A good friend of mine recently had some tragedy. It would seem that someone came and stole her two younger dogs. As best we can tell, the oldest dog followed the thief and her friends out to the road where she was struck and killed by a car. There had been rash of local dog thefts in her area and as there are very, very few reason for scum to start stealing a bunch of dogs, it makes it all the more heartbreaking knowing the probable fate of the young dogs.
What does this have to do with breeders? Right, I'm getting to that part.
My friend has children who are likewise heartbroken. This family needs a dog. My friend would like to get a Lab puppy. They've always had mutts or rescues, but since she wants a pup, this time she'd like to know just what the pup will grow into, which is a reasonable enough desire.
Me, being me, and understanding fully how truly, massivly horrible it is to have a dog crippled by genetic ailments, cautioned her to find a good breeder, as in our area puppy mills are rampant and the last thing these people need is even more heartache in the form of dysplasia, retinal atrophy or horrible skin conditions. They just need a healthy dog.
She asked me if I could help her find a good breeder and I said of course I would, and started to look.
And then I stopped
I thought about the times I had gone breeder shopping for myself. I have owned exactly one purebred dog in my life. We call Scooter, Scooter Beagle, but it's an honorific. He may in fact be part basset or walker, there are a lot of ifs and maybe's in his largely unplanned pedigree.
Our only purebred was Marley Golden. He was born to a puppy mill, was still unsold at 9 weeks and therefore tossed into a car trade-in to sweeten the deal, the car folks kept him for 7 months and then I got him off Freecycle. I adored Marley more then I can express, and still cry over his untimely loss. At the same time I can't help but think perhaps in the long run it may have been for the best. If he had lived to middle age he would have been in a lot of pain from his many ailments. As dearly as I loved him, I would never have paid any money for the horrible, horrible job his breeder did, condemning him to such a defective body.
It's not that I wouldn't LOVE to own a wellbred dog. Because I would. I really, really would. Long ago, I wanted an Australian Shepherd, and was about as perfect a home for an Aussie as a person could be without owning sheep. I found a good breeder and told her I was happy to have her pick out the pup she thought would be the best fit, with one caveat - not a black male. I really wanted a female and - in spite of two of the Great Loves of My Life, Deacon and Thunder, being predominantly black - I've never found black dogs all that attractive. I'd take a black female if that was the only way I could get my girl, but if I was settling for a male pup I would need a stunningly beautiful one, like a red tri. The breeder said that she understood and then got very hard to get a hold of until one time I called and actually got her on the phone and she said she had a black male for me, he was 6 weeks old and I could come pick him up in just a couple more weeks. So sorry but all the females were spoken for and all the males were black and what did I mean I wanted to wait for a different litter??? She had reserved a pup for me! Fine, she would call when she was planning another litter.
I'm still waiting on that phone call.
The next breeder also said she was fine with me not wanting a black male - a female of any color, a male of any color but black but not a black male - right until she wanted to sell me one. She had also pretty much vanished from "I'm planning a breeding and I'll reserve you a spot" until "The pups are 7 weeks old and you're getting this one." It would seem that a black male was the only pup that would possibly fit in my situation. And when I asked to wait for another litter I got reamed. Not a little, but a LOT. She ended with telling me that anyone as shallow and shortsighted as I was totally unfit for dog ownership.
After that I adopted Thunder from Animal Control and gave up for a few years. The internet exploded and prospective dog ownership got a little crazy - well-meaning crazy, but crazy none the less. Over a few years I had called and emailed a few people with different breeds. Several of whom told me over the phone that they'd be happy to call me when they were planning their next litter. But apparently breeders don't breed much because not one ever called.
And then there was a truly lovely gentleman who not only answered his phone but returned emails AND kept in touch (oh miracle of miracles!) and who's bitch reabsorbed the litter, to great dissappointement. He didn't want to try breeding her again soon and his other bitch was already planning a co-owned litter and there likely wouldn't be any females available. Before I could get a pup from him his amazing old stud dog died and he quit breeding.
Then a few more years where I didn't try at all, followed by several phone calls with a highly recomended kennel who was never heard from again after I told them I didn't want to send a deposit before seeing pictures of the parents (apparently I was supposed to buy on reputation only). Then the fellow who told me that he would love to see one of his pups pass a herding test, only to say on a message board that it was totally ridiculous for dogs of his breed to herd, that anyone who said that historically this breed had, was a poor researcher who knew nothing of foundation bloodlines and anyone who herded with this breed had mutts.
I had already saved up all the money for a puppy. This is not a small amount. It is the equivalant of 2 mortgage payments and more then my car and a year and a half of saving.
Back to the shop for a breed/breeder drawing board. And lo and behold, there was a good breeder with a wonderful breeding already done. So I filled out the very long, hours to fill out application ... and our insurance settlement actually, finally came. Which is beyond belief. And makes the really stupid, omg-do-you-realize-that-is-TWO-mortgage-payments-and-you're-poor-how-could-you-spend-that-on-a-puppy (you could get a new car) thing even stupider, because I could finish my house if I added what I had saved to the insurance money.
But I sent in the application anyway, with a note on it to please hold onto it for a future litter, or perhaps even pass it on to someone else who might be having a litter next year, because I can save again - as I say in the garden, there's always next year. And I really would love to have a beautiful, healthy, well-bred dog.
I never heard back.
And then I found Smiley and Katie.
But what do I tell my friend? That is my 15 years worth of trying to get a decently bred, healthy puppy from a "good" breeder. Do I look for someone who health-tests and plans for her? Or do I tell her to take her chances on Craigslist? After I sat and thought about it, I just dont know