My Grandpa Smith was a character! A buffalo rancher who lived literally in the middle of nowhere, carried his water, burned his heat, butchered his food. This tall, tough cowboy would not dare show his love in any girl sense of the word, but when it was time to say good-bye until another weekend visit, he would choke a bit and say in his gruff, Sasquatch voice “BE GOOD!”. Gawd how I miss that man!
Georgia Peaches; “Sweet and Juicy Georgia Peaches”. No, I’m not talking fruit, I’m talking about a pretty little red poodle born as Princess Peach to Polar Lane Poodles out of Saskatchewan. She was just over a year old and as a mature puppy, I felt that I could get a good sense of who she was from the breeder. I wanted a confident, socially mature female. The breeder told me that Peaches was a “beautiful loving girl, who loves to play and run around, but also loves to snuggle in for kisses and hugs.” Sounds like my perfect pup!! When questioned again about her personality (just for my own reassurance) the breeder went into more details. “She doesn’t show any sign of shyness unless it is a bunch of kids coming at her at once.” “She is very outgoing and friendly. Gets along well with the other dogs
Although I had dealt with “responsible breeders” in the past, this was the first time I planned to purchase my “perfect puppy”. There were a few red flags for me, Polar Lane did all their own vaccinations. In BC you would not be considered “responsible” if you did this, but this breeder was in Saskatchewan. She did not do genetic testing on her breeding pairs but seemed to know all about the breed and could give many references from many healthy puppy families. How many puppies I wondered. She had no questions for me…none. I wanted a registered poodle. In typical human fashion, “I want what I want” and I quickly explained away the red flags. This was, after all, a professional, responsible breeder, registered with the CKC.
Georgia arrived home in March 2017, and we quickly found out that shy was an understatement. She ran from our approach, would bite if she felt trapped, refused to eat around other dogs, wanted nothing to do with us, the dogs or our house. As difficult as it was for me, I gave her space. All I wanted to do was gather her into my arms and snuggle and kiss her the way the breeder had led me to envision. As the weeks become months she started very slowly to open up, first to the cats, then to Claire, then to Jason. It wasn’t until late fall/early winter that she started to gingerly climb into my lap. I was determined to gain her trust! As long as I ignored her, she sat quietly, soaking up my happy thoughts directed her way but ever vigilant that I might move or try to catch her. I think often about her 2 days travel to get from Polar Lane to Bakers Acres. I feel strongly that any trauma suffered as a result of this journey would have quickly been forgotten with the sedative she was given to make travel easier and my appropriate training to help her overcome her fears. I know that her fear was deeply rooted at a young and impressionable age.
She’s been with us over a year and to this day you can still see how her first year in the “loving arms of a responsible breeder” corrupted who she could have been. She doesn’t like hugs, she still needs the freedom to flee at a moment’s notice. She feels trapped under the covers, no matter how cold the weather is. She submits to the other dogs at meal time to a fault, but cannot be separated from them or the stress of seclusion will ruin her appetite. She arrived in Burns Lake at a full-grown 10lbs with a ziplock bag of Pedigree as the breeders food choice. With careful management she is currently a very healthy 16lbs on a raw, home cooked and high protein diet.
Besides her residual underlying issues my Sweet Georgia Peach a.k.a. Sweet Georgia Brown is a happy girl who loves to torment the sheep by bouncing back and forth and chittering like an angry squirrel until they finally give in and chase her. Her strange sleeping poses have earned her the nickname Pretzel. She is the first to get out of bed, rush down the hallway, grab something she is not supposed to have, before booking it out the doggie door to store her new treasure in a deserted corner of the yard. Georgia loves Bakers Acres pens. The feel of the plastic splitting under her teeth with a satisfying crunch that magically exposes a tiny metal tip that bleeds! Like a Georgia version of Ferrero Rocher exposing the decadent hazelnut center that reminds you of Christmas! In her excitement for a new day she returns to bed to tease “Gramma” Danika who refuses to move so much as an eyelash in response to her wake up call. Georgia taps her front feet in unison 6 inches from Danika and gives a low “erf” from her throat every time her feet land in the soft sheets. As if to accentuate the warning that she could pounce at any second. After failing to rouse Danika, Georgia will try her luck with Claire, who responds with a yawn, a roll on her back an all-consuming face rub for her sleepy eyes into the deepest part of the comforter. Finally Jason makes his way to the kitchen where Gerogia follows at his heels waiting for her special part of the lunch he will so carefully make for the long day journey ahead of him. Her impatience is shown by jumping at his hand, trying to get his attention. Once her tummy is full of naughty treats she sneaks back to bed, curls up in a tight unarousable hedgehog pose as close to my back as she can and pretends to be a rock. At this point there is no moving her. When it’s time to wake me up, her routine starts all over again.
Charlie is another story that begins before Georgia. My intention to “rescue” was waning with my inner desire to have a puppy for Jason. Jason’s birthday present of a tan-colored cockapoo puppy failed miserably as my Henry attached himself to me like a spiral nail in a new 2×4. I decided to respond to a Vancouver ad for cocker spaniel puppies. All he had left were black and white. The chocolate ones had all been spoken for. I thanked him for his time and told him I would wait for the right pup. He counter-offered with the father of the puppies…Charlie. He was being forced to rehome his breeding pair as his wife had passed away and he could no longer look after them. To our utter surprise Charlie arrived on a flight from Vancouver with minimal planning. He hopped out of the airline approved kennel, gave a big stretch and sniffed around the lawn at the airport. This well-rounded pup was happy to follow Jason and I as he lept in the truck and we headed home to meet Henry.
Charlie has amazing recall, a naughty streak when he chases crows he can never catch, he sits at your feet and watches in perfect understanding as you talk to him and he carries everything around in his smug lips to prove he’s the man…but he never chews anything! He licks his lips when he thinks he’s in trouble, sleeps with his tongue hanging out, will look at you admiringly if you scratch his belly. The nickname Char was quickly adapted to Jar Jar Binks or Binky for short. He loves his kids and is calm and patient when they need it, and silly when they need entertaining. He protects them, watches over them, kisses them and claims everyone and everything as HIS.
In tracking down his vaccination records I was lead to his original breeders based out of Sherwood Park Alberta, Kim & Katherine Jensen. I was surprised to see that she had an advertised litter of pure bred, registered puppies from Charlie’s parents. After talking to her, she tracked down Charlie in her files and the information on the same family in Vancouver that I had adopted him from. I was excited to follow Charlie’s lines back to Specialty Kennels where I found pictures of his champion grandparents. I was hooked! I wanted a registered pup! I ignored the red flags that is “responsible breeder” would not only sell an unregistered pup, but did not care that he could have ended up in a shelter only days after his litter of pups had been sold. I also ignored the fact that I could not find a website or even a mention of her breeding practises on the internet. In talking to this “responsible breeder” she promised to look into getting Charlie registered. Her excuse for not registering in the first place was that she sold that litter for almost nothing. No contract, no conditions, no support, no contact.
It was around this time that the CKC dog show competed in Burns Lake. I was fortunate to meet a champion breeder/groomer of cocker spaniels. I learned about the breed, grooming, training, showing, winning and why someone could want to be a part of such an amazing display of showmanship. I also learned another hard lesson about bullying that strengthened my resolve to celebrate who I wanted to be. It’s easy to stand up for yourself when you know who you are. Who did I want to be?
When you try to define “responsible” breeding some of the requirements include: Being “involved in the showing of pure bred dogs.” and “(Responsible breeders) do not sell pups as a for-profit business. Indeed, many reputable breeders lose money,” http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_breedersandpetshops.php This years dog show in Burns Lake was another amazing display of showmanship, fantastic purebred dogs and…money.
Katherine Jensen at this point was difficult to get a hold of. So I contacted Ethel Jorgensen of Specialty Kennels out of Wildwood, Alberta. She instantly knew who Charlie’s parents were, who his breeders were and she was pleasant, sympathetic and helpful with my quest for knowledge. She went further to send me copies of pedigrees for both Charlie’s parents that she had on file so I could further research his lines. When Katherine Jensen finally did answer the phone, she told me that Specialty Kennels had counselled her on our unique situation and recommended that she ignored me so as not to get in trouble with the CKC. She then opened up to me, as if I had asked, to tell me that Ethel & Jens Jorgensen were not good people and were not “above-board” in selling her Charlie’s parents. This “responsible” breeder then called me a bully and told me never to call her again. So…I contacted CKC. CKC is, after all, the end all-be all, of responsible breeding. They hold their members to strict rules and regulations. Turns out Katherine Jensen was not registered with the CKC when she had Charlie’s litter. As a current member in good standing with the CKC, Katherine Jensen was untouchable and CKC basically told me to pound sand. So much for “Responsible”.
The opposite end of the spectrum is the ever-present puppy mill. The definition in this small town is Karin Adams. Her greatest achievement is being able to pull into your drive way to steal your animals while you are washing dishes in your kitchen. Your trusting horses and dogs never to be seen again. In 2015 Karin and her daughter Catherine were handed 20-year bans on owning animals and ordered to pay nearly $5,500 in restitution (Wow! $5,500! That’s about 2 pups worth! OUCH!) to the SPCA to offset care costs. Karin Adams was also sentenced to 15 days in jail and two years’ probation, while her daughter was given six months’ conditional house arrest and three years’ probation. These two women are known to have public, written complaints against them dating back to 2007 using aliases. To this very day Karin Adams is selling dogs and destroying families visions while she rakes in the cash with her razor-sharp pitch fork. The fascinating thing about this case…I challenge you to find a recent picture of her anywhere on the global internet. We have, and continue to support, protect and enable these women to play their deadly games. After all…when we buy from puppy mills we are rescuing! (Caution: that last sentence is highly suggestible and darkly sarcastic. Parental guidance recommended.) My next question…why have we not publicly created a resource where potential puppy buyers can go to see pictures of puppy mill operators, convicted animal abusers and lists of their aliases. Another warning…if you can’t find them on the internet…they are hiding something!
For puppy mills, I simply have no words.
In the middle of the rainbow sits back yard breeders. Yup…I don’t know the definition of that one either. I envision tiny cage upon tiny wire cage of filthy, sick and diseased animals stuffed into a dilapidated barn, awaiting the sweet release of death like a holocaust child being lead to the “shower”. These are the pet store puppies that look so cute in the windows but have never felt cool spring grass on their baby paws.
What is very clear to me is that we as a society are responsible for enabling, supporting and creating a market that is corrupt. The corruption starts and ends with our choices. Not the choices of the CKC or SPCA or the “Responsible” breeders or Karin Adams. Our choice to “want what we want”, ignore the red flags, label ourselves to bully others, ignore each other to keep ourselves in “good standing”, to say anything for the almighty dollar at the expense of those pure souls who cannot speak for themselves. Those pure, honest and open souls that depend on us to be….good. Just. Be. Good.