by Ron Humphries
Sometimes it seems we are trapped in an old western movie. The dreaded villain and his gang have taken over the town and we are nervously awaiting the cavalry to charge over the hill to save us. But the cavalry is too far away to help. We have to protect the town ourselves… In our Doberman town the villain is dilated cardiomyopathy, relentlessly cutting a swathe through the population. The cavalry is the scientific community. The word in the late 1990s was that the cavalry was only months away. Almost 10 years later they are still working feverishly to isolate the gene, or genes, to help us with a genetic test and at some point they will arrive with bugles blaring and flags flying. But that moment could be years into the future, maybe not in my lifetime or yours. We simply cannot wait because the very future of our town is at stake. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Today I will write about the hearts of my dogs; all NINE of them cut down by the dreaded villain in my very home. I am going to name names and list pedigrees because, quite simply, it is the right thing to do when you care about performing good service for the breed on your watch. By so doing I will hopefully encourage, pressure, prod, coax, cajole or simply unearth or unbind kindred spirits who are passionate enough about our breed to fight back with me. Breeders must develop their own open registry, a database, where we can share pedigree information to at least slow this juggernaut down until the cavalry rides over the hill. Otherwise there may be a breed so in tatters that there will be little left to save even after a test is developed. So embedded is this disease it will take generations – maybe 20 or more years – to clean it out once we have a definitive DNA test. I don’t want to be Gary Cooper in his Oscar winning role as the town sheriff in the 1952 western classic High Noon. I don’t want to stand alone against the villains who are already in town and the vicious killer who will arrive on the noon train to join them. I don’t want to be abandoned by the timid town folks who reject the fight because they are selfishly thinking only of their own well being. I am not a hero or a martyr and I do not seek sympathy for the loss of so many dogs. I am just passionate about the Doberman which I consider to be in great peril. And as the person who planned and brought them into this world, I also owe it to all my wonderful friends who suffered and died from this disease. Breeders and owners owe it to all our animals – including those yet unborn — to abandon the secrecy of the dog show culture and work together for a solution. The least we can all do is share information for the common good.