“Don’t breed or buy when shelter pets die”

“Don’t breed or buy when shelter pets die.”

This, in a nutshell, is one of the most common “criticisms” directed at the dog-breeding world by those who want to bring attention to the plight of shelter animals, pet overpopulation, and the horrid abuses perpetrated by puppy mills. While I understand the impulse to defend the voiceless, the canines and felines who live on the edges, at the whim of humans, without the love and care of a Forever Family, what sets my teeth on edge is when so-called animal activists get on MY case about Amy. When I say she is a former show dog, or that we got her from a (responsible) local breeder, some people get their hackles up and tell me how awful it is to breed a dog when dogs in shelters get euthanized every day of the week.

Well, I’ve got news for you, people.

Amy’s ADOPTED.

She wasn’t bred to order. She needed a Forever Home.

We gave her one.

Her future was far from uncertain — she’d have been loved no matter what, whether we adopted her or not, but she wouldn’t have had a home of her own. But there she was, almost 4 years old, done with the job for which she was born, with a great many years ahead of her. What’s a corgi girl to do? She’s clearly an “only child dog”—she will play with other dogs and even vacation with them, but she clearly prefers being the only canine in residence, thankyouverymuch. As the breeder says, “I can’t keep them all, no matter how much I love them!”

(Currently, she’s zonked out on the couch in the office, at an hour when in her former life she’d probably be snug in her kennel bed by now. She has a king-size comforter at her disposal for nesting and cuddling.)

I don’t think the contents of her life have changed much — food, exercise, play, loving humans. I didn’t rescue her from a dire situation, the way some dogs are rescued; she has been cared for by great big loving hearts since the moment she was conceived, if not before. Her parents were chosen not just for their looks but also for their health, which improved Amy’s health outcomes and further reduced her susceptibility to certain diseases, and she in her turn passed that great health on to her two litters. She, and her breeder, are doing everything they can to eliminate some of the diseases that plague the PWC breed and break so many hearts every year: degenerative myelopathyhip dysplasia, and Von Willebrand’s disease. Part of her charm is the bill of health she comes with, the “edge” she has, and the fact that I know she’s passing on her disease-free genes to the rest of the corgi community. She’s been given A+ vet care, fed high-quality food, and cared for every day of her life. She is one lucky, lucky little dog. In a world where so many dogs don’t receive the same love and care, she’s blessed. Yes, she’s a show dog, she has a fancy name and everything, and certificates, and a championship medal.

But she’s still an adult adoptee.

Amy was born after Jim & I started dating, but before we were engaged, so she was abroad in the world before her “forever family” even existed. She had her first litter the winter after we got married. She was just getting ready to take her second litter when we met her breeder, and we were supposedly on wait for HER puppies, who were there CUTEST things on Planet Earth, don’t get me wrong. But the babies weren’t in our stars, their mama was. Little Miss was ready to retire and enjoy just being a dog, but needed a home and a family. We didn’t even need to think about it. One glance at each other and the next question we had was “When can she come home?”

It took a year of planning to have Amy’s home ready, before we even knew about her. We knew we needed a proper house, and we had to research breeds still. We were pretty sure we’d be working with a breeder: mall pet shops were out of the question, and a shelter dog just couldn’t come with the same background of health and known temperament. It was nine months exactly from the day we contacted her breeder by email to the night she came home, just like a human baby who is planned for and waited for and loved for.

Jim’s niece urged and urged us to get a shelter dog, to adopt, which is what her family did when they brought home the spunkiest Russell terrier girl I ever did meet; but I think she’s forgiven us for going with a bred dog, because A) Amy is the cutest thing on four feet and B) she IS adopted, even if she isn’t a shelter dog. Maybe the logic’s a little fuzzy, but you can’t argue with this fact: We adopted Amy as an adult dog in need of a forever family.

We see Amy’s breeder a few times a year, either to board Amy when we are out of town or if she’s having a bad day and we need a health consultation; who better to visit than the woman who has fretted over Little Miss from the moment she entered the world, who has nursed her through two C-sections and two squeakerectomies and a spay surgery, who holds in her head anecdotes of all Amy’s forebears, who committed so much time to training her for the show ring? And who has done this not just for Amy, but for the dozens and dozens and DOZENS of dogs she has cared for in many decades of work? Whenever we visit, Amy goes wild with joy and love for the woman who raised her, rooing and wagging her nubbin for all she’s worth, leaping as far as her little legs will take her, climbing on as many pieces of furniture as she can reach to share her affection with this remarkable woman. (Usually couch–>office table–>chair–>lap.)

So I propose we modify the “criticism” that sparked this post:

Don’t buy from pet shops that either directly or inadvertently support the unclean and abusive practices of puppy mills, or from backyard breeders who breed their dogs for easy money without the research and planning required of a conscientious breeder invested in the welfare of a specific breed; both these practices lead to overpopulations of dogs with sometimes severe physical and psychological health issues. Instead, adopt a shelter dog, rescue a dog in need, foster if you can, support your local shelter through donations or volunteer time, or get involved in the pro-active dog breed community of your choice that advocates improving canine health through responsible, planned, conscientious breeding programs and supporting the current canine population. Responsible breeders are working every day of their lives to improve the quality of life for their breed of dogs, by breeding out genetic deficiencies and breeding to enhance the temperament of the breed. They are ambassadors for the many creatures who cannot speak with human voice, advocating for their health and well-being and promoting the positive qualities of their breed to the general public. If you are looking to adopt an older dog in need of a home, in addition to local breed-specific rescue groups, consider contacting breeders in your area and asking if they know of any older dogs in need of placing, get to know them, and cheerlead them on. What they do is a labor of love that, when you think about it in detail, does not reward with a great deal of money…

…but who could ever put a price on the wag of a dog’s tail?

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