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Adopt OR Shop!

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

Adopt OR Shop: Just know who you are shopping from!

By Colleen White, A Place of Grace Poodles and Doodles

Many people use the phrase “adopt, don’t shop!” when giving advice about adding a new pet to the family. While I’m all for adopting or rescuing animals, it’s not always the way to go when looking for a family dog! Heck, I’m a dog breeder and I have a rescue of my own, but it’s not for everyone…

Two years ago my husband brought home a puppy that he rescued from sure death on one of his job sites. The poor baby was too young to be away from his mom, let alone in the woods to fend for himself! He weighed in at less than 5 lbs, his ribs and hip bones stuck out, his belly was distended, and he was covered in fleas and ticks. I brought him to the vet the next day and found out he had a belly full of several different types of parasites, but other than that, with some love and care, he would be healthy. We named our new baby Jaxon, and he immediately became part of our family. By the time Jax was 4 months old, he was seemingly healthy and had lots of energy; more energy than our 14 year old, 8 lb maltipoo could handle! So… off we went to the local animal shelter to find Jaxon a more appropriate playmate.

Enter Bailey… Bailey was 9 months old when we adopted her. She was already nearly full grown, and obviously well taken care of. We had no idea why she was surrendered 2 weeks prior. We were only told she came from a family with children, and everyone was crying when they brought her in. We were told she is half German Shorthaired Pointer, but they didn’t know the other half. When I had Bailey hop into our car, she was so happy! She insisted on sitting in the front passenger seat like a human, and I’m pretty sure there was a smile on her face! She had met Jaxon before we brought her home, so when we walked through the door, it was excitement all around, and they played like she had lived here her whole life!

Jaxon grew to be the largest of all of our dogs, weighing in at 65 lbs. As he got older his temperament started to change. He became aggressive, even nipping at his beloved Gracie. After biting 2 other puppies in our family, we decided to enlist some professional help and had 2 trainers come to our home to work with our dogs. I attended classes. We continued taking him to the humane society, and spoke with 2 different vets there. We know he had suffered a few mild seizures, but no one could really tell us why he was becoming more aggressive, except to say it could be the mix of breeds he was. A breed ID, although not 100% accurate, showed he was a mix of over 6 different breeds. As the months went by, his aggression worsened. He started growling at us for no reason, even as he sat on our laps and we pet him. One night as our daughter was petting him, he turned around and bit her arm. There was no rhyme or reason. He had been checked out physically by the vets at the humane society. He was up to date on his vaccinations. At that point I decided we needed to take him to our old vet, whom I trusted. He is a proponent of rescue, and very well regarded. I took Jaxon to see him the very next day. After spending considerable time with Jaxon and me, and reviewing his records, he said the words I was dreading. He felt that we had exhausted all of our options, and that we should consider putting him down. As I said, he has many a rescue himself, but felt that trying to rehome him (again- we had tried twice, but had to take him back because of the aggression) would be irresponsible at this point because he had bitten a human. I took him home for the weekend, with medications in tow, to think on it, pray on it, and let our kids say their goodbyes if that’s what was to happen. I hemmed and hawed all weekend about it. He had his moments of sweetness, and would look at me as though he knew he was doing wrong, but couldn’t help himself. He was my baby from the start, and I didn’t want to let him go. I gave him the medication the vet sent home to keep him calm, but Sunday night he came over to me for some snuggles, and as soon as I put my hand near him he bit me. He drew blood. He bit the person who brought him back to health, fed him every day, played with him, gave him treats, loved on him every single day… That was what really made me understand what we had to do for him, and for the safety of our family and others. I called the vet the next day, and my husband and I took him in that evening, back to my vet that I completely trusted. His heart was broken for us. They muzzled him for our safety, sedated him, and I laid on the floor with him, cuddling him and telling him how much I loved him, while he passed. We had Jaxon for 19 months.

Sadly, Jaxon’s story isn’t an uncommon one, which is why “adopt, don’t shop” isn’t an option for everyone. My daughter is an adult. I’m an adult. Her arm bruised quite badly, but she was ok. My hand healed, and I’m ok. What if it was a child who had been laying on the couch that night? What if we had rehomed him and he bit a child in the face? My childhood rescue dog bit a neighborhood child in the face. It’s tragic. I could tell you several stories like these. Please know I’m still about rescuing! Some of the best dogs are rescues, like my Bailey, but I want the shaming of breeders to stop!

There are two different types of breeders: ethical, responsible breeders, and unethical, irresponsible breeders. “Backyard breeders” and “Puppy mills” fall into the latter category. They don’t take care of their parents. They don’t test them for genetic abnormalities. They don’t have their structure evaluated. They don’t care for their puppies properly. Their goal is to create as many puppies as possible without concern for health, to make as much money as possible. These are the dogs you see being rescued and put on social media with completely matted fur, covered in feces and sometimes so sick they can’t walk. These are the puppies that end up in pet stores, or being sold by puppy brokers. These are the dogs that end up in shelters. Any good breeder will tell you they want these places shut down! A responsible breeder has their parent dogs tested for genetic defects. They have their structure evaluated. They carefully consider all of that before breeding two dogs together. They care for their dogs like they are family! A good breeder will always take responsibility for that dog, and their puppies, for the life of the dog, so they NEVER end up in a shelter! There are many reasons to “shop” for a puppy from a responsible breeder, and no one should ever be shamed for doing so. Training puppies for service, therapy, facility work, farming work, hunting, or even just as a pet can start right away. Buying from a breeder who has had previous litters from the same parents can give you a greater idea of what you can expect from your dog as an adult. A responsible breeder will offer you a health guarantee on your puppy.

Let’s talk cost… Let’s face it – even adopting is “shopping!” You show up to the shelter, you look at those adorable faces just begging for you to take them home, you choose which ones you want to meet up close, and then you make a final choice. Then what? You pay for the dog! Adopting a dog from a shelter can cost anywhere from $50 to $250, depending on the age of the dog, or where you live. Yes, that is much less expensive than say a $2500 doodle, but now let’s look at it a different way… My Jaxon cost me as much in upkeep as my other dogs. There’s food, heartworm preventatives, monthly flea and tick medications, vaccinations, toys, etc. Those are the basics. Here’s where Jax really cost me… all of the extra vet visits he needed, and medications we tried; the extra training sessions above and beyond the norm; the extra vet visits for the puppies he bit; and the greatest cost… my broken heart when we had to put him down.

Jaxon’s story is a tragic one. He was a sweet dog who had some serious issues because he was bred badly, whether on accident or purposefully. Sadly, there are many dogs just like him in shelters all over the country. Then there’s my rescue, Bailey! She is one of the sweetest, most loving, and gentle dogs I’ve known, and would protect me to her death.

Ultimately you need to do what is right for you and your family! It’s ok to adopt a dog from a shelter! It’s ALSO ok to buy a dog from a REPUTABLE breeder! Don’t let anyone bully you in to thinking otherwise!

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