Mews Briefs

Mews Briefs: Frankenmutts, walking dead, and throwaway dogs

Mexican walking fish may be walking dead

LABRADOODLE INVENTOR REGRETS CREATING FRANKENMUTT CRAZE

While working as the puppy-breeding manager at the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia during the late 1980s, Wally Conron needed to come up with a solution for a woman in Hawaii with vision problems and a husband who was allergic to fur. After 33 failed attempts in three years, Conron’s experiments led to crossing his top-of-the-line Labrador retriever with an equally stellar standard poodle, and while the designer mutt fit the bill of having less allergenic “hair” rather than fur, no one was interested. “I was very, very careful of what I used, but nobody wanted Labrador crosses. I had a three-to-six-month waiting list, but everyone wanted purebreds,” the 85-year-old Conron told the Associated Press in an interview last month. “So I had to come up with a gimmick.” That gimmick was to call the mutt a Labradoodle, and Conron says it worked like a charm: “We told people we had a new dog and all of sudden, people wanted this wonder dog.”

Today, Labradoodles are the designer mutt du jour, spawning dozens of other concoctions, from puggles to Maltipoos, in their wake. Conron said creating the Labradoodle was like creating a doggy version of “Frankenstein” and he is filled with regret, not only for unleashing his version of “Frankenmutt,” but also for triggering the entire designer “hybreed” craze.

Conron pointed out that the majority of Labradoodles, like most designer dogs, come from “horrific” puppy mills that are out to make a quick buck. “Instead of breeding out the problems, they’re breeding them in. For every perfect one, you’re going to find a lot of crazy ones,” he said. “They’re selling them for more than a purebred is worth, and they’re not going into the backgrounds of the parents of the dogs. There are so many poodle crosses having fits, problems with their eyes, hips, and elbows; a lot have epilepsy. There are a few ethical breeders but very, very few.”

Further, Conron says the dogs are being sold under false pretenses. “When the pups were five months old, we sent clippings and saliva to Hawaii to be tested with this woman’s husband. Of the three pups, he was not allergic to one of them. In the next litter I had, there were 10 pups, but only three had non-allergenic coats. Now, people are breeding these dogs and selling them as non-allergenic and they’re not even testing them.”

There’s no doubt the “doodle” craze has spiraled out of control, with unscrupulous breeders mixing all kinds of dogs together; for example, golden retrievers and miniature poodles. Worse, many are crossing doodles with other doodles: A “true” Labradoodle must be a purebred Lab crossed with a purebred standard poodle, which is unbeknownst to gullible, trend-following buyers. When you see what the original Labradoodles looked like compared to the wildly different looking doodles of today — miniature, medium, standard; hair coat, wool coat, fleece coat; chocolate, cream, apricot, red, parti — it becomes evident that those trend followers are getting a dog that Conron says is even more of a “Frankenmutt” than his original creation.

Conron has never owned a Labradoodle and stopped breeding them when he retired 20 years ago. “I’ve done a lot of damage,” Conron said. “I’ve created a lot of problems … Marvelous thing? My foot. There are a lot of unhealthy and abandoned dogs out there.” And he still witnesses the effects of his work every day. “You can’t walk down the street without seeing a poodle cross of some sort. Not in my wildest dream did I imagine all of this would happen.”

MEXICAN WALKING FISH NEAR EXTINCTION

The axolotl, better known as the Mexican salamander or the Mexican walking fish, appears to have vanished from its only known natural habitat in Mexico City’s Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco. Though millions of axolotl once made giant lakes their home, Luiz Zambrano (a biologist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University) and his team of researchers were unable to find any creatures in either lake, both of which have experienced widespread pollution and urban sprawl.

THROWAWAY DOGS not JUST ON TRASH CONVEYOR BELTS

Over the last few months, two small pups made big news in the Bay Area and consequently received big interest from potential adopters. An injured Chihuahua mix puppy with dyed pink fur found in East Palo Alto and brought to the Peninsula Humane Society garnered hundreds of inquiries. Named Candy by the shelter, she easily found a new home. A poodle-mix puppy found wiggling in a trash bag on a conveyor belt at the Recology transfer station in San Francisco received so much interest that San Francisco Animal Care and Control had to do a lottery. Gem, as the workers called her, went home with a Recology worker, who expressed her gratitude for being able to “keep Gem in the Recology family.”

Though I am thrilled to see two deserving dogs find loving homes, throwaway dogs aren’t just on trash conveyor belts or dyed pink in Palo Alto; there are thousands of deserving puppies and adult dogs waiting for homes in shelters throughout the Bay Area. Whenever a dog’s story is so compelling that it’s picked up by the media, hundreds of potential adopters wait in line before the shelter opens, as they did for Gem, or fill up the shelter’s voicemail as they did for Candy, but I’d like to see them lining up and calling around the clock for all those throwaway dogs
who don’t make the news.

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E-mail: susan@marinatimes.com

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