The Breedist Beagle

Connery is a breedist Beagle.

cb.MACH.bawhBEWARE!” he bays, if a problem breed comes into his orbit. “DO NOT WANT!”

If he spots such an individual while we’re running an agility course, I can be pretty sure he’s going to bring down a bar or pop a weave, because he just can’t think beyond the worrisome presence of that dog. He tries so hard that it’s palpable but he just. Can. Not.

To be fair to Connery, he has reasons. Good ones. Like his objection to Boxers? The first dog who attacked him was a Mastiff—a huge creature with a head the size of Connery’s whole body. A big fawn dog with black points and a big squoosh face: close enough to a Boxer, if you’re Connery.

Obviously, if that Mastiff had closed his jaws around Connery, it would have killed him. But I screamed, and Connery screamed, and he fled a desperate circle at the end of his leash. Will I ever forget the sight of those massive jaws snapping closed against his tucked butt?

No. No, I will not.

mastiff.noNor will I forget snatching up him, holding his still-screaming self up snugly against my chest, and turning my back on the Mastiff to brace for impact. And that’s when the handler caught up to his dog, grabbed him by the collar and hustled him away. Without a word.

(I sleuthed out who he was and reported him to the show committee, but that’s another adventure.)

Could be that Connery and I are both a little breedist on that account.

But at least we know it. And we know why. But even if I’m wary, I don’t trash talk the breed. I don’t begrudge anyone the desire to own one. So to the people who spew knee-jerk nastiness about any given breed just because it’s easy?

Stop it.

Just. Stop.

Oh, I get it. It’s a rewarding thing to do. Chances are, those within earshot will join in the trash-talk, providing that little rush of power. Of being right. Because Everyone Knows…

Even if they don’t.

0510.30.NADAC.Connery.SM

That first NADAC agility trial!

As I waited my turn at Connery’s first NADAC trial, a woman standing behind me said clearly, “Oh look. A Beagle. And it’s intact. This should be fun.”

Well, guess what. It was.

At least, it was fun for us. But it was far from the last time I heard sneers directed our way when people didn’t know (or didn’t care) that they were standing right behind me. Or, say…right beside the person who happened to be recording our run.

So here’s the thing: Until someone embraces a particular breed, they don’t know crap about it.

That doesn’t mean owning the breed, but it does mean learning about it with an open mind. Watching it in action. Watching it in training. Seeing the good and seeing the challenging. It means accepting that different from what you prefer doesn’t mean inferior to what you prefer.

You know, I see this all the time in the genre writing world, too. We in this genre sneer at them in that genre. We have Stars on Thars and they don’t! Ultimately it’s a flawed attempt to justify the value of this genre, but…you know…it’s crap behavior. So we should stop it. All of us.

As it happens, I’ve written in SF/F, romance, mystery, and wow—tie-in writing. So when a colleague in one genre gleefully sneers some oft-repeated dismissive nastiness about another genre, they’re usually talking about me. To me.

They just don’t know it. They just feel free to sling ugliness with impunity, because Everyone knows.

But Everyone usually gets it wrong. Because just like the person who thinks Beagles are stupid because they’ve never actually paid any attention, the Everyones don’t read the genre at which they sneer, or they read one book that didn’t resonate with them or was of unfortunate quality, or they can’t seem to accept that just because Romance serves different reading needs than Science Fiction (or vice versa), each genre is an equally valid endeavor and pastime.

It’s okay for you to like what you like, and me to like what I like.

Really. It is.

Look!  I cleverly used the cover of one of my own books in this spot!

Look! I cleverly used the cover of one of my own books in this spot!

And it’s okay to spurn the Everyones and their thoughtless ugliness and talk about our dogs, and our books, in terms of what we like about them–and not in terms that tear down what someone else likes. Even if it takes a little courage to simply say, “I like this!” on its own terms.

Our choices are, as it happens, valid all on their own.

Me? If it’s well written, I’ll read it. Period. And although I love hounds, I also love to watch the big leggy bird dogs, the feisty scamper of a Border Terrier, the fierce intensity of a Border Collie…the silly vocalizations of a personable Pug.

You..?

 

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A Feral Darkness by Doranna DurginDoranna’s quirky spirit has led to an eclectic and extensive publishing journey across genres. Beyond that, she hangs around outside her Southwest mountain home with horse and beagles who compete in agility, obedience, and tracking.

She doesn’t believe in mastering the beast within, but in channeling its power. For good or bad has yet to be decided…

Doranna’s ongoing releases include Nocturne paranormals and joyful new indie efforts–like the special BVC release of the Changespell Saga, and reader favorites like Wolverine’s Daughter and A Feral Darkness. Whee!

Not coincidentally, Doranna’s latest release at BVC has DOGS in it!

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The Breedist Beagle — 17 Comments

  1. I have always had mutts (except for one six week period when someone brought an orphaned Beagle puppy as a hostess gift, and my mother finally announced that she could have one child and a puppy or two children and no puppies, and Bagel went to live elsewhere) but at the dog park you meet all kinds, and almost without exception they’re lovely animals. (When the dog isn’t lovely it’s a cinch that the owner probably isn’t either.) I’m a little cautious around German Shepherd Dogs, for the same reason Connery is wary of Boxers, but that said, that one dog is not a representative for all dogs. Connery just looks like the world’s cheeriest little animal, intact or otherwise.

    On writing (and reading) there are things I don’t particularly care for, but ever since a woman at a party, when introduced to me, said brightly, “Oh, you write those tacky little romances!” I have attempted not to yuck anyone else’s yum. I may not care for a number of things that other people like. I don’t have to read them. I don’t have to slam them either.

    • Weird, my earlier reply didn’t post! Anyway, your note caused me to wonder why I’m not wary of GSDs after being attacked while biking when I was a teen, but for whatever reason, it didn’t take. It was a BFHD, too; I would have been shredded had it not been for my winter coat and the damage was bad enough as it was.

      All the GSDs I encounter via my agility and obedience friends have kind eyes, and I don’t think twice about them.

      Also, I love, love LOVE the phrase “Yuck anyone else’s yum”!

  2. Wow, how can a dog tell the difference between breeds? Do they smell differently? Or is it the intent that they sense?

    My thought was that certain kinds of human personalities like certain breeds because of X. I really, really do hate people who choose big dogs and then treat them cruelly so that the dog will be vicious. It’s not the dog’s fault, there’s an angry, cruel human distorting that poor animal.

    My favorite breed is probably English bulldog because we had them when I was growing up, and I had the dearest of the dear for thirteen wonderful years. But all the dogs I’ve acquired have been rescue mutts, save one princess of a full breed chihuahua whose owner didn’t want the pups. Blue eyes, fur softer than a rabbit, and wow, she is a real princess. Rules all the bigger dogs with iron paw, even though she weighs a fraction of their weight.

    • Third time’s a charm? The interface isn’t taking my posts…it just disappears them. So I’m trying it from the backside of the blog…!

      Anyway, your note caused me to wonder why I’m not wary of GSDs after being attacked while biking when I was a teen, but for whatever reason, it didn’t take. It was a BFHD, too; I would have been shredded had it not been for my winter coat and the damage was bad enough as it was.

      All the GSDs I encounter via my agility and obedience friends have kind eyes, and I don’t think twice about them.

      Also, I love, love LOVE the phrase “Yuck anyone else’s yum”!

    • Body shape, body posture, movement type, use of eye, scent…all the same ways we do. (Okay, scent…that’s probably not for everyone!) Boxers tend to have really forward eyes and a really flat stare, and they tend to use it; dogs like Connery find that threatening. (In truth, a lot of dogs don’t like Boxers because of the stare.) But they’re also similar enough to Mastiffs (in certain ways) for him to unfairly blame them for that, too!

      I love English Bulldogs!

    • Take your Papillon to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel specialty and listen to the hysteria! Dogs can definitely recognize the breeds they grew up around. My young Cavaliers are usually weirded out by their first Mastiffs or Irish Wolfhounds at shows because WHOA THAT’S BIG (I’m translating their tone of barks).

      Luckily none of mine have ever been seriously attacked by any big dog. The possibility is certainly something to keep in mind when you have a small dog at an all-breed event.Or at a park.

      That’s a great picture of Connery coming over the jump. He looks very intent and focused.

      • Oh, gosh, yes–I have a good friend with a Papillion and when we do tracking training, we’re endlessly vigilant. These aren’t off-leash areas, but endless numbers of people feel specially entitled. You know.

        Young Connery is being a bit cautious relative to his mature style, but he’s definitely doing a nice little job on that first course. Good boy! 8)

  3. Dog intelligence is a matter of trainability in most people’s mind, which is, I think, why the Beagle is perceived as stupid. I know little about the breed, but I’m sure that training one is rather different from working with a GSD–imagine a beagle in Schutzhund, or trying to work with a pack of GSDs!

    But Connery is lucky enough to have an owner who understands Beagle and is giving him a “job” in which I imagine Beagles naturally excel. Good work!

  4. Actually, I think the way people perceive intelligence is through innate biddability and internal motivation to accede to the trainer, which is a whole different thing–the *trainer* has a lot to do with the dog’s apparent trainability, IMHO.

    And generally speaking–this is big–people recognize stress behaviors when they’re *active* stress behaviors (charging in circles, whirling in impatience), not when they’re passive stress behaviors (sniffing, disengaging). In that case, they just blame the breed, and their response is often corrective rather than supportive, which only exacerbates the situation.

    I guess what I’m saying is that all breeds have their challenges, but that people tend to ascribe positive attributes to the challenges of working/herding dogs and to blame the dog for the challenges of a hound.

    I tend to think it comes down to motivation and dependence. Working dogs and herding dogs have the genetics of internal motivation. Hounds are bred to make their own decisions, and they’re bred to stick to that tree no matter what goes on around them. So, surprise! They’re independent thinkers, and they’re persistent and confident in their decisions.

    But if you instill a motivation button young, it’s a whole different picture. And if you respond to them for who they are and train accordingly, it’s not such a big deal. In fact, I’ve always found hounds eminently trainable, and never understood why others felt differently.

    They don’t (generally…Dart…) overthink things and generate muddles. And unlike (say) Goldens, they’re not so happy with themselves that they can’t think straight (generally…Dart…), and unlike GSDs & BCs, there’s no need to manage around overclocking drive issues (even if those tend to manifest differently in working vs herding). Once they’re seasoned, they tend to be rock solid, honing their skills rather than questioning them. (We’ll see about Dart…)

    (Dart: Both Beaglish and freakishly conceptual in his thinking–and a very emotional dog. How to Humble Your Trainer in One Small, Dynamic Package.)

    Now is maybe the time when I mention that the top obedience dog for years was Katie Jane Brumfield–currently OTCH and UDX9–or Squiggles with her MACH 11 and World Team experience. Nope, you wouldn’t see these dogs in Schutzhund bite work, but as you say…good luck with that pack of GSDs! To my mind, the problem is that people assign words of value to these differences in breed, instead of simply acknowledging what they are and working with it. That’s a human failure, not a canine one.

    (Sorry, I didn’t mean to carry on like that when I started!)

  5. All this talk of “breedism” reminds me that our quarter horses despised Shetland ponies. Some friends of ours won a Shetland in a contest, and since they had not made plans for it, put it in our pasture until they could find a more permanent solution. Our horses chased it through a barbed wire fence. We had to put it in a separate pasture and go to some lengths to keep them apart.

    I don’t think was based on any incidents in their lives, though perhaps the Shetland did something obnoxious to them that drew their ire. They were generally fine around other horses, but then most of the horses they were around were other quarter horses or the general run of mixed breed horses that were common in the American west.

  6. Oh, horses can definitely be that way! And if an introduction is bobbled, they don’t likely forget it. That’s another long story, but it’s how Duncan was so badly hurt when he was younger. I’m not sure if they pick breeds so much as individuals, though. For whatever reason…