Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dial "M" For Murder

Dial M for Murder....a 1954 Hitchcock thriller. Intrigue and deception abound as a man connives and conspires to murder his unfaithful wife.

But that's not like real life, is it? Chilling, callous behavior is the exception, not the rule.

Isn't it?
For sure, this sort of activity would not be common in the dog world. Politics exists; but heck, no actual physical harm is done as the crawdads climb over each other to reach the top of the bucket.

Well ordinarily I could give a rat's patoot about who reaches the top of the dog show heap. But when show success becomes a justification for promoting a downright dangerous gene, it's time to speak up.

I have heard it said on several chat lists lately, that it would surely be a shame if the breeders who show merle Chihuahuas and merle Pomeranians were eliminated from the ring. They have done so much work to bring the qualities of the merle in these breeds to perfection.

 HUH? I thought the idea was to select for the better DOGS, not to reward the breeders and handlers based upon the degree of hard work.

Hmmm. Well, ask any poodle or bichon person; a striking appearance and artful grooming can take you a long way. So perhaps it IS mostly about rewarding people for their hard work.

But, if we believe it is truly about the dogs, and selecting breeding stock, how is this a progress toward perfection? A gene that reliably produces some serious birth defects is the polar opposite of "perfection".

In 1968, UK Chihuahua breeder-judge Hilary Harmer wrote the book "Dogs and how to Breed Them", wherein she noted:
"The merle colouring is interesting, because it is connected with a semi-lethal gene, and, when it occurs in a double dose, the offspring may be blind, deaf or sterile. For obvious reasons, therefore, two merle dogs should on no account ever be mated together. In fact, it would be better for merle to be a disqualified colour in all breeds."

Problem is, many people are blissfully unaware of the potential dire consequences of working with this cruel factor. Add it to other genes for white coat, and the odds for defects just multiplied. Add it to the gene pool of breeds that allow all colors, and it can lie undetected under a light-colored coat, just waiting to pair up with a partner to produce it's crippling effects.

And once the pattern becomes acceptable in a breed, there will be people who INTENTIONALLY try to produce double merles...because the double merle parent will produce 100% merle puppies.
Even among the more ethical breeders, an accidental breeding between two merles is not unheard of. Stranger things have happened, and the results can be shockingly horrific. Ask any Aussie, Sheltie or Collie person who would honestly admit it. However, that might be a bit tricky, because speaking honestly regarding this topic is not politically correct. The proof is in the many blind and deaf dogs of these breeds who are sent to rescues.

OK, we have to admit that merle is NOT simply a benign, pretty factor. So, how are breeders justifying the recent infiltration of some genepools with this dangerous bit of wayward DNA?

First off, the fans of this popular color pattern join the "Cleopatra" club... as in "Queens of de Nile".

"We have plenty of health problems in our breed, why be concerned about a color?"
     "Merle is perfectly harmless, and very attractive."

"Deafness? That's not a painful affliction."

"Eye defects, even missing eyeballs? A bit more serious, perhaps."

"No problems occur unless you breed merle-to-merle and just HAPPEN to double up on the merle gene."
"Hey, not ALL double merles have problems."
"Those problems happen with other colors, problems come in all colors!"
"Why punish the breeders who breed merle responsibly?"
"Too late to lock the barn door now, it's already been opened."
"Lethal whites? If most don't survive to birth, then we don't have to worry about them."
And of course there's that ultimate dog show person's rationalization:

"All colors are allowed in our standard! Any questions?"

Once the rationalization phase is complete, on to stage two, manipulating members of the breed club. Let's see, how can we block any standard revision that intends to close our loophole allowing for merle?

  • Launch an aggressive PR media blitz featuring merle puppies in magazines articles and ads

  • Organize a well-planned election campaign to install sympathizers into the breed club board of directors

  • Call club members to inflame with red herring alarmism: "Your favorite color may be next on the chopping block!"

  • Get a member of the AKC board of directors to send out letters written on AKC letterhead, urging the breed club members to reject any merle penalty in their standard revision vote. (And the guy doesn't even belong to your club or own a single dog of your breed!)

  • Strongarm the parent club to include references to merles on their website. Judges are then referred to the parent club website if they have any qualms about putting up merles!
Of course it would be an insult to the new merle champions, and so unfair to their owners, to penalize the pattern now! Particularly after we've had our professional handlers remind every licensed AKC judge that ALL COLORS are permissible! Why that would be absolutely criminal, to deny someone their hard-earned opportunity to capitalize on this exotic color!

Connive, contrive, convince and conquer!

It's been working oh so well, so far. Merle is at an all-time popular much so that you can now also find merle Jack Russell terriers, merle Cocker Spaniels, merle Poodles, merle Schnauzers, merle Rat Terriers, merle Miniature Pinschers. Why malign a simple color pattern that is so widely sought after??

And, as long as breeders succeed in that ultimate measure of "quality" and success, the dog show competition, end of discussion! No concern about the future of the breed or your role in promoting a blatant health hazard.

As Hitchcock would advise,
"When murder calls, hang up!"


  1. This should be entitled Dial M for MISINFORMATION!!! Why? Because you would have to be woefully uninformed and ignorant to believe it! There is absolutely NO evidence to support the notion that the SINGLE merle gene in Chihuahuas causes ANY health issues. As a matter of FACT (and why not stick with the FACTS, shall we?) ALL SINGLE MERLE CHIHUAHUAS CERF AND BAER TESTED HAVE BEEN NORMAL!!! NO PROBLEMS WHATEVER RELATED TO THE PRESENCE OF THE SINGLE MERLE GENE. MERLE EXPERT G. STRAIN (after being misquoted by a particular rabid anti-merle activist) came up with a special statement WARNING against making rash decisions and changing the breed standard because THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF ANY HEALTH ISSUES IN MERLE CHIHUAHUAS RELATED TO THE SINGLE MERLE GENE. This anti-merle Chihuahua nonsense is sheer fabrication and chicken little sky is falling hype and hysteria. YES, EVERYONE, PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH AND YOU WILL FIND THAT THE TEST RESULTS PROVE THAT THE MERLE CHIHUAHUA CAN INDEED BE BRED SAFELY AND BE JUST AS HEALTHY AS ITS NON-MERLE COUNTERPART. (Also found to be PUREBRED for the Chihuahua gene through DNA breed heritage testing, just in case anyone should attempt to make you believe otherwise.) Are there bad merle breeders out there? YOU BET! Just as there are bad breeders if EVERY COLOR AND PATTERN IN THE BREED. I have an idea! How about focusing in the REAL issue? It's called RESPONSIBLE BREEDING!! RESPONSIBLE BREEDERS don't breed merle to merle, any more than they knowingly breed dogs with known health issues like bad knees, hearts, etc. of ANY COLOR/PATTERN. Again please focus in the REAL ISSUE which is RESPONSIBLE BREEDING, not a bigoted campaign of misinformation and a pattern that the original poster clearly does not understand. Thank you.

  2. Here we go! Typing mostly in caps, whiile calling me rabid! Good one! LOL.

    Take a good look at the picture of the microphthalmic Chihuahua in the post. He is a dog with but a single merle gene. His name is one-eyed Jack. Cute, huh? He (like others with obvious merle-related defects) didn't have a CERF test, because his handicap is very obvious.

    Defects like coloboma and CEA (phenotypically identical to merle ocular dysgenesis) were most likely brought into the herding breds courtesy of the merle gene. They have now become defects inherited separately from the merle gene but probably originated there. Check with CA Sharp, I didn't dream this up; it's a theory she has advanced.

    We can see where the "responsible breeders" of the world have taken many breeds. Mostly down the wrong path.

    1. Oh, wow, really late reply! Actually, read my post again: I did not call you "rabid" ... unless you are in fact the person (Gloria L.) who misquoted the genetic expert (and who got a rebuttal in turn from that genetic expert because she was clearly wrong and he did not appreciate her abusing his opinion in that manner) in a sad attempt to win the anti-merle argument - this was of course necessary because there is simply NO PROOF to what she or you are claiming about single merle in the Chihuahua breed. There is NO PROOF that that dog you claim is a single merle is in fact a single merle (and these nameless and faceless "others" with alleged "obvious merle related problems" that you claim exist, and yet no testing or evidence exists of that either), add to that the fact that you have ruined your own credibility by such a ridiculous title to your blog, well, sorry, but I don't buy it, and anyone who has done their RESEARCH will not buy it either, because there is simply too much ACTUAL PROOF to the contrary. You know PROOF, as in EVIDENCE, TESTING, those pesky little things called FACTS (unfortunately those most rabidly anti-merle don't want to be bothered with FACTS). LOL, oh and the reason I used SOME capitalization (not "mostly caps") is simply for EMPHASIS - not for your benefit but for the benefit of those who are actually interested in the FACTS and happen to come across this, the most overly dramatic, hysteria based blog title masquerading as reasonable opinion I have ever come across. Shameful, really, being a proponent of such obvious fear mongering and bigotry. Look, if you don't want to breed merle or you want to claim you are "concerned" about the genesis of the pattern in a particular breed (tho in fact in the Chihuahua it has been seen back to WWI and DNA tested pure for Chihuahua) or that there COULD be some of these issues if merles are bred irresponsibly (but let's be honest about that, and admit that there are terrible issues when ALL colors & patterns & breeds are bred irresponsibly), then for heaven's sake don't breed merle and state your opinions. But do try to keep it to something resembling fact based logic, and, seriously? "Dial M for Murder" is ABSURD - especially IN LIGHT OF THE FACTS. The FACTS are what they are, the healthy and normal test results of the REAL and ACTUAL testing performed on REAL merle Chihuahuas - not rumor, not hearsay, not unproven theories, not alleged, supposed, single merles with no evidence to back that up, merles that are alleged to have had hearing problems because they "READ LIPS" (that's insane, but someone I know was actually told that very thing) or sight problems because the dog's eyes were ice blue "merle" color, no testing to back up either statement, or any other nonsense attempting to strike groundless fear into the heart of the reader, because the FACTS simply do not line up with your statements, sorry. You really can't expect to be take seriously with a bog title like this, not to mention is it offensive and rude to those who are breeding thoughtfully and carefully in merle and non merle patterns alike. There are good and bad in all walks of life and all colors and patterns and all breeds.

  3. Ugh... merle Ratties are a GIANT no no, and merle min pins what? that isn't right, but I thought merle Aussies and shelties, and obviously astralian cattle dogs were alright? At least when not double Merle bred.

  4. Um, the CAPS are for EMPHASIS, but yeah, I can see why you/Starbreeze would want to try and deflect and make it about typing instead of the FACTS because the FACTS are NOT on your side and in fact prove you wrong. And unless you are G. Lambert I did not call you "rabid", I called HER a rabid anti merle activist and pointed out that the GENETIC EXPERT she MISquoted in order to TRY and win the anti merle argument wrote a REBUTTAL of her anti merle statements, in fact stating there is no evidence to support the anti merle Chihuahua campaign. "Rabid" or not, your Dial M for Murder title is about as melodramatic and misleading and nonsensical as anything I've ever seen written on merle. It's flat out ridiculous and more than that it is a lie. In any event, if you choose to spread false and misleading information on the internet, that's your choice; after all anyone can type anything on the internet whether true or false (in your case false), it's called free speech. But free speech is no excuse for spreading lies and misinformation and bigtory, and defaming an entire class of breeder based on the patterns or colors they choose to responsibly include in their quality breeding programs. Also, you have no evidence that Jack is a single merle and that what is wrong with him is related to the presence of a single merle gene -- you are just making that up! That is just nonsense and more theory and it is shameful to allow your prejudice to cause you to spread inaccurate information off as truth to others who are ignorance of the facts. FACT: Chihuahuas and other dogs can have eye problems, including small eye (microphthalmia), that have absolutely NOTHING to do with merle and in fact have no merle behind them. And your "most likely" and "probably" arguments are just more blowing smoke with NO EVIDENCE. In fact you have NO EVIDENCE that ANY Chihuahua has any single merle gene related defect BECAUSE SUCH EVIDENCE DOES NOT EXIST - and repeating the same lies and misinformation over and over again DOES NOT MAKE IT ANY MORE TRUE. Information being circulated by the anti merle activists is either outdated or has been totally fabricated.


    FACT: There is absolutely NO evidence to support the nonsensical anti-merle hype and propaganda campaign.

    FACT: ALL single merle Chihuahuas I and others are aware of that have been CERF and BAER tested have been found to be NORMAL (NO hearing or sight problems due to the single merle gene). (Anyone with knowledge of this debate knows that the anti merle folk WISH they had some proof of their chicken little sky is falling doom and gloom merle is the ruination of the breed propaganda and if ANY such evidence or test existed proving that a single (not double) merle Chihuahua had a merle related defect, the anti merle activists would have that evidence posted all over the internet - but unfortunately for them the facts and tests prove them wrong and so all thet can do is post pictures of either double merles or single merles with non merle related issues and make up stories with nothing to back them up. In contrast, those who are actually breeding quality merles have PLENTY of tests and evidence proving these anti merle crusaders wrong on every point and that their merle Chihuahuas are healthy, beautiful representatives of the breed.)

    FACT: Genetic/merle EXPERT G. Strain (after being MISquoted and having his words twisted around by G. Lambert, a notoriously rabid anti-merle activist) came out with a statement warning against rash action or decision regarding changing of the breed standard because there was NO evidence to suggest that the presence of the single merle gene caused ANY adverse effects to the Chihuahua. THAT'S RIGHT!

    FACT: Merle Chihuahuas also DNA tested PURE for Chihuahua in breed heritage DNA testing, in case anyone tries to convince you merle Chihuahuas are not "purebred".

    FACT: Merle Chihuahuas can be just as healthy as their non merle counterparts.

    FACT: The REAL ISSUE is RESPONSIBLE BREEDING (not color or pattern). RESPONSIBLE BREEDERS do NOT breed merle to merle, any more than they breed dogs with known health issues, bad hearts, knees, etc.

    FACT: Sadly, some of those who cry the loudest about the deleterious effects of merle in the breed seem to not care as much about these things which really ARE breed related issues; they would rather focus on imaginary issues such as a pattern that is PROVEN HEALTHY (via CERF & BAER testing - the ONLY way to accurately test sight and hearing - not hearsay!) and PROVEN to have existed in the breed as far back as WWII. That's right there is a picture of a MERLE CHIHUAHUA in a CHIHUAHUA book as far back as that! Wonder how those who claim merle was never in the breed until "recently" explain that old merle chihuahua photograph? Well, they CAN'T, so they have to ignore this "inconvenient truth" just like all the other truths they ignore about the merle Chihuahua!

    FACT: The Merle Chihuahua is here to stay ... if you don't want to breed it, don't, but don't make up stories about responsible breeders who choose to include the merle pattern in their breeding programs, and quit with the chicken little sky is falling histrionics based on false propaganda.

    It's a real shame that bigotry and ignorance based on a campaign of MISinformation and fear allowed the anti-merle faction to get the merle pattern disqualified in other countries. But here in the good ol' USA we still have the opportunity to make the RIGHT choice based on FACT - NOT FICTION!

    PEOPLE, PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK and you will find out the TRUTH about the beautiful AND HEALTHY Merle Chihuahua and hopefully in doing so recognize the importance of preserving the colorful, beautiful history of this beloved breed in ANY COLOR - SOLID, MARKED OR "SPLASHED"!

  6. Just wanted to say that in looking around at some of your other posts, other than this one hysteria based post, and a title that is so absurd it would be laughable, if not so offensive to those you thoughtless malign, you seem like a rather informed and reasonable person. Please do some research into the facts surrounding the merle Chihuahua, the actual testing of real Chihuahuas proven to be single merles, the genetic expert rebuttal of G. Lambert's abuses of his opinion, the unproven and nonsensical allegations made alleging health issues in the merle Chihuahua, and what if any occurrence of such alleged health issues actually exist within the breed, merle and non merle patterns alike, before you go and tear down an entire class of people based on no factual evidence whatsoever. Require proof and actual evidence, rather than simply parroting rumor and hearsay and unproven theories, no matter how ludicrous, and you may just find you have been fed a load of baloney. Much better to frame an argument based on facts, and the facts simply don't add up when it comes to this fear-mongering and bigotry promoted by this post and your anti merle argument. Thank you.