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26 June 2007


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When my sister-in-law bought her Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier from a pet store, she was assured the little girlie did not come from a puppy mill - but from a loving home - that's the lie.

Now to the question, would I really want a puppy that was bred by someone who didn't give a fanny about it - yes I would - not to promote puppy mills - but I would rescue a puppy in need no matter how it orignated - I know the argument so please don't rag on me.

And as to the many questions asked by rescue groups and good breeders - I was going to adopt a Collie from a rescue group for me and my son, before I adopted my little Angie that now has cancer - this was over ten years ago, and this group wanted me to agree that they could visit my house and the dog without notice any time of day or night - well that was a bit too much - and I declined the dog.

Most times dogs and cats are sold as buyer beware.....

Andrea Two Cat Mom

I'm often amazed at the details that shelters want from prospective adopters. When I adopted my two cats, I had to show that I owned my apartment(or if I rented that my landlord was OK with it), a statement of income, and three personal references (they called all three.

I also had to answer a series of questions about what I would do about problems (my favorite - what will you do if your cat sheds - my answer: Cats shed, I vacuum), as well as sign an agreement that I would not declaw the cats and that I would contact the shelter if I had to give the animal up or if I faced with a decision to pay for an expensive medical procedure or put the animal down. These all seem reasonable to me. In turn they guaranteed that they would take the cats back if I couldn't keep them and either let them live at the shelter or find them a new homes. As for the medical situation, I believe that they would try to help you get shelter discounts if a very expensive treatment was needed. The only place where I part company is that my cats are provided for in my will and I have a cat loving friend who has agreed to take them if something were to happen to me. And no, I'm not asking the shelter if that's OK with them.

If a private breeder isn't as nosy, run. A good breeder will generally require similar information, and also that you not breed an animal that is not show quality. And many of the finest breeders will not ship an animal - you must go and pick the animal up - that way they get a look at you.

I might be wrong, but it appears to me that there are less kitty mills than puppy mills around. Whenever I've looked at cat breeder web sites - there are waiting lists and well spaced litters. These don't appear to be places that are churning out kitties by the dozens.

That said, I'm still all for shelter cats/dogs. I can understand why a particular breed might appeal to someone, but you'd be suprised what you can find at shelters/rescue groups if you look around.


It's a matter of following your gut as well as following your brain - if it's either a breeder or a rescue, and the requirements seem over the top (asking you questions about the care you'll provide and requesting references is *not* over the top. Claiming the right to make unannounced inspections 24 hours a day certainly would seem to be . . . . ) go with your instincts and keep looking.

The welfare of the animal is paramount. But "real world" considerations need to be part of the picture, as well.


I don't like dog's ears cut off and their tails docked to satisfy a breed standard and I don't like breeding dogs so they will be super complaint and stand still for the judges and look to the owners at every twitch and breeders that breed and breed for the next win or next blue or this next year I'm going to Westminster and put their dogs in crates and fly them around the world.......poor dogs.


Sorry - that's compliant not complaint!

Andrea Two Cat Mom

I agree with Linda - some things are reasonable, some are not.

Letting me know that my cats would always have a place to go if I was no longer able to care from them is not only reasonable, its a blessing. However, as the person who is responsible for their care and has paid the bills for the last 5 years (and hopefully many more), I believe that I am entitled to decide that their needs would be best served by a cat-owning, cat-loving friend, who the cats know and like.

And as for suprise inspections, why even put that in a contract? I wouldn't be upset if a shelter wanted to see the cat once its settled into its new home, but I would never take an animal into my home and bond with it if the take home was conditional.

I think a lot of shelters are well meaning but if they go too far over the top, they risk alientating perfectly good potential adopters.


Forty years ago, I received my first Persian -- a friend of my father's was getting divorced and when I said I'd give Panda a home, Mark didn't take any chances -- he immediately left the house, got her and brought her back within the hour.

My parents had always thought that pets were good for children, but had never really gotten around to getting me one, so they were okay with this sudden gift of a purebred blue Persian that was the same age as their daughter (6 years old).

Why Panda had been sold as a pet, I don't know -- she had show quality looks, a sweet temperment and lived to be 19 years, in tip-top health, practically until the end. She had occasional bouts of cystsis, but never had a breathing or eye problem in her life.

I learned all I could about the breed, received my Girl Scout Pet Badge on Persians and used the breed as a "fall-back topic" when I needed to grind out a high school paper quickly! ;-)

Once I had my first job after graduate school and had paid for the basics, my first "real" purchase was a pair of 6 month old black Persian kittens from a local breeder recommended by the local vet.

This was a respected breeder -- it turned out the kittens had roundworms from being fed a raw diet provided by a local butcher and the breeder paid for all the vet bills and treatment. The breeder gave all her adult cats Biblical names and was a little taken aback when I named my cats after the sisters of the Arabian Nights (Scherazade and Dinarazade), but otherwise, we had a good relationship.

Scherazade was sold as a "pet" -- she was a beautiful cat, but her nose was "too big." Dinara was "breed quality" -- her nose was smaller, but I didn't expect any problems.

I was so wrong. By today's standards, Dinara had a "big nose", but as she got older, she had more and more breathing problems. At about age 12, her eyes began to pigment over, such that she was nearly blind by the time she died at age 17 -- a result, the kitty eye doctor from the Penn Vet School told me, of the "bug eyes" being required by the breed.

I don't think anyone in my entire life has loved me as much as Dinara did (and that includes my husband! ;-)), but it killed me to see her have such problems, just because the Persian breed standard required her nose to be so small and her eyes to be so big.

In a cat book I found at a yard sale, there were pictures from England's first cat show at the Crystal Palace with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert -- the Persian showed there looked *exactly* like Scherazade, who was labled "pet quality" yet had a nose that kept her breathing without difficulty and eyes that were always clear (she died of lung cancer, which no one understands as no one smokes here and it's supposed to be very rare in cats.)

I can't buy another Persian. I've loved the breed nearly my whole life, but I can't support what breeders -- even so-called responsible breeders have done to this beautiful, beautiful breed. They took a lovely cat that could stand on its own with any other (when I was doing my Girl Scout badge, it was said that 50% of all Persians lived to be 20 years old) and DESTROYED it into a creature that can barely get breath into its lungs.

It has to be *wrong* to so destroy an animal -- to sacrifice the ability to live, breathe and see just because a group of people think a breed should "look" a certain way. I hope other breeds have breeders that will stand up for their animals ability to live their lives with a minimum of medical intervention -- unfortunately, I am not optimistic.

Just my opinion, but I think I have earned it.


I'm looking at this from the other side -- not as a breeder, but as someone who knows the type of breeder who will take back anything they have bred at anytime in their life, no questions asked. Sometimes the buyer lies (shock!) and the breeder decides that it's in the best interest of all involved to take the dog back. That's where the being allowed access to the dog at anytime comes in. Are they going to show up in the middle of the night to get the dog? Of course, not. Have some common sense.


I have been told many times by dog owners that they "rescued" their dog. From a pet store or backyard breeder. (??!!?!)

Why can't people wrap their brains around the idea that buying these dogs perpetuates the suffering of the parents (of the puppy mill dog) or encouraging the backyard breeder to continue to put pups on the ground for money?

Gotta think of the many instead of the few or the one.


It is not the issue that one might invade a person's privacy any time day or night (although that might be an issue with an over zealous individual) but we are talking about a dog here, not an adopted child or foster child. I don't believe the majority of people that pay a substantial sum of money for an animal are going to abuse it or neglect it or abandon it. I do not believe it is a wise idea to give away rights - now what is not reasonable here is to think that a dog rescurer that is offering a dog for sale/adoption can't or won't relinquish their rights to that animal (no matter how tenuous)- now that is what is nuts.


I have 2 Siamese that came from a truly wonderful breeder. I met her at a show when I wasn't even looking for a cat. First I fell in love with her cats' look, then we talked. When we talked I could tell she had as sense of true pride and love for all her cats. She thinks of all her cats as her babies. When we decided we wanted the kitten she had for sale, she went over the contract with us, then politely asked to be excused. She had her husband give the kitten to us and see that he was safely in a carrier before he said goodbye. She excused herself so she could go cry in private. Her husband told us she has a hard time saying goodbye to any of her cats, and knows she will cry every time. To me that is a sign of a good breeder. I have stayed in contact with her since we go our first kitten (7 years ago) and have since gotten another from her. When we got the second one, she once again politely excused herself so she could cry in private. Through many conversations, I have always felt her sincere compassion for every one of her cats. My boys will always be her babies too. Yes, there are wonderful breeders out there.


Comment by Dorene — June 27, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

Amen, Dorene. Most popular breeds of dogs *and* cats have ended up with some serious tendency toward one or another physiological (or psychological) problem, because someone thought they should look and act a certain way

What blows my mind is when you go to shows, and you see the judges - breed "lovers" all - who so often reward conformations that, while stylish, aren't healthy for the animal and its progeny (which is the point of shows, right? )

That's why I enjoy watching Crufts (UK). Less extreme styling of breeds, less cropping and docking, more dogs that look like they'll love a long healthy life. Too bad US breeders don't get it.

Andrea Two Cat Mom

Besides ear cropping and tail docking how about debarking. Some of those quiet obedient dogs you see at shows are debarked. Talk about barbaric!

I just don't get the whole extreme conformance to a standand. Siamese cats have got so skinny they all look like Calista Flockhart. I don't know that they have any particular genetic problems, but when you look at "traditional" siamese versus today's standard, they don't even look like they are the same breed.

Gina Spadafori

I don't like the look of the show Siamese, either. Give me that big chunk o' apple-headed cat anytime. But that's fashion, not health and temperament, far as I know.

Debarking doesn't quiet a dog, by the way. It just turns down the volume. I was in Sheltie rescue for several years, and knew many debarked dogs. And my own Sheltie Drew is debarked, by one of his four previous owners.

A debarked dog can make plenty of racket. Just ask Christie, who hears Drew pipe up when we're on the phone. (Again, he's not voiceless. Just doesn't have quite the volume he surely once did.)

I wouldn't choose to debark a dog -- or declaw a cat -- but I can understand circumstances where it's the better of bad options, and will allow a pet to stay in a home.

Debarking sounds worse (so to speak) than it really is. Dogs recover quickly and can do what comes naturally to them without their owners worrying about the neighbors tossing anti-freeze-laced chicken over the fence.

Again, I don't like it and wouldn't do it on one of my own pets. Training is always better for both clawing and barking. But with barking ... well, having spent most my life with at least one Sheltie (and sometimes a half-dozen foster Shelties at a time) I can tell you that you cannot train a Sheltie to be quiet. You can train them to be more quiet, and to stop barking when told to, but Sheltie=Barking. And that's not the only breed like that.

I'd rather be a show dog than the forgotten backyard pet of the typical suburban family (including my brother's). Most show dogs are like mine: They live with people who love them to pieces and occasionally drag them to shows where the dogs put up with our silliness. In the case of my retrievers, shows are tolerable because Michelle the handler gives them lots of kisses and liver bits, and because they know they're going to the river when it's all over -- usually after a couple hours of being there. The worst cruelty perpetuated on my dogs (in their opinion) is the pre-show BATH.


Linda, more show dogs than not get to home and wallow in the nearest mud puddle than spend their lives in a crate. (Gina just posted about her own very non-prissy show dog last week.) Then again, some of those who do spend their lives in a crate or a van get more attention and love than the typical suburban family pet.

As far as breeding so that they stand and don't twitch a muscle, well that ability is only a small part of the show dog equation and I don't know of anyone who intentionally breeds for that -- although I suppose they exist. (I've noticed that the ones that just stand naturally tend to look a little dull, bored or stressed and no one wants that in a show dog.) The dogs spend a good deal of their time being judged while moving. That they stand and don't twitch a muscle is generally because they've been trained to do that. Mine wants to wriggle all over with joy at the prospect of a stranger paying attention to him. I've had to train him to stand still (with mixed results, sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't -- training for the obedience "stand for exam" has been challenging). But it's his sparkle, high energy and confidence that makes him a good show dog. And a good performance dog. And a happy house pet.

To touch on your other topic, 3 of my dogs were acquired on restrictive contracts that include "visit anytime" clauses. Cool! Visitors! But I'm pretty sure the breeders and the rescue are happy enough with me that they aren't likely to come calling anytime soon, unless it's a social visit. Again I'm looking at it from the other side, counting reputable breeders as friends and being intimately involved with rescue. Shelter/rescue dogs are returned for the silliest of reasons. I think the shelter or rescue might just be trying to weed out the silliness and don't mind if they put off a few people in the process.

Gina Spadafori

Leslie ... I've BEEN to Crufts. The Brits groom their dogs to less ridiculous extremes than Americans do for shows, and the atmosphere is much nicer -- more owner-handers, almost no pros.

But the British invented the dog show, and development of many breed owe all the "thanks" to the obsessions of the British upper class. I wouldn't cut the Brits any slack in the dog-show crazy department.

"Most" popular breeds of dogs do not have problems of type and temperament caused by the show world.

What you're looking at when you see a Lab with malformed hips, a golden who's vicious or shy, is the work of opportunists who jump into popular breeds for the money, without regard to health or temperament, and certainly without testing for either before breeding for the dough.

A few breeds -- and I'd certainly put most of the Brachycephalic ones in this category -- should be given a "do-over" when it comes to the development of type, and steered towards something more healthy.

I always tell readers that picking the right breeder is more important than picking the right breed. (Assuming that someone insists on having a purebred, that is.)

Another thing about Crufts: There's not "less" ear cropping -- there's none. It's illegal in the U.K. And I wish it were in the U.S.! Interesting trivia item: It was Queen VICTORIA who pretty much put an end to ear crops, which she believed were barbaric.

Tail docking is another matter, one of great controversy in the U.K., still widely practiced however and likely to remain so.


P.S. as to the forgotten dog in the back yard - one of my big "hates" - these poor animals live solitary lonely lives where their soul withers up and dies. Ick!


On second thought of this issue of giving access to one's home (carte blanche) to the group or individual from whom a pet is bought/adopted etc - well - one just goes with their "gut".

If it doesn't bother you and you like the people and don't mind keeping in touch with them for 14 years +/-, then it's okay.

If it bothers you and you think, naw, not a good idea, then don't do it.

Andrea Two Cat Mom

I apologize if this is a duplicate post.

Ellipsisknits - that's exactly what I mean. I'm all for making sure an animal get a good loving home with enough time and $ to take proper care of the animal.

But then there's over the top. The shelter I adopted from told me that I must not use clumping litter because it was "dangerous." I use clumping litter. Now if I had signed an agreement giving them the right to terminate the adoption at any time if they believed that I was endangering the animal, this could qualify under that agreement. And really, I don't want to get into court battles over whether wet food is better than dry is better than raw....

The offputting part - not the questions or the references but a screed on their answering machine about veganism. That has nothing to do with adopting cats. If you want to only adopt to vegans, fine, you can do that. But don't advertise to the meat eating, leather couch-potatoing public and then hit them over the head with your non-adoption related beliefs.

The funny thing is that when I got to know the volunteers at the shelter, I saw that they were extremely devoted and caring individuals. I just think all their facial piercings let some of their common sense leak out, LOL. And the former head of the shelter told me that I was one of her best cat moms - (even if I was a meat-eating infidel)!


I owned a beautiful Sheltie when my son was about nine. He'd sit on his skate board and the dog would pull him around the neighborhood. I loved giving Toppy a bath and combing that beautiful long hair. They do like to bark and when I was at work, he'd stay inside otherwise he'd drive the neighbors nuts barking at the squirrels until one neighbor put a note on my door - "Don't you care about us at all?" Trouble is I never knew he barked when I went to work. He sure was a sweet dog.

Andrea Two Cat Mom

Leather is great except if you play "cat baseball."

I have a retrieving cat and since he needs exercise I invented cat baseball for him. The corner of my L-shaped leather couch is home plate. Teddy can be the batter or the catcher depending on his mood. I toss the ball to him and he jumps up and either swats or catches the ball. When he misses the ball, he has to jump over the couch, get the ball and run it back home. Sometimes when he jumps he comes down on the top of the couch and does a nice slide into (down?) home plate....with his claws out of course. But since I started the game, I can't really get upset about it.

I just wish I could get him to run the bases counter-clockwise.

Gina Spadafori

My brother doesn't read the blog. :) Well, the brother in question doesn't.

However, he is well aware of my feelings regarding the dog. When, for example, my niece asked if she could have one of McKenzie's puppies -- no breeding plans, by the way, just theorectical -- I told her that although I love her and her family very much, I did not consider their care of their dog to be suitable.

You know, I realize that when you have kids and are going full-speed in a million different directions -- sports, lessons, school activities, church activities, etc. -- you aren't home much and life is stressful.

I just wonder why people who KNOW their lives are like this get a dog? I think because that's just "what you do" when you have kids and a house in the 'burbs.

I just wish folks like my brother (who really is a decent guy overall, a firefighter and a good husband and dad) would think things through and NOT get a dog if there's no time for the animal, or if expensive home furnishings will be considered more important that the happiness of a living being.

It is ONE of my pet peeves, obviously. :)


It's funny that you mentioned the expensive home furnishings - as I bought a new leather couch set - black - not overstuffed - a few years ago. At first I didn't want the dogs to mess it up - but that quickly changed. The amazing thing is the set has managed the wear quite well, and even when one dog decided to tear open an arm on the couch, (I sewed it back together) and one can barely see the damage. Then Snoppy decides to dig his way through the cushions and still the set doesn't even tear - and now I find much beauty in metal - and seldom buy wood anything and leather seems to be a good bet too!

Andrea Two Cat Mom

Gina - point taken. Its just that the only debarked dogs I know are collies that had it done to make them "show better in the ring." As far as I know, they are not disturbing the neighbors or making the owner nuts. Though maybe they are and the owners feel this is a more "acceptable" explanation.

I have a question for you. Does your brother know that you mention him as a not so great dog owner on this site? If so, I'm just trying to visualize what your family holidays are like, LOL.


Comment by Gina Spadafori — June 28, 2007 @ 7:44 am

"I can tell you that you cannot train a Sheltie to be quiet."

I actually used to have a Sheltie that I successfully trained to be quiet.

All my Sheltie friends insisted that was highly unnatural and threatened to sneak over when I wasn't paying attention and train her to bark because I should have to see what it was like to live with a "real" Sheltie just the same as everyone else had to! LOL!


I'm not against show dogs - I love watching show dogs perform - the grace and beauty unmatched...I just don't care for putting them in cages in the bellies of planes to be tossed about by uncaring and hurried airport workers who actually open the cages to pet or steal the dogs - and the dogs escape like what happened to poor little Vivi at JFK over one year ago. And I know show dogs can be and are very much loved as evidenced by Vivi's owners and their heroic efforts to find her.

And I think specifically about what has happened to Dobermans where their spunk has been practically bred out of them for the show circuit until they are more like a golden than a stately Doberman (not to dis goldens - they are wonderful too.)

As to the debarking - well I can tell you that the thought has crossed my mind with my red bone coonhound as her howl is from the bottom of her feet down to the center of the earth. When she gets like that, I bring her inside.


nope, I don't know how to spin (yet).


hmmm, this topic really made me think, which is why it's taken me a few days to come up with a response.

I think the root of it (and why I sympathize with Andrea) is that just because a breeder/rescue is concerned, doesn't mean that they are informed.

I remember finding one 'breeder' webpage, with very strict homing requirements, and also the firm belief that 'selective breeding' in itself was cruel, and the only humane way to breed was to allow the dogs to live in a pack structure and choose their own mates!

That's an extreme example to be sure, but giving anyone carte blanch to come into your home at their leisure and repossess your pet because you are/aren't crating, feeding raw food, giving vaccinations... any of the 1,001 things that pet owners disagree about... that makes me a little leery.

Not that they should be obliged to sell to anyone with money either, but just acknowledging that there is a medium that must be found.



ellipsisknits - do you work with Chiengora?

Gina Spadafori

Oh, I know! There are lots of unethical people out there, in all walks of life. Heck, you can't even give away organic rabbit compost without running into them. (Which I did, long story and not very interesting.)

My first "reputable" breeder wasn't too bad -- this was almost 30 years ago -- but she wouldn't cut it by my standards today. But then, no reputable breeder today would have sold a puppy to the person *I* was then -- a college student with iffy housing. (And yet, that dog got me involved in a world that is my life today -- and he was with me for all his life.)

Which speaks to one of my most basic beliefs: Few things are black and white, completely good or completely evil. Shade of gray are mostly what I see.



Not sure if you are answering my earlier comment, but in case you are, I need to clarify a few issues (my story is long, complex, and difficult to summarize). When I bought my first purebred dog, I researched in advance, and I sought referrals through the national breed club. The woman I bought from was a show breeder with a decades-long affiliation with that club, not a so-called backyard breeder. She lived a couple of states away, and she certainly did not sell her puppies cheaply. I thought I was going about the business of buying a puppy of my chosen breed in the most responsible way possible. In retrospect, of course, I see that much of what I did was naive, and I have certainly paid for my biggest mistake: not being a "picky" enough buyer. The other stories I referred to--the ones similar to mine--often involve purchases from recognized breeders who, when major health issues crop up, don't want to acknowledge them, appently fearing damage to their reputations. Obviously not every reputable breeder in every breed follows this course, but from what I have seen, my story is far from unique.

The other breeder, the neophyte natural rearer? Now THAT is another story . . .

Gina Spadafori

So have we. That's why we've said for YEARS that if you want a purebred dog the most important thing to find is good breeder.

Unfortunately, many people believe a breed (or mix) is like a brand name: You decide to get a golden retriever or Labradoodle, and then find the first or cheapest you can, the closest, the easiest, the one whose breeder doesn't ask any questions as long as the check clears.

There are lots and lots of reputable, responsible breeders. They might not be in your town, or even your state. And they're a pain in the fanny to deal with.

Worth it? We think so. But we hear complaints all the time from people who think responsible breeders are "intrusive" or "too picky," because many people believe it should be like buying anything else: I want it, I pay for it, I get it.

Good breeders don't operate like that. They aren't ever going to. So people head to others, and then complain about "bad breeders."


Wonderful piece, as always, Christie. How fortunate you were that Raven's breeder truly took responsibility for the creatures she brought into the world, and that she did so responsibly. I have heard that such individuals exist, but my own experience has been otherwise. The breeder of the first purebred dog I purchased eight years ago had been in the fancy for more than thirty years at the time. She sold me a dog without a contract, and when I inquired about her return policy, she took great offense, stating categorically that she had never had a problem with any of her puppies. Silly, credulous me: I handed over my check rather than walking away. When this dog began having profound health problems before his first birthday, the breeder refused to acknowledge even the most benign of them (a condition universally recognized as hereditary), instead insisting the source of my difficulties lay in my own "environment." I spent the next four years and thousands of dollars getting this boy well. I then bought a puppy of the same breed from a breeder far outside the mainstream, one who bred her first litter according to her own strict interpretation of natural rearing, one disallowing vaccines, parasiticides, and commercial food. That puppy, who survived parvovirus infection, came to me carrying heavy flea and worm burdens I was eventually obliged to treat conventionally, and when I was also obliged to put her down at 21 months owing to what a necropsy later revealed to be total liver failure, the breeder blamed my husbandry rather than looking to her breeding practices. These two individuals, different as they were in orientation and experience, were both very much involved with the breed and committed in their respective ways to their breeding programs, but neither actually stood behind her puppies. While the first never offered to take her puppy back, the second used that fact that I declined her offer of a refund in exchange for my puppy as a stick to beat me with. How grateful I would have been in either of these situations to have had the kind of help you received from Raven's breeder. Over the years, unfortunately, I have heard far more stories like mine than like yours.


The thing is, breeders should be few and far between. Note - I did not say *RESPONSIBLE* breeders should be few and far between, but simply that "breeders should be few and far between". Then fact is, there are TOO many people breeding dogs overall, and the majority of them don't know what they're doing (or they *think* they do, but really don't).

In an ideal world, ALL breeders should be RESPONSIBLE breeders, and there should be a lot LESS of them out there.

If that ideal world existed, we wouldn't have "excess dogs", and all the dogs would be in "forever" loving homes.

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