A post for Piglet

In a period of time not so very long ago, Frenchies were a unique and unusual dog breed. This had its disadvantages, I have to admit. Potential owners would regularly make bitter complaints about how it was almost impossible to buy one for a pet.

It wasn’t any easier for the potential show owner, either. I personally flew half way across North America for one of my first dogs, had my second flown from three time zones away, and flew around the world for another show prospect (in a sort of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ comedy of errors that remains memorable to this day, and worthy of an entry of its own).

My very first web search for the term ‘French Bulldog’ turned up nada. Seriously – nothing. Not one single result. Just now, my search for the same term returned:

Results 110 of about 2,190,000 for french bulldog

It’s almost as easy now to find a French Bulldog for sale as it is to find a Golden Retriever, and this rise in popularity (without any sort of drop in price) has made them a popular item for puppy mills and import re sellers – something no one could have anticipated even just ten years ago.

I remember clearly being puzzled by where all of the imported Frenchies were coming from. Time and again, I’d run into new owners who were proudly showing off their European bred Frenchie puppy. Like others, I was well aware there were some excellent kennels in Europe – I just had no idea that they also had puppy mills, just as we do.

Veterinary care in eastern Europe (what little there is of it) is scarcely one tenth the price of veterinary care in Canada or the US, and most of the larger, longer, rangier Frenchies being bred were free whelping and free breeding. This, and a drastically lower cost of living, made it profitable for easter European breeders to sell French Bull Dog puppies for a few hundred dollars American, as opposed to the $2500 they cost in Canada and the USA. Even with the cost of shipping, the North American puppy mills quickly saw the advantages of being able to buy cheap puppies from Eastern Europe which could be re sold to gullible pet owners at inflated North American prices.

A loophole in North American shipping conditions made importing even more lucrative – crates were rated by weight, not number of inhabitants, so a vari kennel rated by the airlines for a ‘twenty pound dog’ could have five 4 lb puppies crammed into it, for the same price. If one or two of them died in transit it was just considered the cost of doing business.

We here in the North American French Bulldog community, while realizing that something was up, remained pretty much blissfully unaware of just how bad things were, and just how prevalent the reselling of import puppies was until the pet buyers started showing up on the lists. Stories of broken hearts, sick dogs, dead puppies and lies told by sellers were heard more and more often. The recurring theme? Few of these new owners realized that their tiny 8 week old (or less!) puppy had been bred, not in a ‘caring breeder’s’ home in North America, but in eastern Europe. The resellers, realizing quickly that puppy buyers were put off by the thought of tiny, helpless babies being sent on 24 hour or longer air flights, were instead marketing them as ‘home bred’.

Still, the French Bulldog fancy wasn’t quite ready for what came next – they weren’t ready for the Wrong Puppy.

PigletPiglet was one of the first – the first time it really hit home for us that anyone could do something like this to a Frenchie. That anyone could be so heartless, so negligent, so cruel.

You have to understand, we were naive. We had certain expectations of the kind of care that Frenchies deserved, and that we all assumed they were getting. Like a lot of other dog breeds faced with sudden and skyrocketing popularity, we just assumed it couldn’t happen to our dogs.

I know that I couldn’t conceive of it – couldn’t believe that anyone would take six week old puppies and crate them, stacked almost on top of each other, denied food and water and even a clean blanket to sleep on, and shipped around the world – a trip that could take 30 hours.

abused import French Bulldog puppy30 hours. Think about that. A six week old puppy, no food, no water, no care – for 30 hours.

Can you blame us if we couldn’t believe it? Could you, if you didn’t see the pictures?

The stories and complaints about the re sellers started pouring in (still do, as Charlotte tells me – and how can anyone now still not know better?). That’s when we learned about Gina Price and Rebel Ridge.

Gina Price’s trial started today in Tennessee. Small comfort to the literally hundreds of people who had their hearts broken by sick and dying puppies they bought from her – puppies they were told were ‘home bred’ and ‘raised underfoot’ (as opposed to ‘bought cheap and shipped far too young’, which was the reality).

The Tricities Newspaper says

Rebel Ridge Kennels owner Gina De’Lynn Hodges Price faces 10 federal
charges, including wire fraud, mail fraud, income tax fraud and social
security fraud that stem from her business’ actions between September
2002 and May 2006.

According to an indictment, Price purchased English and French bulldog
puppies from breeders in Lithuania, Lativa, Belarus and Russia then
sold them as healthy ones through the Rebel Ridge Web site for between
$1,200 and $2,800.

Many of the animals Price sold suffered from serious ailments like
genetic diseases, heart murmurs or hip dysplasia, and some had to be
euthanized shortly after their new owners received them.

Those words, of course, don’t really convey the reality of what it was like for the owners who spent their thousands of dollars, only to receive puppies infected with every disease under the sun. Puppies who died, or who lingered on, only to finally be put to sleep.

Co Founder of the Wrong Puppy website Charlotte Creeley tells me that:

..the animal welfare advocate from California that the DA’s office is flying in to testify as an expert witness is Attorney John Hoffman – together, we run www.thewrongpuppy.org

John has been instrumental in bringing the issue of import puppies to the forefront, just recently having been in large part responsible for getting the 6 mo. age import limitation included in the recently passed Farm Bill.  The man is tireless, and a TREMENDOUS advocate for our French Bulldog breed – and he doesn’t have one!  His breed is Miniature Schnauzers.  I am so very proud to know the man.  I see the emails that flood in to thewrongpuppy.org website, and I cannot imagine ANYONE doing more to protect the welfare of our breed at this moment.

If you’re in Tennessee, consider going out to support John and the others who’ve worked so tirelessly to bring Gina Price to justice, and to give a voice to Piglet and the countless other dogs who’ve been victimized by the import re seller trade.

If you can’t come out, at least try to remember this the next time you see one of those ‘healthy imported European French Bulldog puppies’ being pimped like car parts on the on line dog sale websites. Think about what you’re supporting, when you buy from people like this.

A Calico Puzzle

Perhaps the infinite universe really does provide infinitely, because just as I finished writing yesterday’s entry about putting Ellie to rest, my phone rang. It was my friend Charlotte, founder of FBV and proponent of all things French Bulldog rescue related, calling to relate another tale of the sorts of horrid things that horrid people do to French Bulldogs on an ever increasing basis. At the end of our call, I heard a pitiful mewling sound from outside, and went out to find the most pathetic, malnourished calico kitten I’ve ever seen.

Oddly enough, since around here most strays are people wary ferals, this little kitten seemed almost desperate for human company. Even Tessa’s half hearted charge didn’t dissuade her from coming and twining around my ankles. She’s so thin her rib cage almost looks concave, and she mewls constantly. She’s not much more than a twelve or so weeks old, and she is infinitely people friendly, following me up the driveway as I headed into the house for a can of tuna (the only cat palatable food I had in the house).

She gulped down the entire can so quickly I was afraid she’d choke, then licked the plate clean. My daughter Nicole and her boyfriend were visiting for the weekend, and since Nicole is a cat crazed version of myself she spent a lot of time outside talking to little Calico and encouraging her to drink some water.

I removed the door from a small vari crate, and lined it with some soft towels, then placed it at the top of the stairs that lead to the room above our garage. Little calico had been mewling at the door there early, which had me worried that perhaps her mom had somehow gotten in there and had her litter of kittens. Luckily (or maybe unluckily), the door was shut and there were no signs of other cats or kittens. Her crate and food are there, along with some water.

This afternoon I’ll take her in and have her checked for diseases, given shots and flea treated. Once I’m sure she can’t pass anything on to the dogs, I’ll be able to start trying to convince Sean that ‘one more pet’ can’t possibly make a difference, even if it is a little stray calico cat.. and especially if it’s one that I think Ellie sent us.

Ellie on the Water

Ellie sits on the bookshelf in my living room, or part of her does, at least. She sits on the shelf where I keep some of my favorite dog books. “Animal Happiness” by Vicki Hearne, “Old Yeller” (a second edition, no less), “Nops Trials”, “Dogs in Poetry”. She is in good company there, and I can see her when I sit and read. I like being able to look up and know she’s there, unobtrusive as always and just occasionally asking you to spare her a bit of time. Ever content with what little bits of time you can spare her, that was my Ellie.

We did indeed spread her ashes at Cherry Beach, setting her free on the waves, licking around the feet of silly wet puppies, brushing against the coats of diligent Goldens, barely disturbing the concentration of a frisbee mad standard Poodle. She is, perhaps, a part of them all now, part of the Lake and the sand and the plants she ran through. Part of her favorite place.

I didn’t write about it before, couldn’t write about it until now. I couldn’t put down in writing “And then we spread her ashes on the water”, because as anyone knows, when it’s written it becomes true. And I wasn’t ready for it to be true yet.

At the last minute, as Sean was spreading her, I told him to stop. I told him I wanted to keep part of her. He was puzzled, because I had been so adamant about letting her go free. I told him I needed part of her, that I couldn’t let all of her go. So we saved part of her, even though I know the best of her has long since floated off – across the lake, or wherever benevolent spirits like hers finally go.

Part of her though, is still here at home with me, along with her memory, which I keep close at hand always.

All of My Beautiful Dogs Are Dying
– Vicki Hearne

. . . Without the beautiful dogs
No one dares to attend to desire;

The sky retreats, will intend nothing,
It is a ceiling to rebuke the gaze,
Mock the poetry of knowledge.

My death is my last acquiescence;
Theirs is the sky’s renunciation,
Proof that the world is a scattered shame

Littering the heavens. The new dogs
Start to arise, but the sky must go
Deeply dark before the stars appear.

Love is in the air….

French Bulldog romeo

So, according to the progesterone results, and the fact that Tula has been sluttishly jamming her girly bits into the face of every dog who comes close to her, today was her first breeding day.

I tossed Tula, wearing a stylish pair of skull and cross bones printed season panties, and Elliott (who was wearing a slightly poopy butt and non matching camo print color) into the Element, and headed for the vet’s office. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, boy Frenchies are pretty much inept when it comes to breeding. They might be willing, but they most definitely are not able, so veterinary assistance is usually required. Barb, of course, handles this herself, but since I’m both more squeamish and much more clumsy, I prefer to leave things like this to the professionals. It’s well worth the hundred bucks and change per breeding to not have the after images lingering in my head for days.

Elliott, who is one of the best tempered intact male Frenchies I’ve ever met, was so thrilled to meet everyone at the vet clinic that he sort of forgot all about Tula and the reason for his visit.

Tula, who had done just about everything short of donning hot pants and crooning “me love you long time” into Elliott’s ear in an attempt to get his attention, finally smacked him against the wall with her rear and commanded him to just get on with it, thank you.

That did the trick. Elliott woke up, realized “Oh hey, that’s what I’m here for”, and proceeded to woo his new lady love – or rather, he wooed the vet, but since the end result was what matters, we’ll leave that alone. Elliott, in fact, was so happy to be reminded of his purpose on life that he was ready for another go, so we tossed the newly nicknamed ‘McLovin’ into a crate, and helped Tula onto the path towards motherhood.

Monday we’ll repeat the entire sordid procedure. Who says dog breeding isn’t glamorous?

Thursday 13 – The Bad Breeder's List of Excuses, Part 2

This list originally appeared back on the rec.pets.dogs mailing list, around 2001 or so. It was written by Denna Pace. It might be old, but still holds true today.

Since there are 26 items on the list – the first thirteen were posted last week. Interspersed on the list are images of puppy mill/BYB bred Frenchies currently needing homes, fosters or donations.

The Backyard Breeders’ and Puppy Millers’ Big Book of Old Excuses
© Denna Pace 2001

14. If this is your first attempt at breeding, make sure to remind everyone that you HAVE to breed your dog because how else are you going to learn how to breed?

15. Assure everyone that your dog does not need to be shown because you were assured by someone at Petsmart/the park/the vet’s office/a friend that your dog is a perfect example of the breed.

16. Always remember that “rare” colors, oversized or undersized dogs, and mixes of popular breeds are great selling points. Anyone who doesn’t think so is obviously not in tune with their customers’ wishes.

17. Claim that your dogs are better because they are not inbred, as inbreeding obviously produces sick/stupid/deformed dogs. If breeding crosses [as in “Frenchstons,” “PugaFrenchs,” etc.] dogs or other mutts, always point to “hybrid vigor” as proof of your dogs’ superiority.

18. Remind everyone that you do not need a waiting list because your puppies are cute.

19. Assure everyone that your puppies will not end up in shelters or rescue because they are cute.

FBRN Foster Dog Nina
, a French Bulldog Rescue Network foster dog, and typical ‘cute’ back yard bred puppy that would ‘never’ end up in rescue.

20. Claim that YOUR breed never ends up in shelters in your area, therefore your puppies will never end up in shelters.

21. If asked why you think your dogs are breeding quality, point out that they “have papers.” Extra points awarded for using the phrase “AKC Certified.” Double points if those papers come from the Continental Kennel Club.

22. If you sell a sick puppy, always blame the owners for making it sick. If the owners are clearly not responsible, blame their vet. (see #11)

23. If presented with irrefutable evidence proving you wrong on any excuses you have used, pretend your server did not receive the post/e-mail.

24. Claim that none of the rules of ethical breeding apply to you because you only intend to have one litter and therefore aren’t a “real” breeder.

25. If all else fails, tell everyone who criticizes you to “get a life.”

26. If that doesn’t work, tell them that you’re a Christian, and that you breed dogs because Jesus wants you to. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a God hating Jew. Then tell them “God Bless”, just to teach ’em who’s boss.

TX Dot, a French Bulldog Rescue Network foster dog. Dot’s former ‘owner’ handed her leash over to a vet tech, and told her to ‘find her a home, or put her to sleep’, then walked away. Dot had been used as breeding bitch her whole life.