Warning: Super long post.
One of the things that my husband and I bonded over when we first got together was our irrational fear of dogs. We both hadn’t had any family members who had dogs and for the longest time, we also didnt have many friends who had dogs.
It all changed when I got to know my husband, and inherited the most amazing group of friends (family really), with the sweetest, gentlest dogs, all of whom we adore.
That’s when we knew we really needed a dog in our lives.
Then came the question of whether we should adopt or buy one. We knew the right answer really was ‘adopt’. But for us, it was easier said than done. Although we had started to get comfortable with dogs, we didn’t think we were ready to take on a dog that was much larger and therefore harder to handle, and one that had a history (all of these were such unfounded assumptions really).
We did our research and picked out a kennel (I won’t say which one, and you’ll know why as you read on).
When we visited the kennel, they had a litter of a day old puppies.
Say hello to Chutney.
This was taken on 20 September. A day after she was born. Also this should really have been our first clue. A breeder who allowed people to meet puppies who were a day old and so fragile and vulnerable. But hey, what did we know.
The breeder was ok with us visiting her as often as we wanted and spending as much time as we needed with her. We spent the next two months visiting her whenever we could.
When she was about a month old.
Each time we visited her, we hated the kennel more and more. For one, apart from the playroom where we spent our visits with her, the rest of the kennel (which we got to see more of over time) looked terrible. The stench where the dogs were kept was unbearable and the breeding dogs looked tortured.
Even the way Chutney was handled was unacceptable. She was carried by her EAR sometimes, and was so roughly handled. I didn’t think anyone would handle a full grown dog that way, let alone a tiny little puppy.
At this point, we hadn’t made full payment, and could have changed our minds. But we were already incredibly in love with her and just wanted to take her away from what I can only describe as a hell hole.
Finally, on 19 November, we could take her home. We went down to the kennel, and after doing the paper work and paying in full, the breeder’s helper casually carried her over to us and pointed to some rashes on her front.
He said it was probably because of her 2nd vaccination and that it should clear up in no time.
Our friends had advised us to bring her to the vet the day we picked her up and that’s really when the nightmare started.
The little fluffball at the vet.
The vet we brought her to said she had a terrible yeast and bacterial infection and that this was rather common in puppies from kennels. She prescribed some medicated shampoo and said it should clear up in no time.
Over the next few days. She got progressively worse. Her skin was covered in yeast. She was scratching constantly. And the worst of it all was that she refused to eat.
We would sit with her for almost an hour, trying to coax her to eat and she would refuse. Sometimes, hunger got the best of her and she would eat a little bit. But after that, she wouldn’t touch her food for the rest of the day. She also refused to eat any treats and it was almost impossible to toilet-train her because there wasn’t any reward we could give her that she accepted.
There were days when she would be out of her cage, and just sit in a corner of the house and refuse to come near us. She must have hated us, and why wouldn’t she really? We had taken her away from her parents and siblings, and as far she was concerned, she had gotten more and more sick since the day she had come home with us.
Trips back to the vet proved futile. She was prescribed stronger medicines. Stronger than anything puppies should have to take.
This resulted her in her having neurological side effects, where she had a perpetual head-tilt, and couldn’t walk for more than two steps without tripping over and falling.
Her skin condition deteriorated, and at her worse, this is how she looked.
She was almost entirely bald and had these painful scabs all over her body, which she scratched till she bled.
She was so severely underweight because she refused to eat. It was a struggle to get her a tshirt which fit, just so she wouldn’t injure herself further scratching.
Her first t shirt. It was the smallest size they had, and it was floating on her.
The doctor had stopped all medication because of the neurological problems and we were just completely helpless. We knew a puppy would be challenging. But this?
Things got a little more bearable when she finally began to recognise us as her family and became so much more loving. Through all of this, she was nothing but sweet-natured. No matter how much she itched, or was in pain, she loved playing with us and made an effort to show us as much love as she could.
When she was at her skinniest.
We started looking around for other vets from whom we could get a second opinion and thats when we found the man who literally saved her.
Dr Gino, from The Animal Infirmary.
Granted, one of his first pieces of advice was to return her to the kennel. However, when he realised that wasn’t an option, he requested to keep her overnight.
Some people might say I bawled like a baby when she was hospitalised. But those people aren’t writing this post. So this point shall not be elaborated on.
They did all sorts of tests on her. The fragile little baby had to ensure being poked and prodded by so many needles. And finally, he determined that she was anemic. He was also of the opinion that this was probably due to poor breeding practices.
Long story short, he gave her iron supplements and it worked wonders. Overnight, she started eating better and was so much more energetic. With all the food she was eating, she started to heal on her own, and her yeast infection all but disappeared.
She is a healthy 5kg now. And her fur is slowly growing back.
It has been about 3 months since we brought her home. She hasn’t been on a single walk, because she couldn’t complete her vaccinations due to her health problems. We never got to enjoy her cute, adorable puppy stage because she was so unwell most of the time. We have spent more than a thousand dollars on her vet bills, and this doesn’t even include the money we spent on various brands of dog food, hoping to find one that would appeal to her (she finally settled on orijen, one of the most expensive brands out there. Expensive tastes, that one. She also loves treats now, and eats everything she can get her little paws on)
Despite all of this,we are so lucky to have Chutney because we love her so so so much. I never knew I could love this unconditionally.
But this episode has been an eye-opener. Some breeders are unethical to the very core, and money is the first order of business. The welfare of the puppies is often the least of their concerns, and the faster they can sell off the puppy, the better for them.
The amount of money we have spent on Chutney, both in buying her and on her vet costs, could have helped so many strays in animal shelters.
And those assumptions we made about adopting? So far from the truth. We have met some of our friends’ paw friends, adopted from shelters, and they are far from the ‘difficult to handle’ dogs we imagined them to be.
Having gone through this entire experience, I wouldn’t ever recommend a breeder to anyone, least of all the one I went to. As mentioned, I will not say the name of the kennel, but if you really want to buy a puppy, and are worried, do ask.
Dogs are the best of God’s creations (followed closely by elephants). They love unconditionally. They love you even when you don’t love yourself very much. They are fiercely loyal. They change your lives. When you allow a dog into your life, you have the surest of guarantees that you’ll have a best friend till the end. They are all incredibly special, regardless of whether they are a designer breed or a mongrel.
If I could do it all over again, I would give a home to a shelter dog, instead of lining the pockets of a breeder.