Wednesday, February 25, 2009
From the CNN story at one of your links: "The breed is also hypoallergenic--a must, given daughter Malia’s allergy to dogs."
From Denise Grady New York Times, Feb. 5, 1997 (headline, "Nonallergenic Dog? Not Really"):
"Allergists say all the safe-breed theories are just wishful thinking. When people are allergic to cats or dogs, Dr. Davis said, the allergens that make them sick are the proteins in the animals' skin secretions and saliva. 'All dogs and all cats have saliva and skin,' he said. 'So theoretically, there is no such thing as a nonallergenic cat or dog.' "
Owners of "Porties," like me are of two minds. First, they are absolutely great dogs, who cling to their owners like glue. Second, the popularity of the breed is likely to soar causing a proliferating of "puppy mills" run by less than responsible breeders who pay little attention to the integrity of the gene pool. I think most owners would have prefered the Obamas HAD gotten an Springer. With that said, I'll bet they really like the dog.
I loved my springer, but he had the very unfortunate habit of disappearing for a day or two at a time. He'd come back muddy, happy and leaving some female dog desolate. It didn't bother me, since I was in college and generally regarded that as an example to emulate, but the town got a little uppity about him. Now I have my second Vizsla, and they're tremendous dogs: easy to train, friendly and people focused, love to run and don't shed.
Many, if not most Americans love dogs, so it's not suprising that this story gets a great deal of play.
All good points above.
DEC - as I understand it, the prevailing theory of kids' allergies is sort of the "bucket theory" -- enough allergens and the bucket overflows, causing a reaction. To the extent that the amount of allergens in the immediate environment can be minimized, all the better and the bucket is not disrupted. Some breeds -- the so-called hypoallergenic ones (the "hypo" prefix meaning under, but not "non") -- don't produce as many allergens. My godson's sister developed an allergy to the dander of their tri-color Border Collie puppy about 7 years ago, and I agreed to take the pup for a few months while a solution to the allergy was sought, until we all ultimately decided that her breeder could place her with another family in upstate PA. I think my godson would have preferred to swap out his younger sister instead of the dog at the time. That's a great breed, very smart and driven dogs.
SR - I am sure that people heavily involved in the breed are cringing, as you imply. Here in PA, puppy mills are a significant problem, and Gov. Rendell has actually scored decent political points cracking down on them. There will be an inevitable boomlet in Porties. Perhaps the First Lady can insist that people try rescues first. If there is a website for Porties for rescue (other than the generic petfinder.com), they'd better triple their server size.
Anon 9:04 - When I was a young boy in the early 1960s, we had one of few Vizslas in the States (my mother was born in Hungary and came over before WWII, and her family loved the breed going back a few generations). It's a great breed, but probably a bit too high energy for the White House residence. It is also one of the best dogs out there for quail or pheasant hunting -- you probably know that it was bred to hunt upland birds on the plains of Hungary, which in its original incarnation was ringed by mountains, with good farmland in the middle, allowing it to develop its own unique (non-Romance) language and culture, before basically everyone from the Turks to the Germans to the Russians overran all or part of it at some point or another. Somehow, I can't see a picture of President Obama with a 20 gauge over-under and a Vizsla wandering around some farmland in southern Illinois in October.
One of my other favorite breeds is the West Highland White Terrier, or Westie. I still very much miss the bitch we had to put down 9 years ago just a month shy of her 17th birthday. I thought that the Obama family might seriously consider the breed, since it is also thought to be hypoallergenic, and it is kind of the "opposite" of the W family dog, which was a Scottie, essentially the black mirror image of the white-coated Westie.
Nothing is better than walking a field with a dog and a 20 gauge. Especially if someone else plucks for you! Vizslas are too high energy for the WH, probably. My wife had a Westie as a child, and still talks wistfully of the breed.
Escort81: "Some breeds -- the so-called hypoallergenic ones (the "hypo" prefix meaning under, but not "non") -- don't produce as many allergens."
I know the difference between "hypo" and "non." The key point in my comment: "Allergists say all the safe-breed theories are just wishful thinking."
From Denise Grady's NY Times article: "Allergists agree that the luck of the few with their pets cannot be stretched to fit all allergic people and ENTIRE BREEDS of dogs."
Bernadine Cruz, a spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, in Scientific American):
"There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog ... Those dogs that are more universally less allergenic ... don’t shed a lot or they go to the groomer frequently and by getting their hair washed and trimmed, get the allergens off their skin."
This isn't my field, Escort81. You'll have to nitpick the details with somebody else.
Thanks for the links, DEC. Didn't mean to nitpick, just pass along a few personal stories; I'm not sure there's anything contradictory in our posts, anyway.
Does this mean there's going to be bad reactions in the White House residence no matter what?
"Does this mean there's going to be bad reactions in the White House residence no matter what?"
Apparently, unless they get lucky.
In the end, this is only about a dog. What bothers me generally is the tendency of President and Mrs. Obama (Michelle mentioned hypoallergenic before CNN did) to make statements based on urban legends and other inaccurate information.
Government in action, I guess.
I feel sorry for any dog they eventually choose. If they really wanted one they wouldn't have kept delaying. The whole thing is a PR charade. Having said that, they couldn't have picked a worse dog for the White House.
I agree that Springers are great dogs, but having had one, I found that they were only great if you ran them at least 7-8 miles a day. Perhaps a new duty for the Secret Service?