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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Explanation

AKC Champion Delta
Growing up as a kid, we had show horses. The memories of stumbling around in the dark in the early morning on the day of the event. My appaloosa always greeted me with a swift hoof stomp against the stall door. On show mornings, I was less than thrilled to be up and feeding large farm animals and preferred to be in front of the TV watching cartoons while eating sugary cereal.

Fast forward 30 or so years. The smell of fresh cut hay in the countryside can trigger the body memory of my youth. Smells of leather, horse sweat, muddy boots and fresh bags of pine bedding. Almost like it is ingrained within my being.
ShadyOak Bullmastiff Pup
 When I was age 7, my sister was working as a vet tech. She managed to bring home several creatures over the years. Mom and dad were less than thrilled but never said NO to her. What later became known as "rescue" in animal keeper terms was not yet an acronym. Nonetheless, our first encounter with a life long breed started with a Bullmastiff. Then another. And so on.
I still remember when crating dogs for the safety of their well being and that of your accumulated home furnishings had not been a training tool. Unfortunately, I recall my sister living in her first apartment and the two Bullmastiff rescues reducing her to tears after a long day at her new job. It was not the plants they dragged throughout the house - but the ripped up couch and other assorted items. Here she had given them a second chance and felt they had rewarded her with a complete doggy mess.As my mother always said, "This too shall pass." What Mom did not realize is that dogs were to play a bigger part of all of our lives than anyone could have predicted.

Part of showing horses involved conditioning. Trail rides through the Connecticut countryside broke up the monotony of ring work. Back in the day, living on an old reservation, dogs and leashes were not standard fare. As it were,our Bullmastiffs (we had a gaggle at this point) would accompany us on those rides. "Echo" had an affinity for hocking too closely. There were those idiot occasions where she would delight in going for the rear hoof. And the horse would let her know this was unacceptable. She ended up with a split tongue and it was then I decided one day I would have a dog that could coach alongside a horse. Until that day, we were sharing our lives with a variety of dogs, most being Bullmastiffs.

AKC Champion Fresco

They sure did make and impression on the circular driveway atop the flagstone stairs to the front door. My father learned to respect the effect it had on new suitors for his many daughters. Historically, the Bullmastiff was bred to stealthily accost poachers and knock them to ground while standing on their chest. They would alert the king with their unique deep bark. The king would arrive and kill the poacher. While many Bullmastiffs seen today tend to be fawn colored, the best poaching dog for evening nightwatch was brindle. Needless to say, Dad relied on these silent beasts to look out for his kids. For not only did we have a gaggle of dogs. There were a gaggle of children on his watch.

Over the years my sister became immersed in the sport of dog showing and as a vet tech, she learned much about diagnostic testing and applied them to the show dogs we had. Today's medical advances far exceed those of early breeding programs, and to watch technology advance in this area over the decades has been interesting to say the least.  By default, the rest of the family became experienced in the husbandry and upkeep of show dogs. This included long nights whelping brachycephalic puppies and managing uterine inertia as a result of some of these difficult deliveries. I recall all of us rubbing down failing newborns with towels to stimulate their first breath. Nowadays a simple depression of the accupressure point between the nostrils does the trick! Puppy pediatrics and Dam obstetrics became part of our lexicon as was the importance of health screening and spay/neuter of those placed in pet homes.

Dalmatian Smile from AKC Champion Piegan
The show ring and horses continued to become ingrained in my life. Horses were my first love and racing through the trails and over jumps were part of the wonderful world of long, hot Indian summers shared with our animal friends. My brother and I caught snakes in the reservation swamps and we studied them in mason jars in the shed. We always knew when Mom found them, as punctuated by her terrified screams.

My best friend outside of the usual neighborhood suspects, was a Bullmastiff named Sheba. Sheba was a pitiful rescue with extra nipples that looked like dried up raisins.  She accompanied me through my excursions into the wilderness as I investigated buglife, frog eggs and wild bunnies. She did not always want to go with me and sometimes took off for home when I was bent down picking up some interesting critter. One Christmas, Sheba was presented with a fruitcake we baked. Even she wouldn't eat it, proving that fruitcakes should go into extinction. We learned dogs will eat horse shit and cat crap, but evil fruitcake was taboo. Even to a Bullmastiff.

My love for the horse and dog sent me on a search for a canine companion that would be able to travel long distance and serve as a loyal protector. I found that in the Dalmatian. It was a natural progression.I was fortunate enough to have bought my first Dalmatian show dog from a reputable breeder who helped me network with other show people in the breed. It is one thing to know Bullmastiff show people, but each breed has it's own constituents. We have jokes about owners of different breeds and how their personalities reflect their dogs.

Fendi & Halen
Each specialty club  is a microcosm of the  specific breed and different focus. I also joined an all breed club and held many offices including public education, board member and chaired many events. In essence, I was immersing myself in the world of dogs on every level. As a competitor, a reputable breeder, rescue and educator. I stayed on top of current health research as distributed by our national breed clubs and even contributed to their National publications as well as being interviewed by local newspapers on responsible dog ownership. As a resource for purebred dog owners and even mixed breeds, every recognized AKC breed has a National parent club. For example, in Bullmastiffs, it is the American Bullmastiff Association. For Dalmatians it is the Dalmatian Club of America. Most of these "parent" national clubs fall under the sanctions of the American Kennel Club and can be found on the AKC site listing.

Newborn Halen - no spots yet
Regional breed clubs are breed-specific and local to most states. You do not have to show your dogs to be a member. There are many activities, seminars and mentorship programs within these clubs to educate people on breed specific issues. They also help with rescue and often chair transport and funding events. Participation is always encouraged and embraced within these clubs. Thanks to falling under the National Parent club, regional specialty clubs are privy to ongoing research handed down to them. This helps breeders stay on top of and utilize cutting edge diagnostic screening tools. National clubs help serve as a clearing house database for regional specialty clubs and not many people know these clubs are near them and want your participation.

A great aspect to joining a club is the camaraderie. We travel together to shows, help trouble shoot health or training aspects, dog sit for one another and socialize outside of the "dog world". If you show around the country you get to know others across state lines and network. This is helpful in transporting rescues or the like. Most will open their homes to you if you happen to be passing through town.

A large part of canine health comes back to the basics long before diagnostics came into technological play. By this, I mean diet. There are breeds who have a genetic predisposition to certain problems such as allergies, dermatological issues such as alopecia and staph infections, overall vitality, energy and joint health. Diet is the cornerstone for which health is affected. In my years of ongoing studying of the Dalmatian breed, urinary problems are linked to diet. A breed with a propensity of urinary, kidney, bladder problems can often be linked to diet. For example, Dalmatians should not be fed a diet of high-purine yielding proteins such as beef and organ meat. To do so increases the potential for urinary problems which can quickly grow into lifelong health problems that further restrict their diet and necessitate ongoing medical monitoring.

AKC Champion Jenna
Diet also plays a part when we show and train dogs. In the Dalmatian I was concerned at the lack of common sense when owners would bait these guys with beef hotdogs and liver. When on the show and competition circuit, repeated bathing and disruption of the normal dermal flora coupled with high purine yielding bait would express in the following ways: urinary infection that can lead to urate crystals of struvite or oxalate nature. Some of these crystals can grow into stones. In a male Dalmatian - this can result in immediate need to have an emergency backflsuh procedure or worse, surgery whereupon the dog no longer urinates out of his penis. He will need a urethrostomy stoma which he will urinate the rest of his life. He will then need to be on a prescription diet for life. Lack of a hydrated and routinely prevented from voiding urine will cause crystals to dam up the OS penis causing pain, infection and the need for emergency vet care at a high cost.

Years ago the Dalmatian DIET was suggested to help keep the urinary tract hydrated and provide a non offensive low purine yielding source of protein (chicken, eggs). This diet was cooked at home and really was the basis of a holistic and human grade ingredient food that resulted in far healthier dogs. Adding in yogurt, eggs, rice, oatmeal and a variety of deep leafy green vegetation provided optimum nutrition which was expressed in the coat. Soft, low shed, healthy fur and undamaged skin. Allergies caused by most commercial dog foods were eliminated in most dogs on this diet. The results were staggering and impressive. I put my bullmastiffs on this same diet and noticed the benefits of high quality protein in a food I was able to control and know it was top notch.

I was still plagued by the nonsense of throwing all this solid knowledge out the window in watching my peers baiting with crappy dog treats and hot dogs. Most of their dogs came home with intestinal fecal tsunamis and in some cases, blood in the stool from irritation of diarrhea. So they were put on Flagyl and the added probiotics and special digesters to correct the avoidable nonsense they put their dogs through. My answer to this was to take the Dalmatian diet principles and apply them to dog treat or bait snacks. Over the years people have bought and borrowed this bait from me for training and showing in the ring. Their dogs responded as well if not better than they did to salt laden beef jerky. No more crappy coats or compromised intestines.

Halen @5 wks
Working with my holistic vet who also specializes in accupressure and massage therapy, I developed a diary of what worked and that which did not. I was encouraged to continue in my efforts and I have finally set up a shop on Etsy whereby I sell these treats to owners who appreciate holistic gourmet with a common sense approach.

The name of my shop is ROCKSTAR DOG TREATS. I just happen to be a lead vocalist in a band and feel every one of my furkids should be treated like they are in the spotlight. No pun!

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