Pamela A. Davol, 76 Mildred Avenue, Swansea,
I have known Pam for nearly 14 years. When she asked me to interview her for her home page I accepted knowing that I could finally get some answers to questions I have often wanted to ask. I have tried to inquire on a broad range of areas including professional and personal to provide an individual profile. The following is the result of the interview.
About the Breeder; Pamela A. Davol is a research scientist in the fields of biochemical oncology (cancer), immunology, and experimental pharmacology. Her peer-reviewed articles have appeared in prestigious medical journals including Cancer Research, Cancer, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Journal of Urology, and Biochemical Pharmacology. Her most recent papers were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Francisco in April 2002. Pam shares a home with her better-half, James Yates, who constructed her home page, their three daughters--Jaime Alison Yates, Jillian Adriena Yates, and Jennifer Aidan Yates-- five Labrador Retrievers-- Rogue, Tory, Dia, Emma, and Sera--and two cats--Princess and Angel--on the shore of the Coles River in Swansea, Massachusetts. When not working, spending time with the family, writing, or showing her dogs, Pam enjoys traveling.
"When most women are asked about their very first love, they probably recall a young boy from school. Not me. My very first love was a Golden Retriever named 'Rebel'!" (Photo on right: Pam at 2 years with "Rebel")
Moderation in all things...including moderation
May I strive to be the wonderful person my dog thinks I am
Live for the day
The worth of a man's life should not be judged on the sum of his wealth, but on the sum of his experiences
Star Trek (all of them)
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
LOTR: The Two Towers
LOTR: Return of the King (it's a given!)
Dances with Wolves
X-Men (I and II)
The Matrix Reloaded
The Empire Strikes Back
Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn
Star Trek: The Voyage Home
A Boy and His Dog
The Andromeda Strain
The Hot Zone
Interview with the Vampire
The Vampire Lestat
Clan of the Cave Bea
A Knight in Shining Armor
The Dark Series
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Peter Jackson (the man is an artist!)
Stone Temple Pilots
The Goo Goo Dolls
Hootie and the Blow Fish
Black Sabbath (w/ Ronnie Dio)
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band
Van Halen (w/ Sammy Hagar)
JCC: Why did you request an interview?
PAD: Communicating by personal computer can be very impersonal. I wanted a personal touch to my home page. What is nice about communicating this way is that if I'm absolutely boring, they can just move on to something else.
JCC: What do you think your favorite quotes say about you?
PAD: I guess they describe my philosophy and outlook on life. The last quote, I stole from my daughter.
JCC: Your job seems like it would be very interesting but you don't talk about it much. Why is that?
PAD: Trust me, it's controlled silence. I enjoy my job immensely and can be very exuberant about it...sometimes too exuberant. I try to keep a balance though by keeping my personal life and my profession separate. Besides, I know how I feel when Jim tries to explain aspects of his job to me...whoosh, right over my head.
JCC: What made you decide on research for a career?
PAD: The Incredible Hulk. Honest. I know this sounds weird, but my career choice was based on the airing of the pilot episode for "The Incredible Hulk" with Bill Bixby. In the series, he played "David Banner, physician-scientist searching for a way to tap into the hidden strength that lies within all of us".... or something like that. Anyway, this doctor accidentally exposes himself to an overdose of gamma radiation and later discovers that when he gets angry he turns into this huge, green body-builder-type guy with a habit for destroying things, like buildings for instance. I was in high school then and although I had always been interested in science, I now had a professional goal, well, not becoming the hulk, but searching for answers to the unknown.
JCC: Did you ever consider a career in veterinary medicine?
PAD: When I was a child, but then I think many children have a fascination for working with animals. Serious consideration of veterinary medicine as a profession came while I was working as a veterinary assistant and surgical technician for three years while I was an undergraduate in college. The knowledge and experience I gained during that time was invaluable and I still try to keep up on current veterinary journals, but I also discovered that I didn't want to practice medicine. First, 90% of vet medicine is routine. Second, it takes a great deal of personal commitment. Third, it can be very depressing at times.
JCC: Was it your experience as a vet assistant that led you to become a breeder?
PAD: Sought of. I had grown up around dogs. My uncle was involved with retrievers, training them for hunting, so I grew up with his retrievers. But it wasn't until I worked at the animal hospital that I decided to get my own puppy. Even if I had not originally wanted a Lab, the peer pressure for having a Lab was incredible. For some reason people who work in veterinary hospitals own Labs. But the desire to be a breeder didn't hit me at once. It wasn't until I started the show and training scene that I contemplated it.
JCC: In your "Letter from the Breeder" you mentioned that only about 5% of the population are involved in dog sports. What made you decide to become one of the 5%?
PAD: One of the girls that worked with me at the veterinary hospital bred and showed Brittanys, she was the exception to the rule of owning a Lab. Although I had some understanding of training, the sport of showing was new to me. She showed me the ropes.
JCC: So you found that you liked showing dogs?
PAD: No, I hated it. Seriously. I took Noble to handling classes and started out in puppy matches. The first was a nightmare. I remember saying 'I'm definitely not cut out for this type of thing.' One of the problems was that Noble came from field trial lines not bench lines. Though he's a very short-coupled dog and doesn't appear fieldy by definition, he doesn't have type and at the time I started showing, type was a necessity in the show ring. Also, I think one of the reasons that few people become involved with the sport is that dog-show people are cliquish. Its kind of a catch-22, I think that newcomers are expected to get a taste of the sport and quickly leave so people involved in the sport feel its a waste of time to be friendly. This lack of friendliness is probably what drives the newcomer away in the first place. I've always found people involved in hunting and training to be friendlier.
JCC: So why are you still showing?
PAD: For some reason, I just kept doing it. Probably because it was a challenge. Luckily, I'm not easily intimidated by people and I'm definitely not a conformist. To this day, though, I still consider myself a lousy handler.
JCC: You mentioned field trial lines and bench lines. What does this mean in terms of Labs and breeding and showing them?
PAD: It definitely complicates life. I started with a dog from field trial lines. He was my idea of what a lab was supposed to look like: about 70 pounds, neither long nor short in leg, nice expression and head, the triangular ears, otter tail. He was head strong, but he was a great working retiever. Looking back now, he wasn't what I would judge as show quality. That is, he was a little straight in the rear, wide in the shoulders, and had a lousy tail. But hey, everybody has to start somewhere. As I learned more, I came to understand the diversity within the breed. I liked the look of the bench dogs, well, that is, I liked those that were on the shorter side of the standard height, well-balanced and proportioned, I liked the broader head and shorter muzzle, and those which had substance but were not so overdone that they moved like a Clumber Spaniel. At the same time, I wanted a Lab that still had the style and exuberance for retrieving, but which wasn't so high-strung as to be obnoxious and uncontrollable. So I set out to find a breeder who was breeding the bloodlines that would produce a foundation bitch with these dual qualities.
JCC: How easy was that?
PAD: It took me a few years. And then when I finally found a litter, they were located in Wisconsin. Because conformation was important to me, I didn't want to rely on the breeder to choose a puppy for me so instead of shipping her, I drove out there to pick her out and get exactly what I wanted.
JCC: Did she turn out the way you wanted?
PAD: Not exactly. Her head was narrower than I preferred and she was light boned. She was compact though and stocky. When I bred her, I bred her to a male who compensated for what I thought were her weaknesses. As a result I got my Rogue, who turned out to be what I was looking for. But even Rogue isn't perfect from a conformational standpoint.
JCC: It sounds like breeding to achieve your perfect Lab is not easy.
PAD: Well, no Lab out there is perfect. I had already resolved the fact that I would probably never breed the perfect Lab, that's hard enough to do when you're just breeding for a single aspect like conformation, never mind trying to incorporate all of the breed's qualities into one dog. My first goal was to produce genetically sound Labs. This was important to me, probably because of my experience as a vet assistant.
JCC: Is that because most people are looking for pets?
PAD: Exactly. I mentioned before that vet medicine can be depressing, that's because there are pet owners which fall within a spectrum. At one end you have the owner that finds out his dog has a health disorder that will require special treatment so he's taking a second mortgage out on his house so that he can have a specialist treat his dog. At the same time you have the other owner who ties his dog out in his backyard every day and then when the dog gets loose, is hit by a car and suffers a minor injury like a broken leg, he just decides to put the dog down and get a new one. Disposable dog. The first example I gave is the owner that I want my puppies to go to. At the same time in exchange for that reassurance of a good home, I feel its my responsibility to provide a healthy dog. I've really seen how much pain irresponsible breeding can produce, both to the dog and to the owner. For that reason I don't take short-cuts, and I don't take chances.
JCC: Have you ever produced dogs with problems?
PAD: Yes. I had one owner whose dog has dysplasia. I'm sure if I bred more often I would have more problems.
JCC: What did you do?
PAD: I refunded their money, and sent them information on the disorder. Tried to provide some advice on care and management to decrease degenerative joint disease and ease their concerns. But whatever I did, I felt it wasn't enough. Part of it was that it made me recall how I had felt years before when Noble was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. I remember how devastated I was. I had had high hopes for him as a field trial dog. All the training and time, and also the bond that had developed between us. I remember how disappointed I had been. Now, these people had trusted me, and I felt I had let them down. It was at that point that I almost decided to stop breeding. Most breeders would think that was ridiculous, and they're probably right. But at that time, I felt terrible.
JCC: What made you change your mind and continue breeding?
PAD: A good friend of mine who has lived some horror stories acquiring Labradors from other breeders talked me out of it. She said that the fact I was feeling the way I was, was assurance that I was a good breeder. She told me that I could do more harm by walking away then by continuing. So I changed my mind. It was one of those instances where I had almost allowed myself to become an extremist. Ugh! It was a humbling experience for me, though, and has taught me not to be so quick to judge other breeders. I think many of us are trying to do the best we can. Additionally, it made me come to realize the definition of "reputable breeder": a reputable breeder is not one that never produces a problem, but one that when a problem does occur, he or she deals with it through warranty, concern, and by providing guidance and support to the owner. Many breeders understand that many of the puppies produced through multiple generations of OFA'd ancestors will probably live a normal life with hip dysplasia because its not as clinically severe as occurs in dogs bred at random. However, the average dog owner doesn't know that. And when he's told his dog is dyplastic he immediately thinks that his dog is going to be crippled. That's why it's important for the breeder to set these concerns to rest, not by blowing off the owner as being melodramatic, but by providing educational and clinical material.
JCC: So do you think you've made a difference?
PAD: I'd like to think so.
JCC: What about your family? What do Jim and Jaime think about having to share your attention with the dogs?
PAD: Well, Jim didn't have much of a choice. When I met him I had 7 Labs already, and I'm the type of person that it's love me and my Labs. He's not really a dog person, but I've educated him over the years and he is really quite knowledgeable now. He sits up with me during the long nights of whelping and even let Rogue use his chest for leverage, poor Rogue had a difficult time with her two litters. As for Jaime, she wants a cat.
JCC: You say at one point you only breed your females once or twice. Why is that?
PAD: I'm really not interested in breeding for the sake of selling puppies. It's alot of time, work and expense. When I breed I usually breed to keep a puppy to continue my bloodlines. Rogue was only suppose to be bred once. In fact, I kind of went back on a promise to her. When she was in whelp for her first litter I told her that if she gave me one quality female that she would never have to go through whelping again. She held her side of the bargain. She produced 6 puppies in that litter, 5 males and one black female, my Tory. Rogue really had a difficult labor. It took her 8 hours to whelp 6 puppies. They were all healthy and huge. Rogue always has these big chunky puppies which is probably why she has such a hard time delivering them. Anyway, I was the one who went back on my word. I paid for it, though. A friend asked me to breed Rogue one more time because she absolutely adored her. I agreed. So two years after her first litter, Rogue was bred again. This time there were complications. Although she delivered 6 healthy, chunky puppies naturally, after 9 hours of labor she still hadn't delivered the last puppy. In the middle of the night I packed her and the 6 babies up and raced to my vet who was waiting for me when I arrived. We gave her oxytocin, but her uterus was just completely pooped from 9 hours of contractions. So she ended up with a C-section to remove the last puppy. The last puppy was alive, but it was malformed because of an embryonic "accident", there was a cleft that ran down the center of its body and as a result its organs of gender were absent. We euthanized the poor little thing. Thankfully, Rogue and the rest of the puppies were fine. I did keep a puppy out of that litter. A black bitch, my Dia (Dee-ah). She is very much like her mom.
JCC: You have interesting names for your dogs. How did you choose them?
PAD: Well, let's see. Noble was named after "Noble Johnson", a distinquished black actor who appeared in old movies. Chani (Chon-e) was named after a female character in Frank Herbert's novel "Dune" of which I was a big fan around the time that I acquired her. Mig, my foundation bitch, was named after the small black Russian fighter plane that moved very fast. Rogue was named after a female comic book character from the X-Men, her father I had named "Dark Knight" although I called him Ben, after the comic book character Batman, so I kept the comic book trend. Tory came about through interchanging some of the letters in her formal name "Call To Glory" which I named her because I was a fan of the movie "Glory". Dia's actual name is Rainbo in the Dark which is the name of a song I like by Ronnie Dio, I just feminized his last name for her call name. Holly's name is Silent Lucidity, a song by Queensryche which I also like. Coincidentally, her father was Am. Can. Ch. Chocorua's Silent Dignity, so it fit nicely. I call her Holly for two reasons, her grandmother, one of my all time favorite bitches Am. Can. Ch. Chocorua's Seabreeze was called Ivy, so I kept it in the plant family. Also, Holly was born two days before Christmas, so it seemed fitting.
JCC: You and Jim travel often. What do you do with the dogs while you're away?
PAD: We have a pet sitter who comes to our house. At one time we had a friend who would sit the dogs for us, but he had quite an experience while we were away one time. We live on the water, and Labs love water. Well, Ben and Caleb, two males that I had at the time decided to go for a daytrip without supervision. They somehow got out of the yard and decided that they were going to swim to the opposite shore. Our friend discovered this within a short time, and not knowing Labs very well, he was afraid that they might drown. So without thinking, he jumped in after them. Problem was that he was not a very good swimmer. By the time he reached midway to the other side, the dogs decided to go back home. They're waiting on shore and he's left treading water, well, more like sinking. Luckily, our neighbor saw the whole thing and jumped in his boat and rescued our friend. Ben and Caleb were waiting in the yard. For some reason, he hasn't been available to pet sit for us since then.
JCC: What do your neighbors think about the dogs?
PAD: My neighborhood is a typical beach-side neighborhood. The houses are small and we don't have a whole heck of a lot of land. Our lot is probably one of the largest. The houses are close together so there could be potential problems having dogs. But everyone in the neighborhood is a dog lover and has their own dog. They're also the best neighbors anyone could have. My dogs are on a strict schedule. Their bedtime is 9:30 p.m. and they get up at 6:30 a.m.. On weekends they can sleep until 9:00 a.m. if there's no dog shows. Luckily, my dogs are very quiet, anyway. They're not barkers. In this whole neighborhood where everyone owns dogs, you won't hear a dog bark all night. Now if only we could keep the fish quiet at night and the ducks and geese from making a commotion at 5 a.m. we'd be all set.
JCC: One final question. Do you think you will ever own any other breed of dog?
PAD: I don't like to say never, because anything is possible, and I can be unpredictable. I actually called a breeder of Flat Coats one time to inquire about obtaining a Flat Coat puppy. No offense to Flat Coat owners, but looking back I think I must have been going loopy or something. I admire well-bred and tempered German Shepherds, but they often require a strong alpha-type owner, and I'm a real push-over. You can, after all, let your guard down with your Labs. The worst they do is usually climb into your lap and demand your undivided affection. Who am I kidding? Own another breed of dog? Not me. Never.
Now, approximately a year-and-a-half after the first interview, we thought it was time to update this section with a few additional questions...
---J. Cynthia Clarke (August 1997)
JCC: Since the last interview, you've been on the internet for over a year now. What are your opinions in regard to the net?
PAD: You hear so many bad things about the net, how it's corrupting our society, but I think it's fantastic. Just like anything else in our society, it has the potential for being misused, but one shouldn't judge a product based on what a few miscreants may do with it. Where else can one obtain information so quickly and so easily? In regard to my own web site, as a result, I have "met" thousands of people, answered their questions and just heard a lot of great stories about people and their experiences with their dogs, kids and even cats!
JCC: Any regrets with your breeding program since the last interview?
PAD: Regrets...hmm. I guess any regrets in regard to my Labbies would be that I haven't really had the chance to participate in as many events as I would have liked to over the past year. The last time I was at a dog show was last December when I did the Boston Expo Cluster. Boy, was I pretty ill. I was in my first trimester of my pregnancy and I get "all day" sickness. It was all I could do to keep from barfing on the judges. Using liver as bait did not help my predicament. I was entered for all 4 days, but by Sunday, I couldn't drag myself out of bed. Then, once I was over the first trimester, I had the litters planned and I don't go to dog events when I have a litter upcoming or whelped for fear of bringing home a viral infection to the babies. So I guess my biggest regret was feeling like I had been isolated from the dog events over the past year.
JCC: What's the most interesting experience you've had with your dogs over the last year?
PAD: Besides the whelping experiences I've already talked about on my web site? I guess it would have to be the day I delivered Jillian I don't know if it's interesting, but most of the staff at the hospital got a kick out of it. Okay, Tory's litter was scheduled to go to their new homes right around my due date, so I had to set up the appointments and pretty much played it by ear. I was several days beyond my due date and I had one black male that had not been reserved out of Tory's litter that a gentlemen wanted to come out and see. He was planning to be in our area for a day so I set up an appointment with him. Unfortunately, my doctor scheduled me to be induced on the morning of his appointment so Jim and I came up with a plan: basically, I would go to the hospital in the morning, be admitted, and Jim would show the man the dog, then meet me over at the hospital. This probably would have worked out except the hospital called me to come in at 6 a.m.. I managed to talk them into letting me come in an hour later. By the time I reached the hospital it was 8 a.m.. I got into my labor room and explained the situation to the nurse. She was great. She purposely took her time doing my paper work and tried to delay the induction as long as she could. Apparently, she mentioned my predicament to my doctor. He came in, examined me and had me call home to find out how much longer we would have to hold off the delivery before Jim could get to the hospital. Anyway, Jim got to the hospital in time for Jillian's birth thanks to the cooperation of my doctor and a few of the hospital staff. Funny thing was, I'm in labor and staff members would pop in and ask Jim "So, did you sell the dog?" I guess the story made it's way around the labor floor. Anyway, all ended well: Jim found a good home for the last puppy and was able to be with me for Jillian's birth.
JCC: Any goals for the next year?
PAD: Well, I hope to continue adding more articles to my web site. There are several that I'm working on now and I have others in mind. Additionally, I have a lot of photos that my puppy owners have been sending me which I need to scan and add to the site. And, of course, I hope to get to more shows within the next year. I'll probably start where I left off from last yearthe Boston Expo Cluster. As far as litters, I planned two this year because I anticipated being on maternity leave from work. Next year, however, I only anticipate one litter, probably in the spring, but I haven't decided on the sire yet from the potential stud candidates. This will be fourth/fifth generation Wing-N-Wave so I'm being very particular about my choice and may delay the breeding if I don't find a male that knocks my socks off!
JCC: Anything else you want to add?
PAD: Just a "thank you" again to all the people who have visited my web site, sent me e-mails with their comments, or suggestions, or stories or questions. Many times, my ideas for articles come from the questions that people ask me. I'm looking forward to the next year and hopefully many more visitors to my site.
'Copyright 1996, 1997 Pamela A. Davol'