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A Bridge Too Far

By Amy Fernandez

As a rule, dog people don’t like rules. In many ways that’s an advantage. We experiment, learn, and innovate. There’s a downside to this behavior because some rules are there for a good reason. So, here’s a world class story about how one expert took the long way around that learning curve.

Our expert said, “This was my second Rottie and my first real show dog. I bought him from a breeder as an older puppy and he was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe my luck.” Needless to say, in this business, we all know how it goes when something is just too good to be true. “One day I noticed that his bite was kind of crooked. I was just so excited to have a show dog. I really didn’t know anything about the breed and I had never seen a wry mouth before. When I asked the breeder, she told me there wasn’t anything wrong with his teeth, he had just caught them on a fence.”

Anyone in this sport who hasn’t bought that proverbial ‘greatest show dog’ is either lying or needs five more minutes in the game. It’s sort of a rite of passage. However, this particular issue tends to be a bigger sticking point in some breeds. We’re not talking Chinese Cresteds where according to a strict interpretation of the standard, teeth are, well, optional equipment. We’re talking great big, bull chomping Rottie teeth and you know there’s not much leeway in a standard that kicks off the dentition description with a number, “Teeth 42 in number (20 upper, 22 lower) strong, correctly placed, meeting in a scissors bite-lower incisors touching inside of upper incisors….” Just to back up the significance of this trait, there’s also a dentition dq for a wry mouth. Throughout its history, the Rottweiler bottom line has been big, sturdy, and reliable. And wonky teeth don’t fit that profile.

But dog people are resourceful, determined, and let’s say occasionally willing to bend the rules. Our expert says, “Back then I was a vet tech and the veterinarian I worked for was doing all these amazing [illegal] things with tails, testicles and stuff. He did these things just for the satisfaction of knowing he could do them. But he told me that he often thought about going to the shows and sitting ringside to make people nervous. He could probably blackmail them with what he knew about their dogs. He was so funny.

“Anyway, I told him about my new dog and how neat he was except for his bite going off. So he said, ‘Let me give it a try. What we usually do is loosen up the teeth and pull them back into correct alignment and wire them in place. They tighten up and it’s fine.”

(This might be the place to quote a little Shakespeare but let’s get on with the story.)

“He loosened the teeth and wired them into place but he loosened them too much and they all fell out.”

Shakespeare woulda loved it.

Our expert continued with his story saying, “He said don’t worry. He would get his dentist friend to take a look and maybe he could do something. So the dentist came by the office. ‘Oh sure I can make a bridge.’ We had to knock him out to do the impressions and he sent them off to his lab. The only problem was that the kid who made the bridge made it with human teeth not dog teeth.” (They probably didn’t get much call for dog dentures down at the dental lab.)

“But we fitted it in place and he cemented it and it looked fantastic! I started showing him and he was doing great until one big show where some old judge went over him, and then he came back for a second look, then he wanted another look in his mouth and I realized he thought something was up with his bite. So….” (You gotta think on your feet to win in this game.) “I stepped on my dog’s foot and he let out such a yelp that the judge starts apologizing. Afterwards, when I looked at the catalog, I realized he was a dentist.”

Aside from that little glitch “He was doing so much winning. A friend of mine had bought a half sister to my male and she was doing really well, too. We were both total novices but we decided to take our dogs to the national. I researched the judge (not a dentist) so I thought I might have a chance.”

Onward and upward…

“We made our reservations. I did everything I could think of to make sure he was ready. I even took him to a local department store and rode up and down in the elevator to make sure he was acclimated to staying in a big hotel. We had everything all set.” I am not going for any Shakespeare but several gems do come to mind… “Then maybe two days before the trip I went out to the kennel and OMG he was running up and down in his run and his teeth were gone!” He had them for months and they had never come out before.” The story gets better.

Our experts says, “There was no time to make a new bridge. So I had to find it and get it cemented back into place. It was a 20 x 30 gravel run and I went over every inch of it. Finally, I went out and rented a metal detector. But I never found it.”

“I gave up and decided to forget about the national. My friend said that was crazy since I had paid all that money for the airfare and hotel. The vet said he would give me a note explaining that the teeth were lost in an accident.” Yea, sure, that’s gonna fix everything. At that point Wonderdog was shy four top incisors, which is technically a dq times two. But it was off to the National and this story just gets better.

“Believe it or not my whole family showed up. None of them had ever gone to a dog show before but this was the big time.” There is nothing like going down in flames with your family front and center. “There we were in this huge Open class with 30 or 40 dogs and the judge pulled me out and sent me to the front of the line. I was thinking OMG I got this.” Not quite. “We ended up going Reserve without the teeth, which was still pretty amazing.”

He really was that good (except for the disqualifying fault of course). “This judge was an old time cattle judge and he had a reputation for judging the dogs as they walked in the ring. He said that’s how he picked out the cattle he bought at the auctions.” When he handed out the ribbons, I asked him if it was the teeth and he said ‘yes, that had to be considered.’ ” Even so, for many judges that would have been the only consideration. “The funny part was that my friend also went Reserve with his bitch. Can you imagine two novices at their first Nnational with their first show dogs? We really had a great weekend.”

Stranger things have happened in this sport, but not too often.

“Anyway I finished him and he did a lot of group winning.” So why not push the envelope? Can you guess where this is going? “The problem was that I used him for breeding and…” This expert proved to be impressively impervious to quite a few reality checks. However, as every breeder knows, these deals never work out. “He produced so many beautiful puppies with wry bites and that taught me the lesson. Later I was approved to judge the breed and I have always had a reputation as a tooth fairy. I can’t tell you how many wry bite dogs I have judged and I never do anything for them because I know. The standard is very specific. Cheating does not pay.”

But here’s the best part.

“Maybe two or three years go by and I’m out there in the run picking up dog poop one day and I noticed something glittering in the sun. And there is the f*!#% bridge. I tried to put it back in his mouth but his teeth had migrated so much it wouldn’t fit anymore. So I kept it as a souvenir.”

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Posted by on Jan 26 2018. Filed under Current Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  • February 2019