Most dog owners will have come across the #adoptnotshop hashtag/initiative somewhere in some form and I must admit I sometimes feel a sense of guilt of not giving some poor lost soul a home for life. I find it absolutely heartbreaking how many people simply get rid of a dog who to me is an equivalent to a family member. The adverts produced by adoption organisations are too sad for words.
Yet, I have a Kennel Club registered pure bred English Springer Spaniel that I purchased as a puppy from a breeder…
I wanted to say from the start it is not my intent to judge anyone’s decisions nor convince anyone to buy instead of adopting; I’m just sharing a [love] story here 🙂
Every single dog I had before Jazz was either rescued (found on a street), adopted (we took on ex-service dogs) or purchased for very little being a cross of a cross with a cross 😉 When I bought Jazz in the spring 2016, she was my first, and definitely won’t be last, pure bred, Kennel Club registered puppy.
Let me give you a little context here…
Before my life focused on equestrian coaching, I wanted to be a Vet or work with small animals in some capacity.
My earliest memory of an awoken interest in different dog breeds and genetics was when at about the age 12 I read about “inbreeding” in a dog magazine (I bought a couple of different publications religiously). Needless to say I had very little clue as to what it truly meant but the discussion about inheritance of various traits and breeders desperate to retain those by specific selection has stayed with me ever since and sparked my further interest. On top of that, my grandfather had a subscription to Lowiec Polski, a monthly magazine of Polish Field Sports/Shooting Association, which I also passionately browsed at every visit for any dogs related articles of which there were many. I don’t think it properly crossed my mind at the time to pursue an ownership of a pedigree dog though.
I went to a 4 year Bio-Chem High School with a programme geared towards those who wanted to study human or animal medicine, zoology or similar. Sadly, whilst I loved pretty much everything about Biology and especially Genetics, I absolutely hated Chemistry and was subsequently rubbish at it. I pushed through it until the end and didn’t get bad marks but I knew it was unlikely I would get into a Vet Uni (in 1998 when I applied to Universities in Poland you didn’t just do ‘A” levels – you also had to take substantial entry exams and pass them with appropriate marks in order to be admitted on a subject of your choice). So that didn’t work out and I ended up going for a business related degree and then being dog less for a decade.
Fast forward many years, there I was staring at a picture of a gorgeous bundle of a few days old Springer puppies having a pick of the litter and knowing so little about what to look for.
When I teach horse riding I sometimes come across riders who used to have their own horses and rode a lot but then life took over and they gave up for a long time. One rider especially I teach currently came back to horse ownership after 20 years break. Each lesson she remembers something from that “other life” and rides better and better. She told me that at times these memories of a skill come back unexpectedly or she just remembers something all of a sudden. I thought how could it be that we forget so much of something that was such a big part of our lives at one point but I feel a little bit like this having a dog again. A bit like I had forgotten everything I’d learnt about dogs even though I spent childhood and teenage life obsessed with them and a little bit like random memories starting to flood back.
But there I was. I saw photos of both of Jazz’s parents and loved their types. I knew I wanted a small, healthy working spaniel bitch, not too hairy, with a lot of bone, colour and friendly and bold demeanour. That was about it.
I chose Jazz purely on the basis of her markings at the time but was asked by the breeder not to make any final decisions until the puppies were 5 weeks old and I was able to spend a little time with them. A five weeks old Jazz was possibly the most adorable little creature I have ever met and even if I didn’t choose her, she chose me by pretty much wanting to just sit on my lap whilst the other puppies ran havoc in the room. To be able to observe them all, interacting and reacting to the world was fabulous.
I did ponder about adopting a Spaniel cross (I love Sprollies and Sprockers) but the thought I eventually arrived with was this.
Life to me is largely about experiences not things.
We all fall for different ones and whilst I absolutely love to see happy endings for abandoned dogs (and do have some plans for contribution to spaniel charities) I wanted to experience bringing up a puppy that was lovingly bred out of someone’s passion for their own dog and the breed. One of our family dogs had puppies twice and gave my whole family and myself an unforgettable, wonderful experience. They all found loving homes that we kept up in touch with for a long time.
Even though there are many things that can go wrong despite all precautions, the effort the responsible breeders put into health testing of the parents and upbringing in the first 8 weeks of the puppies lives gives them a much higher chance of having joyful, illnesses free future. It is exciting to be the part of such deliberate, thoughtful process and although I have no idea about the actual statistics, I’d hazard a guess that not that many of the puppies who come from truly good breeders end up in dog shelters because part of the responsible breeding is finding the right forever homes for those precious pups.
Breeding for temperament, character and health fascinates me and I naturally gravitate towards working types of dogs (vs show types) with bigger variations as selection for certain “look” rather than “performance”, not only but especially facial features, can take the breeding into more sinister directions…
If you read my post about discovering my spaniel addiction you might guess I am planning to add a little “sibling” for Jazzy. I am now more aware of what type and kind of Spaniel I love and this leads me to an important reason as to why I do support responsible breeding.
Possibly the most common cause of dogs losing their homes is compatibility clash. Dogs are chosen for their looks rather than temperaments and characters. Getting to know a breed inside out can be truly fascinating and that knowledge can lead to an informed choice.
I believe that if we find a dog with characteristics that complete us and our lifestyle, that becomes our soul mate, there would never be a question of them losing home as we would feel too lost without them. I am not saying this isn’t possible with an adopted dog but it is much more likely with one selectively bred over time for specific character traits…
I’d love to know your thoughts on this subject whether you agree with me or not 🙂
Wiola & Jazzy x
Photos in this post are from Jazzy’s model call for Louise Groom Photography