THE St Bernard failed her veterinary check at Birmingham National – the first of her breed to do so after winning best of breed at a general or group championship show.
She is Tan Nagrecha, Wendy and Dave Coleman and Michelle Smee’s Chandlimore On The Bottle, who is two in August and for whom this was the first CC.
Mr Nagrecha said he was disappointed that his bitch had failed, and that vet John Goodyear, an eye specialist, told him the bitch’s eyeballs were too small for her eyes.
"It is especially disappointing for the breed,” he said. "Although it was inevitable that a St Bernard was going to fail at some point. John Goodyear was a very pleasant chap, an eye specialist I believe. I could see where he was coming from.
"He was quite concerned about her eyes and explained that even though the eye is big the eyeball isn’t big enough for the eye. There is no damage to eyes, and the eyes are clear but because the eyeball is too small for the eye the shape causes bilateral slackness to the corners of the eye is how I understood it.
"The old Standard demands a slightly deep set eye with prominent stop and well defined orbital ridges. This is because the St Bernard’s purpose is to work in blizzard conditions in mountainous terrain and if the eye is full and forward snow would get in them. So it is preferred that the eyes should be slightly deep set to fulfil the breed’s functionality. As a breed we don’t want a big, bold, round eye as that would not serve the breed’s original purpose, plus it would detract from the benevolent expression the breed desires.”
This causes a problem for breeders, Mr Nagrecha said.
"We’re trying to keep the breed type while satisfying the KC’s red tape. It’s going two ways: in one the eyes are becoming tighter but smaller with more cause for concern of entropion but yet it appears as a normal generic eye, and in the other the eyes are bigger but along with that comes slacker lower eyelid. That is my experience.
"To add to this, sometimes we have non-pigmented lower third eyelid which makes the haw look worse than it would appear in a pigmented third eyelid. The old breeders bred to the older Standard a for a diamond eye.
"Because the St Bernard’s characteristics, as dictated by that Standard, are so inherent in the breed they are not going to change overnight. I accept that my bitch has a slacker eye but she is a very, very big bitch and the eyeball is healthy and not affected by lashes, there is no damage and it does not affect her eyesight or cause irritation or lesions.”
Mr Nagrecha said he asked Mr Goodyear if the size of eyeball was causing problems.
"He said the eye was healthy but the eyeball was too small. I returned to the benches and was very open about what had happened and asked breeders whose opinion I value and they said they could see no problem with her eyes and they would have shown her too. It’s good to get the opinion of other breeders and it’s important for them to know what the boundaries are.”
He said the bitch’s other co-owners were ‘heartbroken’.
"My mindset is that it’s nice to go to shows and for people to appreciate your dogs, and to win, but this is one day out of a weekend, 15 weekends a year, and these dogs are running round our paddocks on a daily basis and we want to like what we see out there,” he said.
"I’ve worked very hard for 25 years to make a difference to the breed where health, conformation and soundness are concerned. We’re not irresponsible or ill educated breeders. With the help of a lot of great breeders who have worked together to try to create good St Bernards we have competed exceptionally well at the highest level at shows.
"We’re not challenging the vet’s decision but we’re disappointed that this has set the breed back a little. It is not a personal disappointment as she is one of many dogs I show. We have had a clean record.
"Her eyeballs are healthy, not damaged and her eyes are clear and attentive but as a specialist if the vet felt the eyeball was too small for her eye confirmation that is something we as lay breeders can’t measure. If we felt there was a problem with one of our dogs’ eyes we would not enter the show. We are experienced enough to know when not to.”
The only other St Bernard to fail a category three vet check is believed to be Vittorio Fabbrini’s Multi Int Ch Unknown Legend In Si Minore, who after winning three CCs, two at breed shows and one without BOB at a group show, was examined by a KC-approved vet in England last year before she returned to Italy. Subsequently, she passed the check at Crufts.
Mr Goodyear declined to comment.