Scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw a photo of a little white puppy that needed a home. The post said she was an Australian Shepherd (they aren’t normally white). Already having one Aussie, a blue merle named Kai, I quickly fell in love with this little puppy, just from a single photo it had stolen my heart. I immediately contacted the people that had her, and they told me that the puppy was deaf and maybe blind. This little dog had such a rough start to life. She couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, and then I found out that the breeder she came from was going to kill her because of this. My heart sunk. I had fallen so hard for this puppy, but I couldn’t imagine having a dog with “issues.” I started doing a bunch of research and learned that Aussies shouldn’t be white. It’s usually a bad sign. White Aussies are generally homozygous (double) merles. This is a problem in a lot of breeds, not just the one I loved.
After doing more research, I decided that I didn’t care if the puppy was deaf, blind, or both. I had somehow fallen for this little white fluff that I had never even met and I needed her in my life. We set up a meeting to make sure that Kai would like the puppy and in the car we went. We drove almost 2 hours to Lancaster, PA.
When I pulled up to the place we had agreed to meet, I saw this white little fluff ball running around in the grass, and my heart may have exploded at the sight. She was perfect. More perfect than I ever could have imagined. The photos I had seen did her no justice. To say I was completely smitten would be an understatement. After a very long meet and greet, the women told me that she was mine, so we headed home to start our life together.
Nearly two years later, and here we are. I named the little white fluff ball Keller, after the great Helen Keller. My little girl is completely deaf and somewhat vision impaired.
Keller is a very special girl and steals the heart of anyone she meets. She is beyond loved and even more beyond spoiled. She lives a perfectly normal life. She knows her commands through hand and touch signals (about 15 of them), she swims, she hikes, and she does agility and obedience. She is truly amazing. However, so many of these dogs are not this lucky. They are thrown away and even killed for being born with disabilities.
A double merle is created when two merle dogs are bred together. It doesn’t matter what color merle or what breed they are. If two merle dogs are bred together, each puppy in the litter has a 25% chance of being born a double merle. A double merle inherits the merle gene twice. One copy of the merle gene causes a marbling effect on the coat and creates lighter spots throughout the solid color coat. In a double merle, the marbling/lightening effect is doubled and the coat becomes predominantly white. Double merles also have a very high chance of being deaf, blind, or both because they lack pigment where it would normally be.
The pups that do not inherit the gene twice are “normal” dogs. Their coats are normally marked and they are not plagued with hearing or vision problems. These are the pups that a breeder wants, because they can profit from these pups. The double merles are often killed at birth just for being white, when it is still too early to tell if the dog will have any hearing or vision problems. They just assume, and kill them because they know that no one is going to pay big bucks for a “defective” dog, and it also reflects poorly on their breeding program. If they aren’t killed, they are often sold as rare white to unknowing people. These pups generally end up in a shelter or used as bait dogs in dog fighting rings when the buyer finds out they can’t see, hear or both. Once in a shelter, they still face death because no one wants a “defective” dog.
The following breeds carry merle and are recognized by the AKC as an acceptable color: Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Chihuahua, Cocker Spaniel, Collie (rough or smooth), Dachshund (called dapple), Great Dane (harlequin acts the same), Mudi, Old English Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Pyrenean Shepherd, and Shetland Sheepdog.
The merle gene is being introduced into more breeds everyday. The following do not recognize merle as a color or they are not AKC recognized breeds. Merle is now present in Poodles, Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers/”Pitbulls” and Australian Koolies. It’s also being seen in the “designer breeds.”
Again, I will emphasize that merle is merle, the breed does not matter. You can breed a merle Pomeranian (yes they exist) with a merle Dane and get double merle puppies.
There is an overabundance of these precious babies and it’s truly heartbreaking. There are rescues all over the country that are committed to rescuing strictly these dogs, that should speak volumes in itself. These special dogs are 100% preventable. Don’t breed two merle dogs, and you won’t have double merles. It seems like a simple fix.
We have started a petition against the AKC to take action and ban merle to merle breeding, in hopes that it will discourage breeders from intentionally creating dogs with special needs. You can view the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/american-kennel-club-ban-the-registration-of-a-dog-from-merle-to-merle-breeding.
Currently in the UK, merle to merle breeding is banned by their kennel club. This means that any puppies, merle, solid, or double merle, born from two merle parents cannot be registered. If the breeder cannot register it’s puppies, it is thought to discourage the actions because purebred “papered” puppies always sell for more.
The mission statement of the AKC is as follows: The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Founded in 1884, the AKC and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.
How does the AKC live up to this statement when it promotes breeding that creates disabled puppies? How is that advocating for health and well-being?
Please help us make a difference for the thousands of dogs like Keller. Let’s prevent more puppies from being brought into the world with disadvantages that put their lives at risk.
For more info on double merles visit: www.doublemerles.info
To see more of Keller’s “normal” life visit: Facebook.com/kellerthedm.
– Amanda Fuller & Keller the Double Merle