A Meditation on Placing Older Dogs
A recent email has left me pondering the implications of placing older, retired dogs into pet homes.
The correspondent, who I’ve been writing back and forth to about future litters, wrote:
“a lot of breeders get rid of their dogs once they have had the two to three litters, which in my
opinion is not a good practice from a pet owner perspective. I see why some
breeders do it (money) but I figure if you are going to own a dog it should
be for more then just a baby making machine that is expendable.”
At the moment, I share my house with ten dogs.
Penelope, Delilah, Tula and Fanny are all too young to be bred. Delilah has about two years to wait, while the other three girls have about a year. In the meantime, they’re growing up, learning to be dogs, and getting ready for the show ring. Bunny was just bred, so has at least a full year before she can be bred again.
Tessa, Sailor and Ellie are all spayed, and live happy lives as doyennes and couch guardians. Ellie is our special needs girl – ill as a puppy, she has some neurological issues, along with digestive and breathing problems. We love her, but we know she won’t be with us long.
Journey is ready to be bred as soon as she comes in season, but missed the last two times she was bred. We’ll try once more, and if she doesn’t take, she’ll be spayed. Mae is due in a few weeks, and this is her last litter. We’ll let her raise up her pups, and then spay her about six months later.
I suppose we could keep Journey and Mae after they’ve been spayed. After all, Tessa, Sailor and Ellie are spayed pets, and lead what we hope are rich lives with us. Journey, in particular, has a soft spot in my heart.
Sailor’s daughter, Tessa’s granddaughter, and Ellie’s litter sister, Journey has a unique personality. She’s the sweetest natured Frenchie I’ve ever owned, with no enemies even in the convoluted world of bitch pack-politics. Zen like and calm, Journey has been known to spend five minutes just watching butterflies in the garden. She rarely asks for attention, so that a visit from her politely requesting a pat on the head becomes a special occasion. Therein, of course, lies part of the problem. In a house with pushy, dominant Frenchies demanding attention, Journey allows herself to stay in the background. Who knows how her personality would blossom, if she had the chance to become the center of a much less crowded universe? What happiness could she bring to an owner willing to pour all of their love into Journey’s special heart?
So, yes – I could keep Journey. I want to keep Journey – for who she is, and for where she comes from. But I won’t. I will, eventually, place her into a pet home. She’d thrive with kids, or a lonely single person. She’d be great for someone with special needs, someone who can appreciate her Buddha nature and calm self centered personality. Journey will make someone’s life complete, and they in turn will allow her to thrive.
Mae is Journey’s polar opposite. Mae is outgoing, demanding, bossy and happy and rambunctious. Mae demands attention, saying “Love me! Love me the most!”. Mae only wants one thing out of life, and that’s to be the center of her owner’s universe. She adores Sean, following him around and gazing at him with unswerving adoration. In a house filled with other dogs, Mae’s most fervent wish is that they would all disappear. She’s not very fond of other dogs, much preferring two legged companions to four (although she completely ignores cats).
So, yes – we could keep Mae. She’d never be truly happy, and she’d never truly fit in, but her happy nature makes me smile, and her matching grin can brighten any day. We could keep her, but I think that would be selfish – selfish of us to keep her for ourselves, when what she wants is to be the only dog, loved with no competition. Eventually, then, we will place Mae. A home with a pack of kids to romp with would suit Mae just fine. She’d also settle for a couple, or even a single person, someone willing to give her all of the attention she craves.
In both cases, we won’t take money for placing our girls, but we will require a donation to the Karen Krings Memorial Fund. This money will help the French Bulldog Village to sponsor rescue dogs, special needs dogs, and even puppy mill auction adoptees. It’s sort of a way to pass the karma, if you will. It’s also a way to for us to make sure anyone taking one of these older girls recognizes them as more than just a ‘free dog’, with the implications of unwanted and unloved that this holds for some people.
I don’t like placing my older dogs, because I am selfish. I love each of them, for their individual selves. Every one of my Frenchies has their own nature, their own quirks, their own style, and none of them are expendable. I would keep them all, forever, if I could live with what that means to them – a lack of a constantly available lap, a shortage of attention, less or no time for one on one walks and trips to the park. I cry and waffle and change my mind about placing them, and I put prospective owners through hoops that would make anyone but the most determined run screaming in the opposite direction. I don’t apologize for that, either.
I’m not sure what all of this means from a pet owner’s prospective, although I do know that all of these older dogs have brought love and enrichment to the people they now share their lives with. They brought the same to me, and sharing that love just seems like the right thing to do.
I never understand how can people just place their older dogs in the pet homes. I like them to be with me till the last. They are ones we love the most and how can we part from them. I can never think of such a thing.
Carol, thank you for sharing that perspective… you said things that never occured to me.
This post makes me think of bittersweet times when I’ve given one of my fur babies to a home more suitable. I could so easily become one of those pathetic, selfish animal hoarders with 35 dogs that we read about.
Rod, you’re entitled to your opinion (note: I’d take that opinion more seriously, mind you, if your email wasn’t ‘addalink’ and the original link in your comment didn’t re-direct to a pet supply mall).
That said, I like a little more logic in my rebuttals, so why don’t you explain to me how you balance even the smallest of breeding programs with an insistence on keeping every single dog you ever breed?
I think of it as a pyramid – if I keep at least one puppy from every dog in my breeding program (which is, of course, my goal – I breed to produce dogs that I think will enhance the breed, and my own dogs), then in a few short years my population of dogs will increase to at least fifteen. Exponentially, it will only increase from there.
My options then become –
– turn into a factory farm breeding program, with more dogs than anyone can ethically and reasonably care for
– or breed no more litters until every dog in my breeding program is on the brink of death (at which point, of course, who do I breed from or to?).
You tell me which is the better option.
No one ever said breeding is easy, or that it comes without a price. We’re all, one would assume, doing the best we can to be the best we can.
I just wanted to say thank you for having the courage to write what many of us think about, but few of us dare to put into words. I’m not a breeder yet, but I can empathize with the bittersweet heartache caused by rehoming a frenchie. I think some people (like Rod)misunderstand what being an ethical breeder actually means. It means you strive to breed the healthiest, nicest, friendliest and best-looking animal that you can, that eventually you might have to part with. This is not done out of selfishness; but rather, the opposite — this is the sacrifice of love. Ethical breeders are not “using” a bitch to make money. Ethical breeders have a pet and friend that will help improve the breed. And when the sad time comes that you must part with that friend because you know that another family will give them a better life than you can offer, then they are hugged and kissed and lavished with love and placed in the loving arms of their new family. Of course, ethical breeders keep in touch with the new family, but it’s never the same. Unfortunately, it is necessary to keep the numbers of dogs kept in a household to a certain number — just like some families chose to only have a certain number of children. Placing an older dog so that it can live out the rest of the years is a selfless act — not an act of greed. We adopted a 3-year-old dog, and my first frenchie was 1-year-old when we bought him. Both of these animals are members of my FAMILY who eat, sleep and play with us — it doesn’t matter what age they were when they came to us, we love them just the same.
If Rod and other like him have a complaint, then complain to the pet stores that house their animals in cages with no socialization. Become an activist to close down puppy millers, who do use their dogs and don’t care for them properly. Volunteer at a shelter or a rescue to help find homes for animals that have been abused and mistreated.
But don’t, all you Rods of the world, complain about frenchies that have great lives and an owner who knows what is best for them and acts in an unselfish and responsible way to keep them happy, despite the heartbreak. Save your pity for the animals that need it.
I didn’t understand placing retirees . . . until 5 years ago when I got one. What a wonderful, wonderful gift – a new life with a new family. My retiree came described perfectly. She has blossomed in her new home with the opportunity to be the queen instead of a lady-in-waiting. I adore my girl and can’t imagine life without her.
I’m late to weigh in on this but having had a wonderful retiree of my own to enjoy from age 4.5 to 12 years, I feel I have a right to comment.
Blossom was one of around five Frenchies in Carol’s home and she was well loved and taken care of but since she was no longer breeding, not being shown, not doing obedience, she was out of the spotlight.
When she came to me, she was the sun and the moon. I gave her everything she wanted and all the obedience training that she DIDN’T want, haha! She was loved and spoiled and spoiled and loved by me and my entire family.
I’ll always be grateful to Carol for entrusting her to me and she had a great life. Blossom’s been gone for around a year now and I’d be honoured to do it again.
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