From the Heart - Amanda Fuller
May 04, 2015 12:49PM
Scrolling through Facebook one day, I passed by a photo of this tiny white puppy that was looking for a home. It was possibly one of the cutest puppies I had ever seen, and I kept finding myself back at that post. I had been looking for a second dog, preferably an Australian Shepherd because I already owned one, Kai. So this little white Aussie puppy was stuck in my head. I had fallen for her, just by seeing one photo.
I took it upon myself to contact the person who had posted the little puppy. My heart sunk when I got an email back. This poor puppy that had already stolen my heart had a terrible start to life. This little puppy was going to be shot at 5 weeks old by the very breeder who allowed her to be created and brought into the world. Why, because the puppy was deaf and maybe blind. The poor puppy was going to be killed because of disabilities it had no control over. I fell even harder for this puppy knowing its story, but I was also terrified. What would I do with a dog that had “issues?” I started doing a ton of research and found out that the puppy was a double merle. A double merle is created when two merle dogs are bred together. In this case, it was two merle Australian Shepherds, but it can be any breed that carries the merle gene. When they are bred together, each puppy in the litter has a 25% chance of being a double merle. This means they inherit two copies of the merle gene. When bred correctly, the merle gene will create a marbling effect on the coat. When it is doubled, the marbling effect is doubled and creates a predominantly white coat. Double merle puppies are also faced with deafness and blindness due to the lack of pigment where it would normally be. The worst part of all is that killing of the white puppies is a totally acceptable practice to breeders. They call it “responsible.” The responsible thing to do would be to not breed two dogs who will bring disabled puppies into the world. Double merle puppies often face death from the moment they are born. If the breeder doesn’t kill them, they are often marketed as “rare” and sold to unknowing buyers. When these buyers get frustrated because the dog isn’t listening (it’s deaf) they end up in shelters. Against all my apprehensions, I decided to go meet this puppy. I put Kai in the car, and we drove to Lancaster, PA. When we arrived, my heart nearly exploded. I saw this little white fluff ball hopping around in the grass. She was cuter than I imagined, and I was completely in love. After a very lengthy meet and greet, Kai and I headed home with our newest family member and a lot of learning ahead of us.
It’s been almost two years since this little puppy joined our family. We named the white fluff ball, Keller, after the great Helen Keller. Keller has changed my life and opened my eyes to a whole new side of the world, irresponsible and unethical breeding. Keller is deaf, and vision impaired, but she wouldn't be had her “breeder” done even the slightest amount of research. Keller is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. She knows all of her commands through hand and touch signals, along with some extra fun tricks. She’s completed numerous agility classes as well as obedience. She does everything a normal dog does. I’m not sure when or why a stigma came to be around deaf dogs, but they are really no different. Double merles are completely preventable. If two merle dogs aren’t bred, double merles aren’t born. It seems like such an easy fix, yet there are tons of rescues all over the country dedicated to taking in these special dogs. Since bringing Keller into my life, I have set out to make a change and educate people on double merles and how to prevent them (not breeding merle to merle.) We have a Facebook page (Facebook.com/kellerthedm) that we use for educating and fundraising for various rescues. We also use it to show people that a “disabled” dog is really no different than a normal dog. We like to call her differently abled. Our biggest attempt in making a change for these dogs is the petition we started in the fall. We are petitioning the AKC. Currently in the United Kingdom their kennel club has banned the registration of merle to merle bred dogs. This means that if the breeder disposes of the “defective” pups, they cannot register the normal merle and solid puppies. The thought is that if a breeder cannot register their litter, they will be discouraged from breeding said pair of dogs. We want the AKC to do the same here in the United States. It would be such a large step in making a difference and educating people on this issue. The petition and additional information can be found at www.change.org/p/ american-kennel-club-ban-the-registration-of-a-dog-from-merle-to-merle-breeding. For more info on double merles go to www.doublemerles.info