In Lausanne with Carla Molinari.
In Lausanne, every year at the end of October, there is one of the most important dog exhibitions in Switzerland.
In the year 2004, Mrs Carla Molinari was invited as special guest to judge several breeds and (as well as) the best in show.
We decided to introduce our dog in the ring and asked her for an interview.
Just before judging the BIS, in a very friendly way, under a thin persistent autumnal rain, she accepted to answer our questions.
Mrs Molinari comes from Portugal, but she has Italian roots, so it was very easy to speak with her. The following pages are an integral transcription. Despite of some unusual words, I didn’t change anything in order to maintain the mood of that conversation.
ABK First of all, many thanks for being here and answering our questions. I guess you would have plenty to do inside !
CM It’s not that hard work !
ABK and welcome to Switzerland !
CM Thank you !
ABK You lived the approval of the pwd in the Portuguese standards. Here in Europe we think that Mrs Molinari spent all her life with that breed, but there certainly has been a first meeting; when did you fall in love with that dog ?
CM Certainly in the 70ies when the breed was considered extinct, at that time the Guinness book of records in 1971 wrote that the pwd was the rarest breed all over the world. At that moment there were very few dogs alive, only 4 or 5, and they all lived in Portugal.
At that moment there was a rescue work to do and I really fell in love with that kind of work more than with the breed itself. That’s how my journey with the pwd began!
ABK You collaborated with the first breeder, with the kennel De Alvalade by Dr. Cabral, as you wrote in your book. Can you tell us something about those first years ?
CM I did not collaborate with him. In fact I bred all the first litters De Alvalade. All those litters were born in my house. That’s because doctor Cabral was president of the Club, he was interested in Portuguese breeds, but he lived in a flat in Lisbon, he didn’t have the space for dogs. When we began that rescue, all the dogs we found in Algarve came to me. I bred all the first litters, till E and F, the first very important litters. Also the last ones: the T and Xes, were born in my house. Dr. Cabral was not a breeder. He was a technician, he was very cool, he didn’t see dogs like companions, he only was interested in morphology and in the rescue of Portuguese breeds.
He used to say “ if they have white marks, you have to eliminate them ….”
The first litter, the very first puppies that came to the world, were 11 ! I tried to keep them all, even the smaller ones ! It was a fight because the female didn’t want them, she was a primitive female, and she threw them out, but we rescued all of them !
One morning I found the puppies in the water bowl, they were 3 or 4 days old and they swam ! Their mother had thrown them in the water ! It was difficult, but we did it !
And then there was the famous T litter, Tinto, Truta and Tulipa, those dogs were the basis of the Portuguese and American lines. They were all born in my house !
ABK and Taro ?
CM There is a funny story about Taro, I wrote it in my book. Dr Cabral was the municipal veterinarian and he had all the stray dogs killed. And he really found Taro as a stray dog. He used to say “ Taro came to me on a trash truck !” He was a little dog but a typical pwd. He really was the renewal of the pwd blood. This was Taro !
ABK and your Do Vale Negro line ? I would like to know what were its characteristics, which line did you finally like ?
CM I always tried to distinguish the pwd from the other water dogs, from the poodle, from the barbet. I always looked for dogs that were correct but different from the other breeds, with hard bones, heavy heads, the opposite to the poodle. I wanted to differentiate them because the way to toilet them was very similar.
Today the toilet of the poodle and the pwd is different, but in the 70ies, both were toiletted in the same way and they were very similar. (non ho trovato il verbo „to toilet“ da nessuna parte??)
ABK Let’s try to do a summary of the genetic heritage of the pwd: if I reassume the 4 decisive points: health, character, form and work attitude, which are today the points to confirm a pedigree in Portugal ?
CM In Portugal it is not the same like here in Europe, in Germany or in the Northern Countries. In Portugal the dogs have to be offsprings of dogs with microchips and have to be microchipped too. We don’t select them like you do. I can’t answer your question. We don’t have to control the hips, we don’t have that rule !
In one way it was very important to be free to breed without limitations. We always have to think that we rescued the breed from nothing, we began with 4 or 5 dogs. This means that all the dogs today are consanguineous. In their pedigree you find the same line repeated and repeated all over again.
Because of that we have all the problems that are known !
In that breed we have dysplasia, retinal atrophy and heart disease, we are now in a rehabilitation time.
People who want this dog have to accept that. This is the price we pay in order not to loose that breed forever. In Portugal we have another philosophy, we take another path !
American breeders have done a lot to make a selection and to clean the breed. We already are on the 40th generation and we can do it. But at the very beginning it wasn’t possible ! It was a question of rescuing the breed even if the breed wasn’t clean. Today we have new ways to breed, but I must say that we did the right thing, otherwise we would have lost the breed forever !
ABK Today are there pwds in Portugal that still work with fishermen ?
CM no, not at all ! This ended in the 40ies, when the technology changed the way of fishing. The pwd doesn’t live with fishermen anymore. But there are lovers, who try to maintain the work attitudes of that breed, we do exercises in the ocean. Every year there are 10 or 12 competitions, and we can see almost 7 or 8 dogs that participate. But for them it is not a natural work anymore.
ABK do you mean like sighthounds in the cynodrome ?
CM correct ! The pwd does exercises in the ocean but that is all organized. It is not easy for a dog to swim underwater in the ocean, because of the wave, because of the noise of those waves, the dog has to be very courageous !
There are dogs that are formidable in lakes, but then when you put them in the ocean they fail, it is very difficult in the ocean !
ABK do you have an important line in Portugal today?
CM There is only the De Vale Negro line. Nowadays I breed very seldom. But there are other breeders, women actually, who work with my line, mixed with American lines and others breeders that mix with original Portuguese lines. It is very difficult today in Portugal to find good dogs, but you can find some of them !
Because of that kind of fur ! You have to decide whether to prepare the fur for the show or to let the dog swim in salt water ! Because of that fur, other waterdogs are more successful, the Spanish perro and the French barbet, they don’t have to be prepared like the pwd. Most of the people don’t want all that work with the fur !
ABK do you want to say something about differences between European and American lines ?
CM In Europe the breeders follow the classic Portuguese lines. In the States there are 2 different paths. There are breeders who follow the old lines and others who are modernists. They breed colored dogs who need to be extremely toiletted. But today things are going better for those dogs. American people seem to have understood that the pwd is not a big bichon, but a dog that needs to work and needs his freedom ! In Europe, the Northern Countries are working very well, especially Finland.
ABK do you mean that the future for the breed is in the Northern Countries ?
CM we actually can’t say it like this. It can change at any moment. It depends on the people, on the breeders. It happened that Finland bought beautiful dogs in Portugal and then worked very well on the breed, and today we can see the results ! But breeding doesn’t have barriers, the desire to breed makes wonderful dogs !
ABK Just one more question ! How long can I expect my pwd to live ?
CM It si very subjective. The pwd can have a long life if he receives the right treatment. I think that 12 to 14 years is possible for that breed. It depends on the kind of food, on the quantity of movement …. Let’s say if there isn’t any heritage illness. He can bear the dysplasia very well. He can fake it very well. With that breed especially we desire a long life because when a pwd comes into a family, he is like a human being …. But we know, unfortunately dogs have a short life.
ABK Mrs Molinari mucho obrigado !
CM you’re welcome!
To breed is a relay race with the responsibility to transmit the genetic heritage from the past to the future. Carla Molinari has been the bridge between the original pwd and the modern one. Mrs Molinari has aquamarine eyes, during that interview, we saw a succession of nostalgic memories. We are so grateful to her!