Three decades ago, while working at the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia, Wally Conron bred a guide dog that could live in a household with a blind woman and her dog-allergic husband. Almost immediately he realised that his creation, the labradoodle, was a monstrosity.
Conron, who was a breeding manager, received the request from a blind woman in Hawaii. “She wanted to know if we could come up with a dog that she could use as a guide dog and her husband wouldn’t be allergic to,” Conron told Australia’s ABC News podcast.
At first, he thought a standard poodle would the answer to her quandary, but none of the poodles he trialed had the temperament necessary to be a guide dog. After three years of trying to help the woman, he finally came up with the idea to crossbreed “a dog with the working ability of the Labrador and the coat of the poodle,” he told ABC.
In 1989, he introduced a Labrador to his boss’s standard poodle, and nine weeks later the Lab delivered a litter of three labradoodles.
One puppy, named Sultan, went to Hawaii, but Conron had trouble finding parents for the other two labradoodles. He asked the publicity department of his organisation to help. “I said, ‘Can you get onto the media and tell them that we’ve bred a special breed? A breed called the labradoodle — it’s non-allergenic’,”Conron recalled.
The organisation was soon flooded with requests for labradoodles.
The popularity baffled Conron, who wasn’t even thinking about the appearance of the dog when he created it. “At the time I didn’t care what they looked like, and lets face it, the blind person couldn’t see them anyway. Why people want to breed them, I don’t know,” Conron said.
“I realised what I’d done within a matter of days,” Conron told ABC. “And I went to our big boss at the time and I said to him, ‘Look, I’ve created a monster. We need to do something about it to control it. We need to put a patent on the name to stop people from getting on the bandwagon.’”
Conron recalls his boss attempted to register the name “labradoodle” but couldn’t.
“I opened a pandora’s box and released a Frankenstein monster,” Conron told ABC. “These unethical, ruthless people — to breed these dogs and sell them for big bucks — that’s my big regret.”
Much like Victor Frankenstein’s creation, labradoodles continue to haunt Conron, as he never knows when they’ll appear in his life.
“When I’m out and I see these labradoodles, I can’t help myself, I go over them in my mind,” Conron said. “I look at it thinking, does it have hip dysplasia, has it got elbow problems, any other problems I can see? I find that the biggest majority are either crazy or have a hereditary problem.”
Conron also gets calls from others who tell him about their own cursed atrocities. He remembers a phone call he received a couple years ago from someone telling him he bred the first “roodle.”
“I said, ‘The first roodle?’And he said, ‘Yes. Rottweiler crossed with a standard poodle’,’” Conron told ABC. “And I thought to myself, this is what I’ve created. How stupid would you have to be to breed a crossbreed with a Rottweiler?”