Before adopting Katie, our rescued Bichon Frise, who was raised as a breeder, I had had only two exposures to dog breeding. The first was about 50 years ago. Our next-door neighbor had purchased an English Sheepdog, a big, beautiful, gentle animal with a full, bushy coat. She was a pet, but the neighbor also intended to breed her and sell the pups. I don’t know if he ever did, since we moved out of the neighborhood before she was bred.
Fast forward to last year: We were storing our truck camper in the backyard of a lady who bred dachshunds. At that time she had a female wiener dog and five offspring. The female was her pet, and I believe she intended to keep most (if not all) of the current litter. She raised the dogs with love and kindness, because they were her friends first and an income source second.
Periodically I had read about puppy mills; there are many in the rural areas of Florida and southern Georgia. These animal farms breed for profit, at the cost of humane care for the dogs. Females in puppy mills are forced to reproduce each time they are in heat, until they can no longer bear. The dogs live in tiny cages, receive little care or exercise, and have no interaction with people. Often their cages are filthy, and they lie in their own excrement.
According to the Humane Society, most dogs sold in pet stores or online are bred in such deplorable conditions.
Katie was raised to breed, but she did not come from a puppy mill. The “dog lady” (the head of Wags-Rescue, in Jesup, Ga.) said she had developed a unique relationship with a local breeder, who had approached her to adopt out dogs when they reached the end of their breeding—five years. The dog lady said the breeder had a dedicated barn in which she raised many different types of dogs. Each dog had its own kennel as well as a dog run and was able to exercise. All of the dogs, male and female, received regular shots and veterinary care. The dog lady had inspected the breeder’s establishment and was satisfied that although the dogs were not pets, they were cared clean, manicured, and cared for. Consequently, she often had purebreds available for adoption.
|A very scared Katie, the day we picked her up from the adoption agency.|
A key phrase in this description is “not pets.” I didn’t realize the implication of that phrase until we brought Katie home.
On the drive home, I held her on my lap; she trembled the entire two-hour ride to her forever home. Car rides were foreign to her. At home, she quickly learned where her water and food bowls were. And she acclimated to her new bed in our room.
But she had no social skills, actually no “dog” skills either.
You know how dogs are naturally curious and chase squirrels and anything else that moves? She didn’t. I don’t know if she had ever been exposed to a squirrel or a lizard (or even other dogs, except for male breeders), since her life had been limited to a dog run. It was a couple weeks before she was willing to take a walk on a leash. (During the first attempt at a walk, she froze after about 25 feet. I had to pick her up and carry her home.)
For weeks when we took walks, she would stop abruptly whenever she saw another dog, cat, or human being. She would refuse to move until the “creature” went away.
Fortunately, Katie is learning how to be a "real" dog. I am happy to say that now she is not spooked as often by human beings who are out taking a stroll or bicycling the neighborhood, and although she still goes on alert when she sees another dog, she is willing to passively make friends with it.
She loves to be outdoors, but she still does not venture out on her own, despite our encouraging her by keeping the back door open to our fenced-in yard. Freedom is apparently a learned thing.
As time passes, however, Katie is gradually coming out of her shell, and her personality shines. My husband said it best: “She is an awesome dog.” More about that later.
Your Reluctant ROVER