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A Peek Behind The Purple and Gold Curtain of Breeding and Showing AKC Labrador Retrievers

Updated on July 5, 2019

Now I know...

We began, approaching three years ago, with a dream; a dream of raising, owning, showing and possibly breeding Labrador Retrievers for "the betterment of the breed". What does that mean, exactly? Are we intent on producing healthier Labs? More show worthy Labs? Better pets or family dogs? Or more expensive Labs?

I thought I was clear before; now, not so much.

Duckie, I'm sorry but they say you're just not good enough.
Duckie, I'm sorry but they say you're just not good enough. | Source

Before I begin, let me assure you of what I know

What I now know is this: for my writing this hub, I will be blackballed. The door will slam shut, never to re-open. The portcullis dropped and secured in place; the drawbridge raised; boiling oil sent over the edge of the castle walls into the moat; the moat set on fire.

I will be done in the world of Breeding and Showing Labrador Retrievers.

As I stated earlier, I may have been aware of this portion of the universe I am about to relay to you but I was ignorant enough to believe that if I treated others as I myself desired to be treated, I would then be treated as I treated others. Damn, was I stupid.

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The beginning...

The beginning was almost three years ago. Tina and I were searching for a hobby to enjoy together as we age. I love Labs; she loves dogs. So we get a couple of AKC Show Labs, raise and show them with the possibility of breeding at some point. Now, to show a dog in the AKC requires having an unlimited registration. To breed a dog requires the same. Not all who show breed; not all who breed show. So to begin with the AKC has adroitly tied up any loose ends by caching those two separate desires together into one package. You are not allowed to show a dog without it being intact, a fully functioning dog.

So we searched and found a breeder who would allow us to have this right. The cost was high. To us, it was high. I now know it was rather low to mid range in price. Anyway, we had the dogs and we had the rights. We began to train and plan.

With our recent litter, things have changed. Both puppies have gone on to good homes; one to work, the other to play. Neither will be show dogs and I am good with that. But Tina spoke earnestly with me the night before the final sale took place, saying that by allowing this blessing to pass on to others, perhaps God would allow a blessing to come to us in the form of someone desiring to co-own a dog with us in the future. I had no faith that would occur but it was a nice thought.

I received just such an offer today. Another person who had read of our puppies and felt moved enough to email us was looking for a puppy but stated she could not be paid enough to take Kate from us as she felt Kate belonged with our family. Sweet sentiments indeed. She was in the market for a puppy due to their Lab passing away recently. I responded with thanks and that I would put the word out to some breeders I had minor contact with to see if anyone had any puppies available.

One responded and I passed that information along to this woman. The breeder also relayed that they were getting out of the business for personal reasons and might be looking to place a puppy with someone; a co-ownership. My heart lifted from the sadness of allowing Kate and Ziva to leave. Perhaps what Tina had told me was a possibility!

I responded to the email with thanks and stated I had passed the information on to the woman who had contacted us. I also stated that if this person was interested in a co-ownership we would like to explore the possibilities. Please feel free to call or email.

I received a call.

No, not yet.
No, not yet. | Source

The Call

The call came early this afternoon. We spoke for almost an hour. When I got off the phone I was reeling.

Many years ago I read a quote by the famous Bobby Jones in which he states "He plays a game with which I am not familiar." Today, I understand that quote.

We are not in the same arena with those who raise and show labs either as a hobby or as a means of making a living.

I had my male Lab Duckie called inferior. I was told that if I was blessed with one or two of this breeder's female puppies Duckie would not be allowed to breed with them. Our name, A Love Of Labs, which was thought up with great intent and love, passion and care, was called "puppymill-ish" and I was advised to change it if I were to be taken as a serious breeder.

And the cost! It came home to me just how this arena is ruled by those in power. I felt like Tonya Harding being compared to Nancy Kerrigan: it doesn't matter what you do in the arena you don't belong because you are from the wrong side of the tracks.

The door was not even fully opened and I felt like it had slammed in my face.

Two Labs, two puppies and A Love Of Labs. Is this the face of a puppy mill?
Two Labs, two puppies and A Love Of Labs. Is this the face of a puppy mill? | Source

This person was attempting to be kind in their wording, intending not to cause hard feelings nor harm. I have no doubt they truly believed this. And yet, great harm was done; done to me, to my wife, to my Labs, to the very future of our hopes and dreams. If I allow it to occur.

This type of person is one I am unfamiliar with.

I do not know how to respond to this. I felt, and still feel, Duckie is a great example of a Labrador Retriever. He is a gorgeous individual, having many champions in his lineage. But even that was called into question by the smooth remark that even a good dog that is bred to a bad dog cannot overcome the bad dog genes; therefore only substandard puppies would result.

So the fact that great champions exist in his lineage means nothing; if his direct ancestors, those one or two generations back are not champions the fact is that he is below par. The fact that he has won ribbons in the few shows we have attended means nothing. The fact that he has been called beautiful; gorgeous; of having the best head a judge has seen in many years means nothing. The fact the a veterinarian has stated that he is what a Lab is supposed to look like is empty; meaningless.

We are beneath the level of competition in this person's eyes, and I believe they are representative of the show world at large.

And speaking of the level of competition, even that was called into question. This person believes that no respectable Lab Breeder or Conformation Show Dog would enter and compete in an All Breed event; no, only Specialty Shows can make your kennel rise above. Those who compete in these "lesser" shows are to be looked down upon as not being able to meet the standards of those who are better, who compete at the "higher" level. I felt that even the Judges who participate in those lesser shows were called into question by this comment.

And yet, in the same context this person relayed how they had competed in these "lesser" shows and done well.

So Duckie; you're still not good enough?
So Duckie; you're still not good enough? | Source

Behind The Purple and Gold Curtain...

So I have had the curtain of the show and breeding world pulled aside sufficiently to glimpse what lies behind it. It is not quite what I expected. I thought would consist of an honest approach between contestants, an honorable competition between those within the ring, of a kind of unity between humans for the betterment of our four legged friends. And it is so long as you are not in direct competition with another owner. We received answers to questions we did not even know enough to ask from owners of King Charles Cavaliers, of Irish Wolfhounds, of Dogue de Bordeaux. But it is not all like that, harmony and friendship; oftentimes it is distasteful, demeaning. At times even someone who spoke kindly to us as newcomers dropped comments about other competitors which were less than flattering. It is a world filled with people who can be and frequently are supercilious in nature, smiling to your face while subtley delivering a comment couched in kind words that will cut you to the core. They truly believe they are doing you a favor by putting you in your place.

I am not made that way. I cannot cause harm to another by intent. I will not place myself above another human being; I simply am not able to be that type of person.

While in conversation with this person they relayed that the person I purchased my Labs from was a dear friend, yet was rather close minded in their approach to breeding; that they were lacking in what it took to be a successful breeder. All the while this person stated time and again how much they loved the other person. Really? You care so deeply you will say something to a person you have just met on the phone and stab your "friend" in the back by saying they do not know what they are doing?

Is this approach, this belief, this style of "friendship" prevalent in this world of show dogs? Are other breeders this self-serving and arrogant while attempting to be humble and offering "help" to bring you up to their level? "I am just trying to offer you information, not intending on insulting you at all! It's just that you do not have quality Labs! Now, if you pay me thousands of dollars for my puppies; allow me to decide who to breed them to and when to breed them (all the while you are paying the vet bills, feed bills, clearances, shots, enter them in shows while traveling across the country to better my kennel's name while paying all of the other bills associated with owning a dog of this quality), then allow me to have two puppies back gratis in two years from your first breeding then we will get along just fine! That's how I was introduced into this world of Show Dogs."

All I could think of what is something I have heard before: Thank you Sir may I have another.

It would be a form of indentured servitude; signing on for several years of work before buying your way out of the contract. I thought that was long gone; silly me.

Am I innocent to believe in the best of others; of helping another person out without causing, intentional or not, pain and heartache? This person has not even seen my Lab yet has passed judgment on him due to his perceived lackluster recent lineage. Even as they were building up other kennels which are in his lineage they were tearing them down as being sub-standard! In the same breath came praise and decryment of the same kennel. I do not understand that.

And this is not a beautiful puppy?
And this is not a beautiful puppy? | Source

As I said earlier, I know that when I publish this article, news of it will get back to this person and the ranks will close together, keeping the interloper (me) out. And, I am okay with that. Duckie and Abbie were purchased to become part of our family; to breed and show; but mostly to love. Abbie will never be bred again; Duckie will never breed again. I feel confident that we will continue to pay entry fees to events we probably will not win yet it will be the joy of showing, the enjoyment of being together that I will feast upon.

I believe it was Grantland Rice who spoke those immortal words "It's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game" in his 1908 poem "Alumnus Football" . We will play, and play by our rules. Our heads will be held high, our pride in knowing we intend no harm to any other soul on the playing field nor in the stands we will hold in our hearts. And should Duckie actually do well, then we will be prouder still for accomplishing what we have been told we would not able to accomplish. Then when the Great Scorer makes a note beside our names we will have earned it.

One should be careful who one speaks to in this world. As I am a writer, I am reminded of Paul Bettany's wonderful portrayal of Geoffery Chaucer the Medieval poet in A Knights Tale when he said to the moneylenders "I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity."

As you present yourself to me, so shall you be portrayed.

The hell with that! To me, oh yes you are!!!
The hell with that! To me, oh yes you are!!! | Source

Tammy and Melissa, Thank You!!!

We have been the beneficiary of heartfelt comments regarding this situation swifter than we ever imagined. Among those who have commented are some of my Hubpage friends and two wonderful individuals who are in the world of Labrador Retrievers. Tammy at Misty Woods Labradors and Melissa at Dostaff Labradors both reached out to us and are making us feel so much better. We cannot express how grateful we are to these ladies and their families so I thought to add thanks here on the hub. Ladies, thank you!!! You are restoring our faith in this arena.

This just goes to prove that our faith in our fellow man is not misplaced; rather we must continue to believe in the best of everyone no matter who we may come into contact with and how we are treated; not all are out for themselves nor are they malicious or misleading. There are still those out there one can have faith in. To those individuals, we thank you and offer up God's Blessings to you and yours.


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