The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, February 11, 2004  

Mildred Loves ’Em. I Hate ’Em.

I’ve probably mentioned once or twice, here or at TRR, that my bulldog, Mildred, throughout her life has displayed, what shall we call it, a romantic, or at least a decidedly affectionate, inclination toward what I call “the little guys,” small-breed dogs including, unfortunately, that motley gang known most commonly -- and I mean that -- as “Jack Russell terriers.”

I know I’m going to get letters (or at least e-mail) about this, but in what parallel universe are “Jack Russell terriers” considered dogs in even the lowest, the most narrow, the most limited or restrictive, definition of that admittedly not altogether grandiose term?

It was only last year that the American Kennel Club, no doubt responding to millions of owners, a vocal and insanely prolific -- and, I assume, to the AKC, potentially very profitable -- group of the sorely misbegotten, the unwashed masses spawned by the vicious and inhumane overbreeding and subsequent aggressive sales of these animals, all too often at frighteningly discounted prices, decided that “Jack Russell terriers” were actually a distinct breed and not an obvious menace to the canine world specifically and to the greater society generally.

Now we find that the crew that some of us begrudgingly used to call “Jack Russell terriers” suddenly are to be referred to by the seemingly more dignified name of “Parson Russell terriers,” a name that, despite its purposefully clerical and upscale overtones, along with the inclusion of this new, well, class (?), for the first time in so prestigious an event as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, does nothing whatsoever to hide or conceal the obviously heinous characteristics and traits of this questionable “breed.”

All in all, this is scary and inhumane. Not far west of Philadelphia, in and around Lancaster, Pa., there are hundreds of puppy mills -- the area is notorious for this -- the details of which would assuredly repulse you. Suppose someone out there were to conceive of a new breed, mating this dog and that one, and that one and this one, and this one and that one, and that one and this, over, and over, and over again.

Eventually, this idiot would have on his hands a “new” “breed.” Meanwhile, of course, and in the process of “developing” this “new” “breed,” hundreds of puppies, those left unsold, along with hundreds the breeder, seeking to become the next “Jack Russell,” or, excuse me, “Parson Russell,” even if that lineage is not so disreputable, never even attempted to sell but simply killed by drowning or some other similarly horrific means, might be expended. How convenient.

I sometimes feel guilty for owning a purebred dog, one not obtained or purchased from a shelter. I can only hope that the breeder whose efforts brought us that which is known as Mildred is thoughtful, responsible, and caring. I hate to say it, though. All too often, this is not the case. Let’s enjoy the breeds we have now. There’s more than enough love to go around. And while Mildred may like the little guys, frankly, she’s not the brightest bulb on the string, and what they’re sellin’, I ain’t buyin’. And I hope you won’t either.

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