Sable Merles

Categories:The Sable Merle Collie

This is a letter from Tom Coen to the CCA board members.

Dear Board Members,


As chairman of the proposed Standard Review Committee I want to update you on what has transpired to this point and let you know our tentative plans for the future.  Let me reiterate that this is a committee charged with the task of reviewing the standard, according to AKC recommendations.  The specific wording from AKC is: "I recommend that a committee be formed to investigate and assess the situation including surveying the membership and educating the membership in regard to the issue."


First, I think that some background information is in order.  After being informed of the situation in which a judge withheld a reserve award from a sable merle Collie I (as Judges Ed. Chairman) immediately called the judge to discuss the matter.  It was a lengthy conversation in which the judge told me, among other things, she didn't expect a standard change and that a directive from the Parent Club would certainly be sufficient.  The Judges Education Committee began work right away on expanding the existing directive. When it was completed we were told by AKC that our efforts had resulted in "a clear, concise directive for judges." 


We then asked that it be published in the next (Dec.) AKC Judges Newsletter that is sent to all AKC judges.  The directive is on the CCA website under Judges Education and it is included in the packet that is sent to all new applicants for Collies published in the AKC Gazette.  I sent the directive to the judge in question and asked her to please let me know if this clarified the issue for her.  To date, we have received no response.


Acting as the contact person speaking with the AKC's breed standard issues staff liaison, I have learned a lot.  First, when asking about establishing an open class for sable merles, we were informed, "In that this is not a color with a pattern that can be readily identified, it is not recommended to attempt to establish an additional class."  In short, judges are concerned with evaluating phenotype or how the dog "appears" and not all sable merles are identifiable as such.  Secondly, when a standard is opened for the revision of one issue any number of special interests wanting other changes may come forth.  For instance, we have heard murmurs that there are some people who would like the standard size of Collies changed to be smaller.


Regarding the AKC's recommendation that "It would be prudent of the club to establish a means of educating the breeders" we have developed the following tentative plans:


1) Gather statistics and historical information regarding sable merles.  Among other things, this would include champions finished, ROM's, CCA winners, etc. Just FYI, so far we have learned that over two hundred sable merles have finished their titles.


2) Survey the membership regarding this issue.  We will begin with those people


who serve as our Breed Mentors.  Their having qualified as mentors indicates significant experience, commitment and contribution to the Collie (the Mentor Application with qualifications is on the CCA website.)  We also plan to send an in depth questionnaire to a diverse group of twelve individuals for their input, with the intent of sharing their responses with the membership at large.  This group will include successful long time and newer current breeders who have expressed their concern about this issue, a veterinarian who is a Collie breeder, and a geneticist who is a long time Collie breeder.  We are hoping that the following will accept our invitation to contribute:  Nancy Arnstruther, Dr. Cindi Bossart, Mike Cheatham, Marcy Fine, Jim Frederiksen, Tim Garrison, Amy Gau, Marcia Keller, Barb Linder, Glen Twiford, Adria Weiner, and Dorothy Welsh.


3) Consult with a geneticist to clarify the mode of inheritance of the merle gene and to clarify any color/pattern issues concerning the sable merle.          


4) Consult with a veterinarian concerning health ramifications regarding the sable merle.  It is high time that any misinformation or misconceptions concerning this issue be cleared up.           


5) We propose a program to share the educational information that we have gathered be held on Tuesday afternoon, April 7, 2009 at the CCA in Springfield.  We have obtained permission to use the same room where the Breeders Education seminar will be held that morning.  This program will be open to the entire CCA membership.


As a committee we feel strongly about an informed, educated membership.  This subject requires careful thought and is not to be taken lightly.  Rational, intelligent discussion rather than emotional polarization is our choice of how to proceed.


Tom Coen


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