I will probably need a ladder to get off this soapbox when I’m done (and perhaps life support for any dog show career I might have thought about having), but I’m going to write what’s on my mind about the question of whether or not to clarify our standard to include the sable merle.
One thing I am going to stress right now is all involved in this tempest love our breed and only want what’s best for our breed. I have no doubt of this. It’s just how we see “what’s best” that is the sticking point. Name calling (as has happened just recently on FB and the subsequent retaliation) gets us NOWHERE. Have we learned nothing from the current political climate in this country? The only thing name calling does is cause both sides to dig in and entrench deeper, denying any opportunity for communication and compromise. BTW, the dinosaur meme from one side is really cute—but it might behoove all of us to remember the dinosaurs are extinct because they failed to adapt and change with rapidly altering conditions. (Just some food for thought.)
Repeating the same argument, over and over, doesn’t make it any more valid nor does the argument that the giants in our breed wrote that directive make the argument valid. Resorting to ad hominem attacks are merely the tools of those who cannot justify their position with logic or facts. Those of us who want the standard clarified have pointed out the AKC’s official position. (That’s a fact.) While the materials for judge’s education from ten years ago (the directive those who don’t want the standard to change have held up as the definitive answer through an appeal to authority fallacy) and the latest, revised, newest edition are beautifully done, thoughtfully written, and an excellent educational tool, I will repeat what Tim Thomas, VP of Dog Show Judges at the AKC wrote in response to Mrs. Gwen Means letter to the AKC: “Judges are equally as correct to apply the “directive” from the club concerning Sable Merles or to view it as not in accordance to the standard based on the fact it is specific in stating “The four recognized colors are…”, of which Sable Merles is not one.
“As long as this remains to be the case, judges may apply the color as the parent club has recommended, or may view as a deviation of standard and weigh proportionately based on the extent of the deviation in their view. The only means to guarantee the Sable Merle to be considered as accepted color/pattern for the breed would be to modify the language of the standard” (quoted in an email from Collie Club of America through Constant Contact, 19 July 2019).
Another argument is that we shouldn’t allow one judge to have this much power over our club and how dare we allow this? This judge is probably enjoying the show the hornet’s nest she kicked has provided (or that’s another part of the argument). Lovely straw man fallacy you’ve got going there. Not to mention, I’m receiving more and more information from exhibitors with sable merles that they are being ignored in the ring (at best) or having ribbons withheld. This one judge has had a ripple effect. A comment was made that no all-breed judge was going to dictate how to run a breeding program. I should hope not—however that comment is just a tad bit elitist.
Then, there’s the slippery slope fallacy the opponents of clarifying the standard are so fast to trot out. If we clarify the standard by adding these five words “may include a merle pattern” in the description of sable and white, the fallacy is we start down that slippery slope of opening the flood gates to ugly, large-eyed, blue-eyed sables. Well, no…not really. First of all, it is genetically impossible for a sable (whether pure for sable or tri-factored) to ever have blue eyes. That requires the merle gene. That’s a sable merle. Secondly, if a collie fitting that description “ugly, large-eyed, blue-eyed sable” were ever entered at a show, I can guarantee that person is a total new-comer to this game. Too often, I’ve seen a new-comer given the cold shoulder, talked about in words loud enough for them to hear, and they leave. Instead of shaming them, what if we used that as a teachable moment? None of us are getting any younger, fewer and fewer people are joining our ranks of dog-show crazies, and yet, all too often, I’ve seen these new people driven out by an elitist, snobbish, ugly attitude. What ever happened to mentoring these newcomers? I’ll bet the majority of people who are breeding these “ugly, large-eyed, blue-eyed sables” aren’t in the least bit concerned with our standard. Their only standard is as long as the check doesn’t bounce, it’s all good.
Another favorite slippery slope fallacy in all of this is if we open our standard to revision (and I’ll repeat, we don’t want to revise it, we merely wish to clarify), we open Pandora’s box with a flood of changes: to allow red-merles, bi-blacks, maltese coloration, chinchilla, straight fronts (seriously…has anyone really looked at the fronts in our breed?), and my favorite—allow harlequin patterning. Y’all better get used to seeing harlequins, because yes, there are more today than there were even ten years ago. And how did this happen? We did it. According to Dr. Leigh Ann Clark, “During domestication and breed formation, genes responsible for these phenotypes underwent strong selective pressure, including the pigmentation gene PMEL (aka SILV)” (https://blogs.biomedcentral.com/on-biology/2018/08/03/the-genetics-of-merle-coat-patterns-in-dogs/). Strong selective pressure—for the Irish pattern of white markings. Strong selective pressure to increase the Irish pattern. Blaming the sable merle for the harlequin pattern? head desk head desk head desk.
Last, but not least, we absolutely have to address the shroud of secrecy that hangs over the Collie Club of America. Allowing the membership to listen in on the meetings of the Board of Directors is a start. A damn good start. However, there needs to be a hell of a lot more sunshine aimed at all this. As members, we should know how our Board and our District Directors vote. We should be allowed to read any communication between the members of the BOD and the DDs, so long as that communication doesn’t contain personal or confidential information. This shroud of secrecy extended even to an email sent out by President Means, addressed to the entire membership. Why was that email delay for so long?
Could it be that some members of the board think the membership is not sophisticated or intelligent enough to understand the issue? It certainly seems that way, especially in light of the manner some members of the Board and the District Directors are making personal attacks on some members of the CCA on Facebook.
We aren’t going to shut up and sit down. This is just as much our club as it is yours, and the power play isn’t very becoming for anyone.
My blog is where I do most of my venting about all sorts of things--book scammers, book stuffers, book thieves (I refuse to call them 'pirates' because I won't insult pirates), stupid crap that happens at dog shows. You never know what you'll read in this blog because I don't ever know what I'm going to write until I start writing.