So let’s talk about the dogs!
Many of you may be aware of my constant harping during past years about the deplorable lack of smooth-coated Saints at this show. Happily, I have far less to complain about on this point this year. The smooth classes were both well up in number and in quality. And in the mixed classes, such as the 12-18 month classes, smooths made their presence known in both sexes. Certainly, there were more smooth specials than we’ve seen for several years.
No, they did not take the top prizes. Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, were all quality rough-coated specimens. Clearly the smooths still have a ways to go yet, but progress is in evidence. So keep trying!
Unhappily, I found a couple of other things that disturb me. When I started in Saints over 25 years ago, the rear ends were horrible and it was painful to watch some of those poor dogs move about the ring. Now I find it just as disconcerting to see what has happened to the front ends!
Time and again, I would see a dog on the line that looked wonderful – until he started to move. Too often, the fronts were all over the place. Hackneyed motion was everywhere. Broken down pasterns were the order of the day. It was the rare dog that could actually put any reach into his run, extension of the front legs being so absent.
The problem was most prevalent in the mature males. Many of these fellows had size and beauty but too few were really functional. In many cases, height has been achieved at the expense of a true chest. Some of these dogs had no sternum showing forward of the legs. So it wasn’t too surprising to see that they had no power to move. Many of them just shuffled around the ring, wheezing and puffing, strung up by their handlers.
God forbid that I should ever need to be rescued by one of these guys in our Canadian winter. And when was the last time you saw one of these dunderheads in the weight pull competition?
I love to look at the heads of my Saints when they are lying down, as much as the next fancier. However, my favorite memories are watching a powerful Saint at work: pulling my mother and daughter on the toboggan; knocking my son over on the lawn while playing football; life-guarding my children at the beach. Trying to keep up with Yondo in the specials ring was always a personal challenge for me. In short, nothing beats seeing strong, powerful dogs in action.
There is no reason to accept less than fully functional beautiful Saints – especially at the National level of competition. I implore all breeders to re-evaluate their programs for these factors and make the necessary corrections. Let us all meet the challenge of keeping the St. Bernard a respected working member of the Working Group.
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