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Please Don't Judge Me: I Got My Dog from a Breeder

Does it matter to you whether a dog comes from a rescue or shelter or breeder? Bark back -- but please judge not.

 |  May 30th 2013  |   208 Contributions


I raise money for dogs in need, and I volunteer my time with dog rescues. I've fostered dogs and advocate for rescuing dogs in need. Every year, I fundraise to help dogs who have been abandoned, neglected, abused, or dumped. My dog, Dexter, entered my life via a purebred breeder of Cocker Spaniels.

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The day Dexter came home with me.

I make no excuses for my behavior, and I've learned to accept my decision and hold my head high. I will forever advocate for dogs in need of good, loving homes.

Purebred or mutt, reputable breeder or rescue, 78 million Americans have a love affair with dogs. I cringe, though, because though I am a fan of the Westminster Kennel Club and I cover it every year for media, I actually do not want my dog’s breed to be popular.

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At Madison Square Garden, I cover Westminster Kennel Club for various media outlets.

Breed popularity dictates and mandates what the general public demands. Puppy millers and horrid backyard breeders must be shut down. Puppy mills are selling thousands of dogs online. Dogster editor-in-chief Janine Kahn, like myself, has a dog who came from one of the few reputable breeders out there.

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My dog's breeder gave me a CD full of pictures from his first 9 weeks.

Popular breeds find their way into the breeding programs of both amazing and horrible breeders. I have rescued dogs, and saved my last little girl from a puppy mill nightmare. My dog, Dexter, is from someone I consider to be a reputable breeder. The breeder found me, and through a series of events, 30 days after losing my Brandy Noel, Dexter found his way to my heart. We were meant to be.

I did my research, I talked to the breeder, I went on site, I met the mom and littermates, and I was interviewed extensively before I could have one of her babies. This, I believe, is what being a reputable breeder is all about. She asked for references, and I had to fill out an eight-page application of questions all about me, my life, and why I wanted one of her dogs.

What is it about the stigma of good breeders that so very much angers a portion of rescue folks? Why do I have to be afraid to share the truth and wear my breeder Cocker badge with pride instead of feeling like he's my scarlet letter depending on who I'm around?

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Okay which of you picks me for your new mama?

A knee-jerk reaction against breeders

I received an email from one of the Cocker Spaniel rescue groups for which I volunteer. This group, incidentally, is the recipient of all funds raised from my dog's summer fundraising event, the Wigglebutt Wedding.

The email said, "Here is the big difference between rescue and a lot of breeders. We got a call from a vet that refused to put this Cocker puppy to sleep. We will do everything we can for this sweet girl. The breeder wouldn't make any money on her if they did the surgery to remove the eye so they wanted to KILL her. She is having the eye removed on Tuesday. She isn't available for adoption and won't be for some time."

So I shared this little life on Facebook, Tweeted her out, and sent emails to friends who might be able to help.

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Doesn't every life deserve a chance?

And then the comments came rolling in.

"Just like there are bad breeders, there are many horrible rescues too. As a proud mom of three rescue cockers, I dislike people vilifying breeders and pretending to be higher moral grounds. Perhaps this rescue should thank the benefactor of the funds that enables the rescue of this very puppy instead of judging the breeder."

and

"I feel compelled to point out that there are just as many unscrupulous rescues as there are irresponsible breeders. This case doesn't show the difference between rescue and some breeders, it shows the difference between people who care about animals and people who don't. Both kinds are found in both rescue and breeding."

In spreading the word about the puppy in need of funds, hope, and a new life, I hoped someone would step up. Someone has stepped up: We're raising funds, and a fellow Cocker mom wants to adopt her when the time comes.

I replied to the above comments with "Just as there are horrible breeders there are also horrible 'rescues' -- this is about being positive and getting funds raised for this baby in need. On that I am sure we all can agree."

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Together we walk life's shores, my boy and I.

Puppy mills, no. Reputable breeders, yes

My first Cocker was a puppy mill rescue. I believe until laws are tougher and legislation is passed for dogs, puppy mills won't go away. In a visit to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 2012, imagine my horror in discovering puppies being sold with green beans.

When I wrote about this topic on my own blog, the comments were varied, but carried a common theme: Make no apologies.

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My heart beats dog. I even trademarked it!

One responder shares, "Yes dogs from reputable breeders DO exist and I have one! I also often feel as if I have to apologize for having bought my dog but the situation at the time warranted it! I also donate, promote and care about homeless animals (and my cat IS adopted), people need to not judge."

In her piece on reputable breeders, Janine points out, "All the rumors about puppy mills are true, people. They don't give two s***s about that puppy you're buying. Please be extra careful." This is the best piece of advice I could share, too.

Simply stated, I went to a breeder because Cockers are prone to a lot of health problems, and I shared nearly 15 years of my life with a dog that had a multitude of health issues. I'd sell my left lung to have her back and would not change a moment we spent together. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder does not guarantee a clean bill of health; I just wanted some piece of mind that with the many health anomalies affecting Cocker Spaniels, this breeder did her homework. And she did. I feel very confident in my decision. In fact, we are now friends.

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Having some fun with my dog and his littermate brother, McGee

After my dog Brandy died, I sought the help of a grief counselor and came to realize that the hole in my heart would never be whole again until pawprints filled it. Then along came Dexter.

There he sat, his little face protruding from a plastic pumpkin as I perused Cocker Spaniel breeder websites in my area. From the girl who swore to the "never again" mantra, I found my "never again." He sits at my feet daily and his name is Dexter.

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A face only his mother could love.

Dexter came from a reputable breeder and he, in turn, rescued me from myself. Would I rescue again? Yes. Would I go to a reputable breeder again? Yes. I suppose saying my heart beats dog means living it to the fullest, and every day I strive to do just that.

Does it matter to you whether a dog comes from a rescue or shelter or breeder? Bark at me in the comments below -- but please judge not.

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