By Barbara Anderson Lounsbury
AKC Gazette, Aug. 2003
When my husband, Charlie, encouraged me to once again become involved in the world of purebred dogs, I was overjoyed. I had been away from it for several years and was anxious to become involved again.
We were fortunate to find a wonderful foundation bitch who presented us with lovely, show-quality puppies in each of her three litters. Her specialty-winning daughter gave us two more chances to produce the ideal Scottie, and her exciting young grandson had just gone Reserve at a large specialty his first time out. And then, in the wink of an eye, it all came undone.
I had just read a heartrending article in the Scottish Terrier Club of America's magazine, The Bagpiper. Excerpts by a companion-Scottie owner told the story of her beloved dog's struggle with the degenerative disease cerebellar abiotrophy. It had taken her years to discover the name of this awful syndrome, which eventually takes away the dogs ability to walk. The veterinarians she consulted had seen it in other breeds but never in ours. The article disturbed me. I grieved for this dedicated woman and her courageous little dog.
And then I received an e-mail that changed my life forever. It was from a man who had purchased a puppy from someone with whom I had placed one of my bitches. The bitch was lovely but had no love for the show ring. Bred to my young champion dog, she had produced a puppy with this dreadful disease.
I immediately availed myself of every bit of information I could find on CA. Geneticists are convinced that it is an autosomal recessive; both the bitch and my young dog are therefore carriers. And my last brood bitch is both a half-sister of the carrier bitch, and a litter sister to the carrier dog.
When genetic tests are available to identify carriers, breeders can quickly eradicate the "bad" gene from their breeding programs, just as we've done with the vWD gene. But no test exists for CA. Every future mating brings with it the risk of creating another carrier, and perhaps another CA puppy. So I made the heartbreaking decision: to spay my bitch and neuter my young dog. I simply cannot risk producing more puppies who would eventually lose the ability to walk, and I cannot ignore a gene that imposes on its owner not an inconvenience but a lifetime of disability. After consulting with experts and searching my conscience, I made the decision that has brought an end to more than a dozen years of producing lovely champions and loving pets.
It was a heartbreaking decision, to put it mildly, but we are dedicated to the breed, and we'll begin again. And someday, if we all work together, this dreadful disease will become a thing of the past. Someone asked me how we found the courage to make the decisions we did. But they have it wrong. It wasn't courage that made us do it. It was love.
Gazette columnist Dr. Jerold Bell (
) is studying pedigrees of Scotties suspected of having CA. For more information see "Wobbly and Uncoordinated Scotties," by Debbie Smith, on the STCA web site at http://clubs.akc.org/stca/.
-Barbara Anderson Lounsbury
97 Colburn Rd.
Canterbury, CT 06331;
Original Doc: End Of The Line.doc