Sunday, 1 April 2012
A Post by Stella's Human
I have thought about writing this post for some time now. It has been guilt and fear that has prevented me.
I ask that people put their judgements aside for a minute and understand that I only want good to come of this story. It is about ignorance and Stella....and where she came from.
Stella came from a Backyard Breeder. Stupidly, we paid for her. Until very recently, I was ignorant in regards to backyard breeders and never questioned what I thought was normal.
I have always loved animals. I grew up in rural NSW in a small country town, a farming community. The closest rural city was an hour and a half away. My father has always loved dogs and we always had at least two living at home at any one time. I never questioned where they came from or the circumstances. While most of the time our animals were purebred, unfortunately I now realise they all came from backyard breeders.
I guess backyard breeding is reasonably normal in a small, isolated rural community. Farmers want working dogs and families want pets. Most people who live in farming communities know that there is little money made from the land, particularly in times of drought. When I lived at home, the topic of buying a dog from a registered, reputable breeder never came up.
I moved out of home and to Victoria just before my 18th birthday. I missed having a dog in the house. For the first time in my life there were no animals to feed, cuddle or talk to throughout the day. When I was 20 a girl I went to school with moved into our share house in Bendigo and we became good friends. A few months later her parents relocated to WA and they were unable to take her dog. Tinka was a Golden Cocker Spaniel and I loved her. She also came from a backyard breeder, a birthday present for Mel's 10th birthday from a family that lived up the road.
Tinka and I formed a close bond and when Mel decided to relocate to her parents house in Kalgoorlie, there was no question who Tinka was going to live with. So at the start of 2007 Tinka came to Daylesford with me at the ripe old age of 12. She came everywhere with me and was my best friend. In September 2011 we had to have Tinka put down. She was 16 and a half.
Prior to her death Scott and I discussed getting another dog. We decided that it wasn't fair to her at the time as she was slowing down, blind and had become a full time inside dog. The last thing she needed was a puppy trampling all over her wanting to play. I had researched Great Danes and thought that they would be the perfect breed for us. Our decision was deferred until Tinka had gone and we had time to grieve. Not surprisingly, I struggled without a puppy around even though we had two cats. While I love them dearly, I find cats just don't give the same love as a dog.
So December 2011 rolls around and Scott went to a 1st birthday party while I was at work. He came home and said 'You'll never guess what was at the party...a Great Dane puppy...and there is more left'. I was excited. His comment indicated that he was ready for another dog and he wanted a Great Dane. If anyone reading this knows Scott and knows what our relationship is like, you'll know that Scott never makes these types of comments unless he's already in. I'm the dreamer and he is the realist. He knows not to get my hopes up.
We got the phone number of the breeder and made some calls. I had a list of questions I read out to her. Are the parents available to see? Have you had any health issues with either of the parents? How old are the parents? What do you feed them? How many litters has the mother had? Temperament. Measurements. Age. Colour. Vaccinations. I asked everything that I possibly knew about what I needed to know at the time. Unfortunately I was extremely naive and thought this woman would be truthful. I also did not have a full understanding of what a Backyard Breeder was and they in the responsible dog owners world, are a big no no.
For some time I had looked on websites, read articles, books. Everything possibly available to me on Great Danes. Scott was sick of listening to me telling him random facts and I think if he heard the term 'raw food diet' at 11pm one more time I would have copped an elbow in the face. Unfortunately although I thought I had done all the research, I didn't join any Great Dane forums and I had little understanding of the long term health issues dogs can face when they come from backyard breeders.
The only thing I really knew about was Oscar's Law and puppy farms. Sadly I thought to myself, 'I'd never buy a dog from a pet shop, what a hideous cause'. How stupid was I? Some backyard breeders are not far from the old puppy farm conditions...
The breeder sent us some pictures of the parents and the remaining pups from the litter. I arranged to meet the breeder at her mothers house, where both parents and the pups would be. I remember washing the car before leaving, doing my hair and putting on nice clothes. I wanted the breeder to know that the dog would be looked after and that we were responsible, financially stable, mature people. Little did I know this woman did not give a shit and all she was after was the coin. She never asked about our lifestyle or the type of house the dog would be going to at any point in time.
I stayed about 2 hours, talking to the mother and daughter duo. I asked some more questions as I watched the pups and their parents. The parents looked to be in good health and so did the pups but a few of their comments left me somewhat concerned about their values and whether or not these two should be dog owners, let alone breeders. It wasn't until I was leaving (this was around 3pm) and I had Stella in hand that the mother thought she would give me 'the heads up' and tell me, 'you might want to feed her when you get home, they haven't been fed today'. Holy fucking shit. I could have dropped dead then and there.
Many knowledgeable dog owners, rescuers and breeders will say I should have said 'No thanks, have your pup back, I want no part of this.' But I couldn't. I couldn't leave this little puppy there when I was becoming increasingly aware about the poor conditions, obvious lack of food and clear lack of love. I put Stella in the car and drove away. Thankful that one little puppy was going to go to a good home.
Weeks after we got Stella home I continued to research, read and join different Dane forums. One night I was looking at Great Danes for sale (I can't remember exactly what for) and came across an old advertisement on a website. It was a litter of Great Dane pups that had been posted in February 2011. It was Stella's Mum in the photos and the same breeders phone number. I kept searching and was horrified to find that there were more previous litters. I cannot describe the feeling I felt. I was disgusted in myself.
A couple of months ago, Honey the Great Dane posted a link to a Facebook website called 'Danes Down Under'. I asked to join the group and found there was lots of interesting posts and information on Great Danes from Australian owners. There are people in the group who love their Danes as much as I love Stella. It's a great site where people are friendly and the more experienced owners, rescuers and breeders are happy to help you out with any questions or problems. It wasn't until I joined DDU that I became aware of what a true backyard breeder was and the dangers of supporting such people. Since then I have felt so much guilt about where Stella came from. I worry about her health and what problems we may come up against in the future. After discovering that this breeder told me a number of lies regarding previous litters I wonder what real health issues her dogs have come up with that she didn't disclose.
The other day I was searching the net, looking at Great Danes for Sale in my area, wondering if Stella's mum had had another litter yet. Again, devastation hit when I found her father for sale. The ad was posted in February with the asking price of $650! Obviously no one was interested as the price had been dropped to $500 in an updated post. A large part of me wanted him. I wanted to take him (without giving that woman another red cent) and show him a good life. One that Stella now has. I spoke to Scott and we discussed the cost. There was no way we could financially sustain keeping two Great Danes and feeding them both the way we do Stella. Scott suggested we review her diet, give her lower quality food, maybe then we would be able to do it. I wasn't prepared to make this sacrifice. I want Stella to have the longest, happiest life that she can possibly have.
I couldn't bring myself to phone the breeder. I have so much that I could say to her and I'm not sure I could bite my tongue hard enough. I have made contact with someone who may be able to help Stella's father. I just hope that he hasn't been sold for another quick buck.
I want people to know about the dangers of buying dogs from backyard breeders. I want to turn my stupid, uneducated decision into something positive. I want to educate people like me who grew up thinking buying a puppy from a BYB is normal and okay.
Anyone who has been to our house, had conversations with me about feeding and health care and training, knows that I make every effort to give Stella the best possible home that is filled with love for her. Our world revolves around her and she is our number one priority. I am ashamed to admit that we supported such an awful cause however I am determined to spread the word about the dangers of backyard breeders and will never make the same mistake again. Any future animals that enter this house will either be rescued or from reputable, ethical, registered breeder.