuit took me to the home of a Boxer Mailing List member who lives there with a deaf
white cousin of my puppy, Rose. It brought to mind, once again, the controversies white
boxers inspire, and the close-to-certainty that, when she's bred again in March, my
foundation bitch, Hedy, will incubate some percentage of white or check puppies among her
litter. Last time, two of five were white with brindle eye and ear patches. Forty percent
-- well above the widely touted average. It wouldn't surprise me if even higher numbers
routinely make themselves known in the whelping boxes of breeders across the country.
That's a lot of puppies. It's a lot of living creatures who present an ethical dilemma,
both for those who don't want to dispose of them, and for those who do. It's that latter
category that I'd like to address.
Two stories recently caught my
ear. Both involve "old time" breeders whose view of whites doesn't match my own.
I don't believe I'd put down a white puppy except under the most extraordinary of
circumstances -- but those would be circumstances in which I'd also put down a colored
one. As my vet, who's got twenty-five years' experience with boxers, has told me in no
uncertain terms, there's not a single difference between 'em where health issues are
concerned. Except, of course, for the deafness issue -- the one shared by a number of
white breeds of dog. If the Dalmatian people can persevere in the face of it, I think we
should be able to.
But I digress.
The two stories follow.
They're short, one mercifully so. That one will probably hurt many of you who read it, as
it did me, but I think it's important that it be shared. The second may place some slight
salve on the wound.
The unfortunate one is this: A
VERY old time breeder of boxers, I was told, has a disposal method she thinks is humane.
Some of us will disagree, but each will acknowledge its efficacy. When white pups are born
into her litters, she carries them away from their mother and puts them in the freezer. No
question about the outcome. Very efficient.
The happier tale is of an equally
old time gal who's spent her breeding career extolling the virtues, the downright
necessity, of culling whites from every litter, of sending them to their reward as soon as
they're born. This, it appears, she's done in public, while, in private, she's carefully
and tenderly wrapped them, and transported them to her vet, who finds surrogate puppy
raisers for each, and places them, when they're old and strong enough to live a thoroughly
boxerish life, with a family who'll love them.
As much as I loathed hearing the
first story, I was heartened by the second. Perhaps the fact of it is this: The American
Boxer Club used to insist upon a member's either raising a white him-or- herself, or
killing it. Even though that position has been amended slightly, the concept now seems to
have taken on a life of its own. And those who lived under the earlier ABC mandates may
have had difficulty doing so. They may have been inclined to say one thing, and do
another. If so, the thought occurs, perhaps there are far fewer folks out there actually
putting their white pups to death than SAY they're doing it.
At any rate, I'm going to content
myself in thinking so.
Let me explain why I told the Boxer
Mailing List about the unhappy scenario above. It's simple. It's that if I have
to know such an awful truth, I don't want to bear it alone. And I want the fact of it to
make a difference in some people's thinking.
I fear that the culture that
embraces the culling of perfectly sound boxer babies is one that encourages the behavior
mentioned in my first story. And from my point of view, such behavior is more than
questionable. Just as I'd register shock if someone set fire to them, or threw them off
three story buildings, the icy death I described chills me to my own bones. The practice
deserves to be brought into the open.
But let me be clear about
something: I understand that many who currently euthanize a certain percentage of their
litters do so in more humane ways, at least to their way of thinking. And my agenda does
not include forcing those who cull to stop doing so. What I do mean to do is to attempt to
influence new breeders to shun the practice. I do that because I believe the practice is
unnecessary. That's my strong opinion, and I feel I have a duty to share it. So I do. And
I have no intention of ever letting it drop. That that fact rankles a certain number of
folk is a regret of mine. But a greater regret is that old time breeders continue to
encourage new ones to follow practices against which the rational tide is moving. Change
is in the air. My hope is to ride that current to what I pray will be its ultimate,
One last point. If my views
disturb you, then understand that yours probably disturb me. As I said, some breeders who
cull felt targeted in this BML exchange, and one complained to me that my behavior was
insensitive. I'd like to suggest that they look at the issue from my side for a minute.
Hearing of the old timer's disposal method was a searing experience. It hurt.
Understanding that people of whom I'm fond believe that upwards of twenty percent of all
Boxers born have no value hurts too.
The saying goes that "there's
got to be a better way." I'm sure there is.