Thursday, April 18, 2013

Henley Captures Hearts

Duffy and Henley: Best friends
What is it like to take a grown dog into your heart? It’s like nothing else you’ve ever done. It’s good, it’s bad and it can be pretty frustrating at times. But it’s one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. How do I know? Because my husband and I are in the midst of working a rehomed dog into our lives right now.

I’ve had Siberian Huskies for over three decades. In that time, I’ve shown them to their Championships, earned Agility, Rally and Obedience titles with them, hiked the woods in North Georgia to earn Working Pack Dog titles and even had one who was an amazing therapy dog. I’ve bred several litters which produced Siberians that excelled for their owners, too.

Now, before you vilify me for being a breeder, please understand that there are different types of breeders. There are the bad ones – the ones who run puppy mills or back yard operations, breeding their bitches on every heat cycle and placing their puppies with the first person who’s check doesn’t bounce. These people sell their puppies in pet stores and classified ad sites like Craigs List, or they have a website that’s designed to sell puppies, not educate potential owners. These are the breeders who fill up animal shelters with unwanted dogs – they don’t screen puppy buyers, they don’t mentor puppy buyers, and they don’t care what happens to the puppy after the check is cashed.

Then there are good breeders – the ones who don’t breed any of their animals until all the genetic screening tests have been done and the animals are known to be free of hereditary diseases. They carefully study pedigrees, working hard to not just produce more dogs, but to produce better dogs. They prove that their dogs are worthy of reproducing by showing them in conformation, or working them at their original purpose, or both. They belong to local, national and sometimes international dog clubs and abide by codes of ethics which require them to take back any puppy, for any reason, at any point in the dog’s life, if the owner can’t keep it. They know where every puppy they ever placed is, and have a collection of Christmas cards and photographs from the puppy owners. This is the kind of breeder I am.

But in December, when our 13-year-old boy, Billy, curled up beside his favorite digging spot and let his spirit go to the Rainbow Bridge, Bob and I found ourselves down to only one dog. Her name is Duffy, and she’s from my last litter. She was an only puppy and I knew she wasn’t show- or breeding-quality, but we fell in love, spayed her, and kept her. Where would our next dog come from?

We decided to adopt Henley, a 3.5 year old Siberian who has spent his life in a kennel. Our dogs live in the house with us, and Henley has adapted beautifully so far. He knows which door to go to when he needs to go outside. He knows to lie down and leave us alone while we’re eating. And he knows when his meals happen, and is the most adorable dog ever as he bounces alongside me as I go to fill the bowls. He loves sleeping in the bedroom, loves hooking up and going for a walk or a run with me, and loves the little bit of peanut butter on a cracker Bob doles out from time to time. We’re going to take obedience classes, and from the casual work we’ve done already, I know he’ll love that, too.

"So, where's the peanut butter, Dad?"
What he knows, to the depths of his heart, is that he is loved and special. No longer does he have to compete for attention and house-time with the other dogs in the kennel – he’s ours, and we’re his. Oh, sure, there are trying times, like when he forgets he doesn’t have to “claim” all the new things in his life. (Note to self: try to remember how to teach a boy dog not to mark in the house!) He and Duffy are the best of friends, but sometimes he gets a little guard-y about his stuffed toy stash. (Note to self: work on his sharing skills!) And he’s not very good at the front door – he’s poised and ready to slip out if I don’t hold his collar before opening it. (Note to self: work on his “automatic wait” skills!)

For those who might be thinking about adding a new dog to their family, may I highly recommend being the new home for a dog whose first home didn’t last? There are rescue groups for every breed of dog out there, plus there are fabulous mixed breeds that make wonderful companions, too. But if you just have to have a baby puppy, please find and buy from a good breeder. Ask a veterinarian to put you in touch with people in the local kennel club, who will network you to your new best friend.

But beware – expect your heart to expand in size. Dogs have a way of doing that to us, no matter where they come from.

Sandra Weaver Carman
Sandy Weaver Carman is the CEO of Voicework on Demand, Inc., an audio production company specializing in audio book creation. She’s had Siberian Huskies since 1979 and is an AKC judge of the breed. When she’s not working, you can find her training a dog or traveling to shows. And she’s helping the University of Georgia fund a new veterinary teaching hospital, while telling the stories of pets who have been helped by the wonderful vets and students at the current one.

Mary Cunningham
Mary Cunningham Books


Pamela Fagan Hutchins said...


Banjoan said...

Congratulations on the new addition and thank you so much for outlining the difference between good and bad breeders. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival (in 2 1/2 weeks! ) of a new Golden Retriever pup from a well respected breeder. While I applaud the advances we've made concerning animal welfare and the efforts of so many wonderful organizations to rescue and place unwanted animals, I feel that a certain degree of "political incorrectness" has been assigned to the purebred community. I happen to love Golden Retrievers. I also happen to love starting from scratch (no pun intended) with a puppy. I did my research and found a breeder with over 25 years of dedication to improving her line and responsible placement.

I would never tell a parent that they should adopt instead of having their own child, so I don't think that the purchase of a responsibly bred dog should be frowned upon. As with anything else, it should be researched beforehand to prevent unscrupulous breeders from profiting and flourishing.

Enjoy your new life with Henley. You're both lucky dogs!

Joan Harrison

Sandy Weaver Carman said...

Thanks, Pamela and Joan.

Joan, congrats on your new family member, and thank you for taking the time to find a good, committed breeder.

It is the goal of groups like HSUS and PETA that there be no pet ownership, which is why they push for mandatory spay/neuter laws and why they've made a cottage industry of lumping anyone who breeds into the "puppy mill" category. I appreciate the fact that you know the difference and are willing to do the legwork to get a well-bred dog.

If we all follow the "each one teach one" model, we can rub some of the tarnish off of the reputation of good breeders. Enjoy your puppy for many years to come!

Denise said...

Enjoyed your blog. I love dogs too, but most of mine have found me. You provided good information on the dog breeding as most people assume one dog is pretty much like the other.

Sorry I missed your presentation on Tuesday to the CCWC.

I'd like to know more about your books to audio business.

Sandy Weaver Carman said...

Thanks, Denise, and there's something very special about a dog that finds you. :)