A Sucker's Game
I have, from time to time, decided that breeding dogs is a sucker’s game, and that I’m personally not going to play it any more. Usually, this takes the form of my ignoring all email, and just recently I added in “and I’m not blogging anymore, either”, for good measure.
Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you learn that a dog you love has died, without you there to hold her in her final moments. When you arrive home too late to even go with her on that final trip to the vet’s office. When you cry tears of frustration and anger at your own ineffectualness at doing anything to save her life, to keep her safe, to make her better.
Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when the emails start to trickle in, with stories of how the ten and twelve and thirteen year olds you’ve bred are dead, or dying. Old age is never old enough, and the pain you feel for yourself, and the people who’ve lost their companions just doesn’t seem justified. Words fail you – what words are there when someone tells you “And then I told the vet it was time to let him go”?
Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you learn that the bitch you’d been waiting on isn’t actually pregnant. Haha, seems those ultrasounds aren’t so reliable, and I guess she was just fat. All that extra protein and those mid morning scrambled egg snacks sure can pack the weight on a gal. I guess there’s always next time. Or not, since this is the fourth time you’ve tried to breed her.
Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when it all hits you at once, and you have to pull off the highway to cry it all out, because you can’t see clearly enough to drive at the moment. It’s a combination of frustration and anger and disappointment and a sense of overwhelming failure that can culminate in your throwing your hands up and saying “This is a sucker’s game, and I quit”.
Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you have to inform all of those people who’ve been waiting patiently for puppies that there aren’t any – no puppies, no idea what went wrong, and no idea when there will be another attempt. Politely referring them on to other breeders, and still getting angry, irate emails from people asking why you’ve ‘wasted their time’ with waiting can be enough to make anyone decide to quit.
Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you get email asking how does one, exactly, know when a dog is about to go into labor? Because, you see, they threw their dogs together into the yard, and now she’s really big and she’s making a nest in the closet, and she’s leaking milk, and what do I do now? And what’s a c section? And can you help me sell them? And you’re polite, and helpful, because it’s really all about the dog, at this moment, and not about giving in to your urge to scream in frustration and lecture about uterine inertia and why breeders have homes lined up before they whelp a litter. And then you realize you’d have to explain what ‘whelp’ means.
So, you contemplate quitting, because really – who needs it? You could raise orchids, or maybe Koi. Perhaps get into goats (cheese making might be fun). Dog breeding, after all, is a sucker’s game.
Until you get an email with photos of a girl, who goes back to your girl, who is out of your favorite girl, and did you want her? Then you get another email, and it’s that puppy you sold, and he’s playing with his soccer ball, and they sure do love him. There’s that other email, from those people who lost their dog to old age, and they think they’re ready now for another one, and do you have one, will you soon?
And you realize you miss puppy breath, and that a litter now would mean puppies playing in the grass, and there’s that play center you wanted to build for them, and then it hits you – it’s a sucker’s game, but it’s also your life, and it’s been a pretty good one.