Dear Breeders: Stop. Just stop.

Seriously – if you can’t do it right, just don’t do it at all. This is definitely a stab piece against dog breeders, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking. I’m not here to condemn dog breeders or spout the “adopt don’t shop” religion. The few good, responsible breeders that exist have my full support and respect. Of my five dogs, two were purchased from breeders, and I will most certainly buy from breeders again. I like knowing my dogs’ bloodlines, and I will pay the money for a dog with health clearances. There are plenty of reasons to get a puppy from a breeder (though there are also plenty of reasons not to, as well).

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Rugby (he’s so frigging handsome, isn’t he?)
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Delaney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what am I bitching about here? The breeders who don’t do their jobs. The breeders who just take their deposits and hand puppies off to the first people who write them a check. The breeders who don’t take their dogs back when the homes don’t work out. Here’s the bottom line: if you choose to bring a living being (in this case, a puppy) into this world, you better as hell make sure that animal goes to the right home. I don’t give a shit, frankly, if you have the most beautiful, healthy, conformation-perfect, whatever litters in the world – if you don’t make sure that puppy is going to a home that knows what they’re doing, you suck. You suck and you need to just stop.

I’m the director of a small, hard-working rescue in the South that focuses on Australian Shepherds and other herding breeds. We get a lot – a lot – of dogs. We pull from shelters, as well as take in owner surrenders. In the month of March, our organization received fifteen forms from owners wishing to surrender their dogs. Of these fifteen, seven were for purebred Aussies purchased from breeders. All seven dogs were under three years old. Let me spell this out for those who may not see what I’m getting at – every single one of these dogs was shopped for, purchased, and sent home, and then was tossed to the side when they started acting like, gasp!, Aussies.

Back to my rescue for a hot second. We have an adoption process, and it super-duper sucks. I mean, we put people through the ringer. We make them fill out a long-ass application, we ask lots of personal questions, then we call their veterinarians, their neighbors, even their coworkers, and we ask them even more personal questions. If after all that we still think they’re pretty cool, we send a volunteer out to snoop around their house! All just to adopt one damn homeless dog.

So here’s my question: if a rescue, comprised of a bunch of weird dog-ladies who have jobs and families and very little spare time, can manage to care enough about some unwanted reject-dogs to make sure that the people who are adopting them aren’t losers, why can’t a breeder? I mean, these dogs are born in your homes; you raise them! You probably raised their parents. You’re putting blood, sweat, maybe tears, and a lot of Clorox into the puppy endeavor. So why aren’t you being more careful as to where your puppies are going?

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Kara – I bet she cost a pretty penny as a puppy. Too bad she ended up on the highway pregnant, starving, and parasite-ridden.

I don’t want to hear the excuses, because you can’t give me one that justifies your actions, or rather, your lack thereof. It’s too time-consuming? Too invasive? You’ll never place puppies? Guess what – you don’t have to breed those puppies in the first place. You really don’t.

Yeah, this is another typical rescue-fanatic “down with the dog breeders” rant. We’re crazy, and we make your lives as breeders such a bigger pain in the ass than you really would like us to. But wait! Who is it that gets to fix the mistakes you make? Oh yeah, that’s me. Yep – your dog comes to my house. Your gorgeous, pedigreed, neurotic, aggressive, bat-shit-crazy dog with no training and no socialization comes to live in my spare bedroom until I can get it to a point where it can be a member of society again. Do you know how it feels to look at an eight month old dog and wonder at what point you need to make “that” decision (you know, the one that involves a needle)?

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Howie – SUCH a handsome Aussie boy. What a shame he had to been born blind and deaf because somebody didn’t know what they were doing (or didn’t care).

Maybe you’re a great breeder, or even a great dog trainer. Maybe your dogs are the image of perfection mentally and physically. None of that matters, however, if you’re breeding puppies and sending them to people who don’t know what they’re doing. You’re putting hand grenades in the laps of toddlers. And ultimately, when that bomb goes off, you’re just as much to blame. Good dogs and good breeds are being ruined because they’re ending up in the wrong hands.

So stop – stop cutting corners, and stop passing the buck. Breeding is more than good bloodlines, it’s more than Best of Breed, and it’s more than getting a merit badge by your name. If you’re going to call yourself a dog breeder, do it right and take complete responsibility for the dogs you bring into this world, not just for the first eight weeks of their lives.

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A Dog Park Rant (the first of many, I’m sure)

I love the dog park. I love it for many reasons, most notably the fact that it provides me with a safe, secure venue to exercise and socialize my dogs. It also gives me a way to really understand how my foster dogs interact with strange people and dogs, what type of play they prefer, and which dogs they gravitate towards or avoid. Of course, I don’t leave straight from the shelter and head to the dog park, but after a dog has been tested and proven with my own pack, I’ll venture out.

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Fenrir, child-eater.

 

Since I got Fen, my ten month old Doberman foster pup, I’ve become a bit of a regular at the local free dog park. It’s a mile and a half from my house; I can walk, run, or drive there. I try and go after class whenever possible – usually I take Fen, sometimes one of the Boykins, or another trustworthy foster. Last night, I took Stream along as well.  Both boys were well behaved, and we went home tired. Mission accomplished.

So here we go – five for today.

1. Don’t bring a child to the dog park.

I’m really not sure why I even have to say this. Who in their right mind thinks a dog park is a good place for a small child? You are literally bringing a prey item into a pack of dogs. Anything more than two dogs is a pack, and dogs operate on pack mentality. They are running around, chasing, snapping, barking, wrestling – doing what dogs do. Then you bring a small child into the fold, that runs and squeals, and get mad at me because my dog chases the child? Look, I know my dog is mouthy, I know he’s big, and I know he jumps up when he gets excited. That’s why I took him to a dog park. Not a playground.

2. Don’t get upset when they play rough

Dogs will be dogs. They all have their different methods of play; some like to be chased, some like to do the chasing, some like play ball, some like to bark incessantly in other dogs’ face, some like to play fight. It’s instinct – play behavior in animals is practice for real life. If you can’t handle watching Buddy get all slobbery and growly with another dog, then go home. Most recently, the bitchiest violator of this rule also violated #1. Because my big, vicious, child-eating Doberman puppy chased the boxer who would not stop barking in his face.

3. Understand basic dog behavior and body language

This ties in with #2. If you can’t recognize the difference in angry growl and play growl, I don’t trust you and I don’t want you around. Why? Because you are either super sensitive, or super dangerous. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the dangerous part. Your dog is running around mounting other dogs, hackles raised, and you say, “Oh he’s just playing.” Nope, he’s being a dick, and he’s trying to start a fight. Fix it.

4. Know how to break up a dog fight

Fortunately for me, there’s only been a handful of fights while I’ve been at my park, and I broke up most of them because typically I’m closest and I’m actually watching the cues that led up to the fight in the first place. Also, I’m the crazy dog lady, so I don’t hesitate. But if dog fights freak you out and all you can do is squeal and cry, you need to stay home. Fights happen, they suck, but these are dogs we’re talking about. Your lack of self control and confidence as an owner only feeds into the issue.

5. Don’t be a dick

Probably the most important one here. I swear, last night some frattastic asshole came in with the cutest little golden retriever puppy. We’ll ignore for now that the puppy was probably too young to be there in the first place. Dude walks up, and the dogs rush the gate, so the puppy naturally hesitates nervously. What does he do? Shoves his puppy through the gate and says, “Don’t be a little wimp.” This guy continued to just radiate douchery the rest of the time, laughing when his puppy got picked on by the other dogs, the like. I wanted to punch him. Whether you’re being a tool to your own dog, or to someone else’s dog, or to another owner, doesn’t matter. Don’t be a dick.

Meet the Ladies (using “ladies” very loosely here…)

I have never really been a female dog kind of person – probably because, let’s be honest, I’m enough bitch for one household. My boy dogs have always filled my emotional needs as pseudo-boyfriends and best friends, and even in my human life I typically avoid members of the same sex. As someone who has had predominately male friends since I was in the sixth grade, I typically don’t have the patience for normal girlish antics (this is not always the case – I do require some level of “girl-talk” and shopping in my life, just not the normal level expected from most females).

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Somehow, despite all of this, I have managed to acquire three female dogs, affectionately referred to as “the girls”.  For the most part, these three are treated as a single unit, except the times that I single Delaney or Cady out for time away from Kara – Cady especially, because it’s nothing short of torture to subject a dog of her mental capacity to tolerating Boykins 24/7.  [I should note that this is only for Columbia activities. Activities that take place out of town where it is impractical to take all four dogs, they are separated into “Alpha Team” and “Bravo Team. Alpha Team includes the Aussies, and Bravo the Boykins. This works out well considering the nature of the two breeds and what each breed considers to be more entertaining than the other – the Aussies don’t exactly appreciate swimming days, and the Boykins could care less about a trip to the mountains.]

IMG_3006Delaney, despite my typical disdain for female dogs, was purposefully purchased from a Boykin Spaniel breeder in Kershaw, South Carolina. I had a male dog, and opposite gender pairings are the easiest to manange. She was, like Rugby, four months old and a remnant of a litter taking too long to sell. Unlike Rugby, however, there was not so much the instant bond with Delaney, and frankly I preferred the outgoing nature of one of her sisters. However, I am somewhat of a snob when it comes to a proportional dog, and Delaney was the only one of the puppies whose legs matched the length of her body. Boykins have a tendency to be quite squat in stature, and I am not a fan. So, I put my deposit down for the long-legged puppy, and returned two weeks later to bring her home. Delaney is a special girl.  It’s no secret that she is named after my favorite bar at that time, and she was purchased more to fill a void than because I truly needed a second dog. Not to say I got a second dog frivolously – I had thought it through, Rugby did enjoy having a friend around and would become quite sad when his foster siblings were adopted, and I knew and loved the Boykin breed well. The void-filling was simply the final deciding factor, and the last in a series of steps to declare my independence from an emotional trap that need not be discussed in further detail.

Delaney is a princess. A very special, very silly princess. I don’t keep her groomed very tidily, so her curls are unruly, her pigtail-like ears long, her feet display tufts of brown fur, and her “alfalfa sprout” makes her look not much different than a Who. Delaney decided early on that she was not made for sleeping on floors, and demanded a bed of her own, though she really prefers human furniture. Once we taught her to swim, she was always in the water, and she loves the game of fetch just as much as any good retriever (though she’s not OCD like her sister about it). She doesn’t always like to bring it back, however, especially if her sister is in the game. She is also a cheater, and will stay in the outfield waiting for the ball while the others in the game sit obediently by our sides while we throw. Delaney hates children, and if she’s in trouble she will begins to flail wildly to avoid being held or caught. She’s the type of dog that discipline has no affect on, as it just upsets her and makes her forget everything. There’s little reason to discipline her now though. She will be four years old on Valentine’s Day, and the only thing she really does “bad” is her tendency to bolt when guns are fired. Oh, and she crunches tennis balls.

Cady is my old girl. I love her, so very much. I saw a posting on Facebook one day about a pregnant Aussie in rural Georgia who had very little time left. She had belonged to a hoarder, and when that person died, it was up to animal control to go collect the animals. I’m not sure how many there were, I don’t really want to know. I just know that most of them never made it out.  It was Cady’s puppies that saved her, because this animal control unit actually had a heart, and knew that even if Cady was too unsocialized to be helped, her puppies need not suffer the same fate. We arranged a flight from Georgia to Columbia for Cady, and I picked her up in January (2012). On Valentine’s Day, Cady gave birth to nine beautiful black tricolor puppies (and chewed through some drywall and a door before doing so). We raised and placed the puppies, and for the next year I fostered Cady, trying my hardest to place her with anyone I thought could love a dumpy little dog that lived under the bed. We called her the troll, because she really only ever came out from under the bed to use the bathroom and rip up the carpet and eat the blinds when we forgot to crate her before leaving. Cady did find one adopter, and I sent her off in August to live with a woman who was quite hell-bent on taking home a dog. On the 30th day of a 30-day money-back contract, the woman called me and said she was bringing Cady back, because Cady wasn’t cuddly enough. I am still firmly of the opinion that Cady never intended to be owned by anyone but me, as she nearly pranced back into the house, stub of a tail wagging, and she was even happy to see my boyfriend who she previously thought was a terrible monster. It was January of 2013 still before I signed the papers for Cady, and only because I was resigning from the rescue she was listed through and would not allow them to take her away from me. That night, Cady lay beside me on the couch and put her head in my lap; I think I cried.IMG_2209

Cady is my poster child for recovery. When I got her, she was nearly untouchable. She was never aggressive, but always terrified. Men and strangers were murderers in her eyes. However, I refused to allow her to be consumed by her fear. I took her everywhere, and made her deal with houseguests. I never allowed anyone to violate her space, I simply removed her escape routes and made her deal with it. I am sure than many trainers would chastise my methods, but today, two years later, Cady politely requests attention from male strangers. She loads up in a car readily, she has wonderful recall, and she even has a sit-stay about 70% of the time. I can still see uneasiness on her face sometimes, but I also see bravery and resilience. She broke through her own barriers and became the dog she should have been allowed to be from the start.

Finally, there is Kara.  While Cady is the poster child for recovery, Kara might possibly be the poster child for why you shouldn’t do drugs while pregnant, or deprive a puppy of oxygen. Maybe that’s what happened? Maybe she took just a little too long to get out of the birth canal? That’s right, let’s not blame it on Kara or on whoever raised her, let’s just call it chance and plain bad luck.IMG_3057

Well, we can blame something on her owner. We can blame the fact that she ended up on I-95, starved, covered in ticks, heartworm positive and very pregnant on them. She was seen on the side of the interstate for two weeks before a kind woman caught her. I never wanted Kara, and I demanded that she be moved to a new foster home within 24 hours. I was too overwhelmed, had too many foster dogs already.  Some days, I kick myself for not sticking fervently to that demand. Alas, Kara never did leave my home. She had eight little bitty purebred Boykin puppies who all found wonderful homes, and after all of Kara’s treatment, I kept her, too. Kara is pure athlete, a hunting machine with a spot-on nose and the tenacity to take on the biggest of bears, if said bear had whatever she was supposed to be retrieving. She screams in delight at the thought of running through fields and cackles like a hyena when she is angry. Daily, I find myself sighing in exasperation at her. She eats Q-tips out of my bathroom trash, breaks out of every crate that isn’t zip-tied, pees in her crate, pisses off every one of her dog siblings, barks in her crate all night long, and is the single most obsessive IMG_3094dog I have ever met. I love her, I really do. I love her. I love her. She’ll get better one day…

The stories about Kara are nearly endless, and for the sake of this extremely long post, I’ll save them for individual postings to keep you all laughing as time goes by. She’s a funny dog, for sure, especially when you’re not the one cleaning up her mess or paying her vet bills. She teaches me weekly the blessings of patience and understanding. I’m not saying I really need those lessons, but she thinks I do, so I’ll accept them with open arms and remind myself that violence is never the answer.

That’s all for today, aren’t you glad? Until!

An Introduction (to my dog)

I’m not going to introduce myself; talking about myself is not one of my favorite pastimes, and I suppose if I keep this up long enough, you’ll catch hints here and there about where I’m from and the experiences I’ve had.

Instead, I’m going to introduce the four-legged creatures in my life. In reality, they are the ones who make me who I am; they are basically an extension of my personality. They’re also the most important things in my life. I suppose my family and friends should be, but in the same manner that one’s children become the most important things in their lives, my dogs and cats are mine. I am solely responsible for their well-being, their happiness, and therefore it is their priority that molds the course of my day to day. And I’m completely okay with that; this life isn’t for everyone, but it’s for me. Plus, getting me to talk about much else is a feat in itself.

The first on our list is Rugby. He’s the first on every one of my lists, and may always be. The ridiculously irritating emotional side of me will come out just writing this; this dog is the best friend I have ever had. He is my “heart dog”. When I was seventeen years old, my first Aussie, Digger, was hit by a car and killed. I don’t know if I’ll ever not blame myself for this, and I know I will never forget the feeling when I came home that night from work with the dog bed I had just spent my paycheck on, asking where he was. I cried for days. That summer I went to live for a bit with my father in Oregon. My dad (I’ll try to act like an adult and refrain from calling him “Daddy” for the purposes of this blog) is the one who introduced me to Aussies way back when. I was holding up okay as far as being dog-less went, but one say after hiking we stopped to buy cherries from a roadside stand, and I saw a little head pop up over a low wall. I knew that face; it was an Aussie puppy. I could have very well pup-napped the little thing, but instead I just cuddled it and held back the urge to cry. That night I started looking for puppies in the area. I found two breeders, and set my mind on one in Gearhart. I wanted a blue merle, and I wanted an eight week old. Digger had been a red tricolor, and I got him at six months old, so I wanted something different. There was one other breeder about an hour away, but they only had a four month old red tricolor. I immediately decided against that puppy and started making arrangements with the Gearhart breeder. However, one day we decided to go hiking at Saddle Mountain, which happened to be right by the “other” breeder. My dad convinced me we should stop by and just check them out – what could it hurt? We had time to kill anyways.

532271_10150896606687467_1420456990_nRugby was being housed alone in a stall. All of his siblings had been purchased long ago when they were little and squishy. Rugby was goofy, lanky already, with a silly face. They let him out of the stall and I knelt down to say hello. His paws went to my shoulders, and he tucked his muzzle up under my chin and just stood there, hugging me. It was all I could do to not cry in front of the whole barn of people. Needless to say, I had my puppy. We brought him home the next week, and I took him everywhere with me until it was time to fly back to South Carolina. He actually had to stay behind for another two weeks until my stepmother flew out, because my plane wasn’t outfitted for live cargo.

Since then, Rugby has been my constant companion. He is the world’s most amazing dog, and I promise I’m not biased. He’s beautiful, funny, talkative, athletic, friendly, cuddly, naughty, short-tempered, stubborn, adventurous, and too smart for his own good. Remember how I said dogs are an extension of their people? See, you’re getting to know me already. He adores all people, especially my family and friends. I take him to restaurants and bars, and my friends are happier to see him then they are me, I think. He does this terribly obnoxious squealing thing when he’s excited to see someone, and jumps up, spins his body around and falls into their arms, because he knows he’s notallowed to put his paws on people. He despises puppies and takes other dogs’ actions way too seriously. He won’t start a fight, but good luck getting him to quit one. He fights dirty, too, because he knows that the other dog will bite his neck, which happens to be protected by a massive mane, so while they do that he grabs a leg and thrashes. It’s quite ugly.

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 He tolerates my boyfriends, but essentially uses them for attention and play, until he’s ready to cuddle with mom. Then he steps on their faces while he jumps to see me. He is protective in what I call the “Lassie” way, as opposed to the “Cujo” way. I don’t know that he would ever bite a person, no matter what they were doing to me or him, but he will sink his teeth into my shirt and drag me across a room to remove me from a situation. He hates livestock, dirt bikes, and trampolines. He loves hiking and camping.

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Rugby will be seven years old in a week. I see the white hairs coming in on his face and it fills me with sadness. I need him to live forever. Where will I ever find another friend like him?

I realize now how long this has gotten. I’ve got to go; there’s a temporary foster coming in from Fayetteville shortly. I’ll write about the girls later. I promise I won’t just write about the dogs – but I will write mostly about them, so be prepared.

Until then!