A recent email has left me pondering the implications of placing older, retired dogs into pet homes.
The correspondent, who I’ve been writing back and forth to about future litters, wrote:
“a lot of breeders get rid of their dogs once they have had the two to three litters, which in my
opinion is not a good practice from a pet owner perspective. I see why some
breeders do it (money) but I figure if you are going to own a dog it should
be for more then just a baby making machine that is expendable.”
At the moment, I share my house with ten dogs.
Penelope, Delilah, Tula and Fanny are all too young to be bred. Delilah has about two years to wait, while the other three girls have about a year. In the meantime, they’re growing up, learning to be dogs, and getting ready for the show ring. Bunny was just bred, so has at least a full year before she can be bred again.
Tessa, Sailor and Ellie are all spayed, and live happy lives as doyennes and couch guardians. Ellie is our special needs girl – ill as a puppy, she has some neurological issues, along with digestive and breathing problems. We love her, but we know she won’t be with us long.
Journey is ready to be bred as soon as she comes in season, but missed the last two times she was bred. We’ll try once more, and if she doesn’t take, she’ll be spayed. Mae is due in a few weeks, and this is her last litter. We’ll let her raise up her pups, and then spay her about six months later.
I suppose we could keep Journey and Mae after they’ve been spayed. After all, Tessa, Sailor and Ellie are spayed pets, and lead what we hope are rich lives with us. Journey, in particular, has a soft spot in my heart.
Sailor’s daughter, Tessa’s granddaughter, and Ellie’s litter sister, Journey has a unique personality. She’s the sweetest natured Frenchie I’ve ever owned, with no enemies even in the convoluted world of bitch pack-politics. Zen like and calm, Journey has been known to spend five minutes just watching butterflies in the garden. She rarely asks for attention, so that a visit from her politely requesting a pat on the head becomes a special occasion. Therein, of course, lies part of the problem. In a house with pushy, dominant Frenchies demanding attention, Journey allows herself to stay in the background. Who knows how her personality would blossom, if she had the chance to become the center of a much less crowded universe? What happiness could she bring to an owner willing to pour all of their love into Journey’s special heart?
So, yes – I could keep Journey. I want to keep Journey – for who she is, and for where she comes from. But I won’t. I will, eventually, place her into a pet home. She’d thrive with kids, or a lonely single person. She’d be great for someone with special needs, someone who can appreciate her Buddha nature and calm self centered personality. Journey will make someone’s life complete, and they in turn will allow her to thrive.
Mae is Journey’s polar opposite. Mae is outgoing, demanding, bossy and happy and rambunctious. Mae demands attention, saying “Love me! Love me the most!”. Mae only wants one thing out of life, and that’s to be the center of her owner’s universe. She adores Sean, following him around and gazing at him with unswerving adoration. In a house filled with other dogs, Mae’s most fervent wish is that they would all disappear. She’s not very fond of other dogs, much preferring two legged companions to four (although she completely ignores cats).
So, yes – we could keep Mae. She’d never be truly happy, and she’d never truly fit in, but her happy nature makes me smile, and her matching grin can brighten any day. We could keep her, but I think that would be selfish – selfish of us to keep her for ourselves, when what she wants is to be the only dog, loved with no competition. Eventually, then, we will place Mae. A home with a pack of kids to romp with would suit Mae just fine. She’d also settle for a couple, or even a single person, someone willing to give her all of the attention she craves.
In both cases, we won’t take money for placing our girls, but we will require a donation to the Karen Krings Memorial Fund. This money will help the French Bulldog Village to sponsor rescue dogs, special needs dogs, and even puppy mill auction adoptees. It’s sort of a way to pass the karma, if you will. It’s also a way to for us to make sure anyone taking one of these older girls recognizes them as more than just a ‘free dog’, with the implications of unwanted and unloved that this holds for some people.
I don’t like placing my older dogs, because I am selfish. I love each of them, for their individual selves. Every one of my Frenchies has their own nature, their own quirks, their own style, and none of them are expendable. I would keep them all, forever, if I could live with what that means to them – a lack of a constantly available lap, a shortage of attention, less or no time for one on one walks and trips to the park. I cry and waffle and change my mind about placing them, and I put prospective owners through hoops that would make anyone but the most determined run screaming in the opposite direction. I don’t apologize for that, either.
I’m not sure what all of this means from a pet owner’s prospective, although I do know that all of these older dogs have brought love and enrichment to the people they now share their lives with. They brought the same to me, and sharing that love just seems like the right thing to do.