AN OPEN LETTER TO
A PUPPY BUYER
I’m an average sort of dog
breeder, I guess. I have too many dogs, love every
one of them and wish I could have more. I spend more
money on dog shows in a year than I do on five
year’s worth of clothes. My doctor had been retired
for three years before I found out, but my
veterinarian’s phone number is more familiar than my
own. In fact when he adds to his clinic, the new
wing will be named in my honor. After all, without
my business he couldn’t afford to expand.
The popular term for a person
like me is hobby breeder, but I kind of think that
obsession describes it better. A hobby sounds like
something you pick up in your spare time, like
stamps or ceramics, but dogs aren’t a sometime
thing. About this hobby breeder business though.
It’s probably called that because hobbies are
usually something on which you spend money rather
than make it and boy does that describe dogs!
Oh, I know some people are
bound to think, “Humph, with the price of purebred
pups, some of those breeders are making a bundle!”
But there’s a saying in my hobby – that if you’re
making money, you’re not doing it right. There are a
lot of expenses like vet bills, BAER testing, OFA
testing, Thryroid testing, dog food, stud fees,
tattooing, microchipping, registration and
advertising. If you start to think of it as a
business, you start trying to shave expenses and
show a profit – and the dogs suffer for it. So you
think of it as a labour of love and damn the
A TOP DOG FANTASY
Then why breed dogs at all?
Maybe it’s because puppies are such pure delights
that to have a litter playing around the house is
like living in a Disney movie. Maybe it’s because I
think my breed is so great that I like to see other
nice people enjoy their company too. Maybe, it’s
because this could be the litter that contains that
one perfect pup with all the special ingredients to
become the best show dog ever. Other women fantasize
about being shipwrecked on a deserted island with
Burt Reynolds. In my own special fantasy, I’m being
handed the Best in Show Ribbon at New York City’s
glamorous Westminster show while this magnificent
dog that I’ve bred stands in the spotlight and
charms the crowd with her poise and presence. Maybe
that dog is in the next litter.
So I breed a litter every now
and then. Not too often, because you can’t run off
to shows when you’ve got a litter of pups looking to
be fed four times a day. They take a lot of time and
work and don’t leave you many spare moments. But I
think they’re worth it.
“How can you bear to part with
them?” people ask. And truthfully, it isn’t easy.
The pups are born in a spare room and as they grow
their territory expands until they’re old enough to
join the mainstream of the rest of the household.
I get to watch each developing
personality and to know each one’s nature. I watch
them change from deaf, sightless, twitching blobs
into positive characters that explore their
territory with the tenacity of Cortez or Balboa.
After eight weeks of constant companionship, I’m not
anxious to hand them over to just anyone. I really
try to find the best homes possible for my pups.
That’s why I screen buyers.
AN “INVENTORY” OF
It all starts when they first
call. Nothing irritates me more than callers who
begin as though they were connected to the order
desk in an auto parts supply store. “Hello. Is this
the kennel?” Do you have any puppies and how much
Do you have any pups? Unless
you still believe in the Stork Delivery Service, the
question conjures up a picture of a stock department
with shelves of merchandise. I usually reply,
“Yes we sure do! let me run back to the stock room
and check on the prices for you.”
And this one I get a lot!
“I want a dog for my husband’s
birthday. I’d like a black and white female who’ll
be eight weeks old on April 23.” Sure, back to the
stock room again where I’ll check under B for Black
and F for female.
I often sound like don’t want
to sell the pups. I tell the people how much
exercise they require, how much they eat and remind
them that they’re not the quietest animals in the
world. They tear things apart and if they find it on
the floor, chair, counter where ever....they lay
claim to that treasure. If they’re still determined
that they want a pup, I invite them
out to my place to meet the gang.
It’s really a sort of trial by
fire when they show up at my home. First they have
to drive 100 kilometers from the closest city to get to my
place. And there is about 17 kms of gravel/dirt/mud
roads. Don't depend on your GPS to find us....you'll
end up in Vancouver. And cell service is next to
nill in the bush.
The dogs greet them with all due enthusiasm
leaping and licking faces and while I’m chatting
away with the visitors, I’m watching for all sorts
of little telltale things. Does one member of the
family shrink back or push a puppy away? Is one
person wildly enthusiastic while the other seems
cold and disinterested? Does someone seem a little
disturbed to find a dog hair decorating his or her
clothing? It could be that a pup could be a bone of
contention in the family.
Innocent words can be a
warning. If someone remarks that they hate to see
dogs ‘cooped up’ and think they should have their
freedom, they’re not likely to end up with one of my
pups. I don’t want to see one of my pups clobbered
by a car while roaming the roadside, or choking on a
chicken bone from raided garbage.
One couple arrived at a our
home while I was out in the back yard beating the
bejabbers out of our living room rug. Standing in
the midst of a dense cloud of disrupted dust, I
blithely remarked, “That’s the sort of dirt four
furry feet can bring in.” I was exaggerating
slightly, since the dirt had actually been brought
in by sixteen furry feet, but the lady looked
slightly aghast and murmured, “Well, we could always
keep the dog in the basement.” "I'm
sorry then.....!” I said;
“I sell dogs for pets, not basements.”
You know the kind of people I
-I like the ones who ask
lots of questions, the ones who want to see all
my dogs and the ones who ask if there are any
books they can read to learn more about the
-I like the ones who ask
me to suggest training classes or show them how
to groom the dogs.
-I like the people who
speak fondly of dogs they have had that have
passed on, tell you of the clever things they
did and show pictures slightly tattered from
much handling and perhaps a tear or two.
-Most of all, I like the
people who will love the pups as much as I do...and
that’s a tall