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Rescue groups match people, pups
Dear Dr. Spiegel, For quite sometime now, I have been contemplating the purchase of a puppy. I realize that this is a very important long-term commitment. I have decided to get a West Highland White Terrier. I'm looking for some place to purchase one. I called the lady that was referred by the Wilmington Kennel Club, and she's wanting $700 for her puppies. I'm not wanting a show dog, just a family pet. I was wondering how you feel about the Shake a Paws puppy place, if it's really an A.K.C. representative or if it's really a puppy mill. I have read that you should not buy a puppy from a pet store, due to possible overbreeding. Would you feel confident buying a puppy from this store? Sincerely, S.S., Bear, DE
Dear S.S., You're concern over pet stores is well taken. Many are fed by puppy mills that pump out poorly cared for and overbred animals. And I generally do not recommend pet stores as a source for obtaining a pup. Their living environments (constant caging) regularly lead to housebreaking difficulties and the neglect of these animals' exercise needs can lead to a number of problems as well. I am personally not fond of the idea of selling an animal for profit. The whole concept seems too akin to slavery. I have not had contact with this particular pet store, and cannot pass judgement one way or the other. This is why I would like to redirect your focus from pet stores to a different source -- Breed Rescue Groups. Many people decide during the first six months of a puppy's life that they do not have the time or share the commitment that you and I may have for keeping and raising a dog. And so breed rescue groups serve as placement or adoption agencies for individual purebred dogs. Not too long ago, my wife and I decided it was time to bring a dog into the lives of our children. We went through the breed book, The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World, a tome if ever there was one. I already knew the dog I wanted, but gave my wife and older daughter the chance to make their own determinations as well. We considered one another's desires in this pet/companion and my wife independently reached the same conclusion. Although my daughter seemed to prefer a little dog (probably for the same reason she likes dolls... when they're smaller, they can seem easier to control), we decided to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback. We, too, didn't want, or feel the need, to spend $600 or more for a new pup. I knew Breed Rescue Organizations to be a potentially valuable way to place and adopt animals of a given breed. And it just so happened that the local Ridgeback Rescue People also happened to be the National Coordinators of this particular rescue operation. I met with them, we mutually interviewed one another, and we discussed the breed. They have two females, a mother and her daughter. We expressed our desires regarding sex, approximate age, etc. They (and I, as well, in this situation) determined my needs given the makeup of my family, home environment, and ability to meet the needs of the animal. We were put on a waiting list and matched with several dogs over a period of months. Two of these dogs fell through due to a change in mind by the current owners. And one I declined due to its long established behavior of escaping and roaming the neighborhood. I received a call one Monday night several weeks ago informing me that the local group in Frederick, MD had just saved a four month old male pup from an area shelter. The shelter had contacted the group, the group contacted the National HQ's, and the HQ's contacted me. The next day I drove 2 and 1/2 hours to get him and brought him home. We paid a reasonable adoption fee, and he was ours along with his "boisterous" nature, and unhousebroken status. The dog I met, I didn't know. And he didn't know me. We shared some greeting, but he was as much interested in the environment of the home he was currently in, and the other people and pets that came and went as he was in me. Over the last several weeks that has gradually changed. It has its ups and downs like any ongoing relationship; but bonds grow stronger and genuine affections deepen as you continue in your commitment to raise this animal that you have made a part of your life. He's now well housebroken, and that boisterous nature was easily overcome through adequate attention, exercise, and training. Having patience is essential to acquiring a pet through a Rescue Group. Some have longer waiting lists than others. Some, like Greyhound Rescue, are always looking for homes for retired racers. If anything it gives you time to adequately prepare for the life altering changes of dog ownership. And a little waiting's a whole lot better than the all too often impulse buy at the pet store. As far as Westie's go, the National Rescue Coordinator is Anne Sanders of the West Highland Terrier Club of America. She can direct you to local rescue people by calling 1-700-4-WESTIE.