Saturday, February 1, 2014

Puff the Magic Hund Dog

Puff the Magic Hund Dog, lived by the sea
And frolicked in an autumn mist, in a land called Vaeroy!

Once upon a time, in land far away, lived a magical dog named "Puff."  He was born with six toes on each foot. Real, functional toes, not like the vestigial toes known as "dewclaws."

As he grew, his owner noticed that he was also quite magically double-jointed!

He had extra vertebrae in his neck.

Due to his unusual anatomy, Puff was able to climb steep cliffs and navigate rocky crags.

 He could flatten his ears completely, either backward and forward, which helped to keep out water or dirt.

His special talents came in handy for his job.....flushing puffin birds out from between the rocks, as well as retrieving puffin eggs from the nests. His flexible body and small size was perfect for maneuvering through caves, while his extra toes helped him to maintain a sure footing for climbing on rocks and scrambling along steep cliffs.

Puff and his relatives, who were all magically unique, flourished in Norway for hundreds of years. But, unfortunately for our Puffin Dog, known in Norway as the "Lunde Hund", it eventually became illegal to hunt puffins in Norway. He and his other family members no longer had a job, and soon, there were not many of them left. Then, distemper came along and wiped out almost all of the remaining dogs. There were less than a handful of Lundehunds left, and they were all closely related to each other.

Also unfortunate for the Lundehund is that, due to their lack of genetic variability, they are prone to a condition known as "Lundehund Syndrome." This syndrome is characterized by difficulty in digesting and absorbing protein. All Lundehunds suffer from this problem in varying degrees of severity. It can progress to cancer of the intestines or stomach or lymphoma.

Is this genetic predisposition related to their strangely agile anatomy? We know in humans that being double-jointed is often a result of a genetic defect of collagen formation. I actually know someone with a protein malabsorption problem known as celiac disease, who cannot tolerate gluten in her diet, and she is also double-jointed. Some cases of celiac sprue are associated with abnormal collagen deposits in the intestines. It's interesting to speculate about the possible connection.

The Lundehund is closely related to the Icelandic Sheepdog and the Norwegian Buhund. "Lundies" are an attractive, moderate natural and somewhat primitive type of spitz dog, with the appearance of a cross between a wolf and a coyote.

I was lucky enough to see some of these unusual dogs up close and personal at the Eukanuba dog show a few years ago.

 At one time, I toyed with the idea of obtaining a "Lundie".  I thought it might be a good project to try to crossbreed with Buhunds in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the incidence of Lundehund syndrome. It's a serious problem that can result in significant pain and suffering, as well as a shortened lifespan. Whether caused by specific genes, or the result of lack of variability in the MHC (the genes that provide us with a healthy immune system), crossbreeding is the best way to introduce new genes that would help improve the overall health and vigor of the breed.

But now that AKC has "recognized" the Lundehund as a separate breed, it would be nearly impossible to undertake a crossbreeding program under the current closed registry system. "Purebred" being such an important attribute and all. Heaven forbid that we should MIX breeds, even though all through history people have done exactly that in order to produce healthy and functional dogs.

Incredibly, the genetic testing recommended for the Norwegian Lundehund  in AKC's CHIC program includes only OFA patella and CERF eye certification. 

Rather than admit there's a serious problem and look to fixing that problem, the Lundehund breeders justify their "pure" breeding by claiming that all breeds of dogs have different health problems. This is just their probem, they say, and that's just the way it is! No mention of crossing to similar breeds in an effort to produce healthier dogs.

I hope in the future that an adventurous breeder out there somewhere will undertake the important task of crossbreeding to truly IMPROVE the Norwegian Lundehund breed. The dogs of the future would thank us for that favor, and indeed, crossbreeding may be the only hope of for a bright future for these wonderful Lundies!

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