Something a bit different today, but anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that dogs are close to my heart!
Meet my friend Holly! She’s an eight-year-old yellow Labrador and she lives with my partner’s grandparents.
I met her nearly two years ago one evening after work. S had suggested going to visit his grandparents. It was a bit unusual going after work, but it would be good to see them, and of course they had the dogs – a greyhound and a saluki, who had both come through a rescue organisation.
When we got there, I was ushered into the front room where, dozing on a duvet, was the newest addition to the family – Holly.
S’s grandma had seen Holly on a dog rehoming website and she knew immediately that she wanted to help.
Holly had been living on a farm in Ireland, where she was being used for breeding. In her six short years, she had already had several litters of puppies, and she was unlikely to have had a break between each litter. Her teats were swollen, she was terribly overweight, and she didn’t seem to understand the concept of going for a walk. This combined with the worn patches on her elbows suggested that she had spent a lot of time just lying on a hard floor throughout the cycle of mating, pregnancy, and giving birth to puppies. The puppies would be sold and then the cycle would start again. This is no life for a smart, young Labrador.
Fortunately for her, Holly was rescued from this life of puppy production and she was brought to her new forever home around two years ago. She now goes out for regular walks with the boys (Perry the Saluki and Gwyn the greyhound). She can’t run as fast as them, but she has lost several kilos already which makes it easier for her to move around. Like all Labradors, she loves her food, but her new diet is helping to bring her weight down to where it should be, and of course going for walks helps with that too.
Holly is a typical Labrador in that she likes to be patted. She is very calm, and I often sit on the floor stroking her when we go round to visit. She has perked up a lot in the time I’ve known her, and although people haven’t always treated her well, she likes people. When I first met her, she had her lovely, kind nature, but she seemed so tired. Not the kind of tiredness that goes when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, but weary because life had been tough for her, and somehow lacking enthusiasm.
Now she often trots out behind the boys to greet us at the door, and there’s nothing like a tasty treat to awaken Labrador enthusiasm!
Her legs aren’t strong enough to allow her to jump up into the car like the others, but she has learned how to use the ramp.
I’m so glad that she now has a life with a soft bed, the chance to have a good diet, people to give her hugs, and interesting places to explore.
Some months later, Holly was spayed, so there’s no risk that she will have to go through another pregnancy. She’s had enough of that to last a lifetime!
There are plenty of good reasons not to buy from a puppy farm (also known as puppy mills in the US). These are essentially irresponsible breeders who run factories for producing puppies with little concern for the puppies or the mothers. The dogs are often not well-cared for, there is little or no medical history, basic medical care and immunisations are not given, there is insufficient information about the parents (including any hereditary health problems), and the dogs are often taken away from their mother too early, which is bad for their social development. If you get a dog from somewhere like this, you could end up with a sick puppy, or one with behavioural issues. Temperament can be inherited, so if you’re not allowed to see the parents, or the mother has behavioural issues that go beyond the normal protectiveness towards her puppies, the puppies could have issues too.
Some people go to puppy farms because they don’t like the fact that good breeders and animal rescue organisations will want to vet potential new homes first, but if it were your puppy, wouldn’t you want to make sure that it was going to a good home?
I can understand why people who genuinely want to help would buy a puppy from a place like this and give it a better start in life, but even if you do help that one puppy, it’s contributing to the wider problem. As long as people think there is money to be made in this way, and as long as there is a demand for puppies, people will try to meet that demand. This means they need dogs like Holly to be mothers – again and again and again. In the UK, it’s illegal to breed from a bitch more than six times in her lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t do it.
So if you really want to help dogs like Holly, it would be better to go to a rescue organisation, or if not, a registered and responsible breeder, than to support the puppy farm trade.
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