What Do They Know Anyway...
Any business or person who has done well in their field has its share of detractors. Springset is no different.
As you talk to various people, especially "show" people, about Gordon Setters, you will occasionally hear innuendoes, slurs and statements that are actually slanderous made by people who have never been to Springset. It seems as though it is easier to criticize and tear down someone than to give them credit for achievement. It is also easier to believe that when others have achieved what you cannot, that they have done so by taking unethical shortcuts than by hard work, perseverance and dedication.
Fld Ch. Danny Boy O' Boy is the greatest sire in Gordon Setters in the world - that is proven by the successes of his descendants! People who love to gossip, and who resented his abilities started the story that his sire was an English Setter. When I first heard that story it hurt, and still does.
At one time, the Vice-President of the Gordon Setter Club of America was at a National Specialty in Los Angeles, and met some friends of mine from England. He asked what they were doing in the U.S. and was told that among other things they wanted to visit Springset. The VP said, "Why would you go there? Norm is breeding English Setters to Gordon Setters!"
He had never been here! This man has two 100 lbs. plus show dogs and is no friend of the hunter. He was repeating words that he had heard elsewhere. He could have been sued by my attorney and could have lost the National Club's treasury because they thought he was speaking not as an individual, which would have been bad enough, but as a Gordon Setter Club of America officer.
Our friends from England did visit, and found there are no English Setters at Springset.
We have recently heard from a friend that had been in correspondence with another breeder. She was told that "I primarily disapprove of Mr. Sorby's attitude toward breeder responsibilities regarding animals produced, and of his beliefs with regard to honesty regarding medical and genetic problems."
We find that statement to reflect the ignorance of this breeder. This person who professes to know me doesn't know that I budget $7-8,000.00 per year for rescue dogs and place approximately 25 per year in new homes. We take very seriously breeder responsibility to animals produced. When dogs that are returned to us are too old for placement in other homes, they live out the rest of their lives here, and are pampered and cared for.
As for honesty regarding medical and genetic problems, we have been the leaders in promoting that policy. Almost all breeds have some genetic problems. Those problems can vary from mild inconvenience to life-threatening and life-destroying illnesses. Gordons are no different. Gordon Setter genetic problems run from hip dysplasia and PRA to a condition known as CCA. That apparently was rather common in Kerry Blue terriers, but was only discovered in Gordon Setters in the early 1970's. As far as we know, the condition was first noted in a Springset bitch who was sent back to us for breeding. We originally believed that her jerky gait and head tremors were caused by possible injuries in shipment.
When we found that was not so, we went to every extreme we could to find out what was causing this. We linked up with a veterinarian here in California who was tracking the problem in animals in an attempt to get more information on a similar condition in children, and were very instrumental in working with veterinarians on the East Coast who became involved through the California veterinarian. We have hosted visits here at Springset to work with various researchers, and have tried our best to assist in every way to get more information on this condition. CCA affects less than 1/2 of 1% of the breed, and is found across the breed, not just in Springset lines.
It would certainly have been considered in our own best interest to sweep this under the rug. However, it would not be in the breed's best interest to obstruct research and resolution to CCA, and it has always been our policy to proceed in what we believe to be the best interests of the Gordon Setter. We will not be here in 100 years - but hopefully the Gordon will be alive and well and prospering. Our breeding program is based on ethics, honesty and concern for our puppy buyers. To that end, I recently shipped an 8 month old puppy to a customer who had paid $1,500.00 for a started dog. He had it two weeks before it was killed in a traffic accident. He paid vet and shipping costs as well as the cost of training birds ONLY on the replacement dog. When a lady called us in tears from Chicago area and said the kids left the door open to the cellar and the puppy fell and broke it's neck, I told her to tell her husband to go to O'Hare Friday and pick up his new puppy -- No charge except shipping costs.
This sort of policy is considered foolish by many people, and I suppose it is. It is certainly not the way to get rich quick -- but then, wealthy dog breeders are the exception, not the rule, and those that are (or remain) wealthy do so in spite of their interest in dogs, not because of it.
Springset Kennels set out to be the #1 kennel in Gordon Setters. Springset was a not-for-profit breeding facility until 1997. The only thing that has changed since then is intent! In 1998 we operated with a $19,000.00 loss. Oh well. The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Years ago, we decided that the breed was in the hands of people that would make the Gordon Setter into the Irish Setter of the future. We set out to assure that the breed would continue as a hunting dog, as typified by the 1935 show standard (yes, we said "show"). Although we are proud of our 25 Bench champions, we cannot condone anything except an athletically capable Gordon Setter. Most show breeders don't have a clue as to what "athletically capable" entails. That is not surprising. They don't hunt.
In the last 40 or so years, we have amassed more than 25 bench champions, 3 dual champions, and 66 field champions, counting to the third generation. If we took ourselves out of the breed, the few Gordons left in the field would be so genetically curtailed the Gordon would become extinct as a field breed.
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