The New World
"Nature Can't Replace What We Erase..."
Basenji breeders have an obligation that runs deeper than merely producing "pretty" dogs for pet and show purposes. We are guardians of an ancient, non-man-made breed that has endured for centuries without the active intervention of humans. Now, with their native habitat taking a backseat to modernization, civil war, and famine, we may soon find ourselves solely responsible for the Basenjis' continued survival.
With this responsibility comes the need to:
| Educate ourselves regarding all aspects of
health, conformation and temperament;|
|Understand and respect the Basenjis' original
purpose as a functional hunting dog; |
|Strive to preserve the Basenji's native
appearance, rather than altering it to suit our whim; and|
|Produce the stable (but not "vanilla") temperaments and good health that will permit our breed to survive as companion and working animals for many years to come.|
These goals are not easy to achieve, and some of them may even be at cross-purposes! Human nature dictates that responsible breeders may prioritize their legitimate goals differently -- but the resulting diversity of choices should (at the end of the day) strengthen the breed, rather than weaken it. For this reason, every breeder's choices are important. It is up to every Basenji breeder to decide what he wants to achieve, and to consider how his choices may impact the breed in the short and long term.
All of us who reside with Basenjis probably agree on one point: we do not "own" our Basenjis -- we share our lives with them. In that respect, the present-day relationship of Basenjis to humans has changed very little over the course of thousands of years. The innate, symbiotic relationship of man and dog lives on in our houses, apartments, and condos. Basenjis remain stubborn, free-thinking, independent creatures who do the bidding of mankind only out of well-earned love and respect. That "spark" of primitiveness still exists in our Basenjis, and distinguishes them from other purebred dogs.
In my opinion, it is this primitive "spark" that places significant responsibility on the shoulders of Basenji breeders. We did not create our breed from an amalgam of existing breeds. If we truly believe that we are the guardians of "Nature's Masterpiece" then how much, if at all, are we at liberty to make changes to the "design" ?
Several years ago, I visited an art exhibit at a local museum. While standing in front of a Monet painting, I overheard a young woman saying to her companion: "I'd love to have a print of that painting for my living room -- if only there were a bit more green in it, and a bit less blue..." A masterpiece, altered to suit our personal desires , is no longer a masterpiece. It may be attractive and functional, but it is no longer what its creator intended. And no matter how beautiful the new and improved version might be, the beauty of the original is lost to us -- perhaps forever.
It is my sincere hope that Basenji breeders will continue to walk the line between preservation and alteration as carefully as possible -- making only those modifications that are essential to the breed's survival, and not merely to its success is the modern show ring. Showing is an enjoyable hobby -- but the drive to win should never overshadow our responsibility to preserve and protect the masterpiece that Nature has entrusted to our care: our Basenjis.
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Karla A. Schreiber