Thursday, May 15, 2014

From a Breeder . . . From a Rescue . . . Why or Why Not?

Sammie was our first dog.  After Ben and I had been married a year, we went to the local SPCA and adopted a shelter mutt.

Almost a year later, we went to a breeder that Ben found in the newspaper and we purchased Speedy, a Border Collie puppy.  While both of his parents were actually well bred working Border Collies, I can't say we purchased him all that responsibly.  We showed up, fell in love with a puppy, bought him, and took him home.

Almost a year after that, we went on Petfinder and found Maddie in a private all-breed rescue.

Several years later, I carefully chose five Border Collies on the Glen Highland Farm (Border Collie rescue) website who met particular criteria and then Ben and I went, by appointment, and met all five.  We came home with Dean Dog.

Four years after that, I evaluated a shut down, highly fearful, stray dog (Border Collie?) who had been caught and taken to a shelter for Glen Highland Farm.  GHF decided to pull her and I was holding her for three weeks.  When we saw that she had fond some measure of safety in our home, we decided to adopt her and we named her Tessa.

In January I decided to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time.  I found a responsible working Border Collie breeder who was breeding her dogs specifically for a high level of working ability.  She proceeded to raise them extremely well and she prepared them carefully for their new homes.  Now Bandit, 11 weeks old, is with us.

All six of these dogs have been very different from one another.  Five of those six have had their fair share of baggage and challenges.  The rescues certainly brought leftover issues from their past lives.  But even Speedy, who never knew a day in his life without love, caused me a fair share of difficulty and frustration.

I can honestly say that there are things that I appreciate about getting a dog from a breeder and there are things that I appreciate about getting a rescue.

Breeder Dogs

The Gift of Provision

I treasure having the privilege of providing everything that my puppy from a breeder needs throughout his entire life.  I always thought it was incredibly sweet that Speedy had never known a day in his life without love and he didn't even have a concept of a life where good things didn't show up for him constantly.  Maybe he was just a tiny bit spoiled.  Why shouldn't he have been?  When I look back on his life now, I don't regret giving him a single good thing that I gave him.  I look forward to doing the same with Bandit.

Knowing Where He Came From

In some ways it may not matter whether I know my dog's lineage or not, but I think it is extremely interesting to look over the pedigree and see the names of my dog's ancestors.  Speedy and Bandit even have some key ancestors in common, just a few generations back!

I have even found pictures of some of these ancestors and I like to look at them and search their faces for similarities.  It's a fun thing to do, but it is also a connection to long-ago Border Collie heritage.

Desired Behaviors Preserved

Nobody has punished the dog's desire to play away.  Nobody has taught the dog never to put paws up on someone or something.  Nobody has instilled a fear of shouting or reprimands.  Nobody has taught the dog not to go through doorways or other such nonsense.

I can jump in and start training what I want to train without having to un-do previous-life things.

Longer Time Together

Years spent with another owner are years I missed.  With my breeder dogs, I get to spend every possible day, week, month, year with my dog.  Speedy was 12 years old and he spent all 12 years, minus his growing-up time, with me.  When Bandit is 18 weeks old, he will have spent half of his life with me.  This is time that I appreciate deeply.

Rescue Dogs

A Second Chance

Whether my rescue was a pet dog that didn't work out (Dean) or came from a situation where an actual "rescue" was needed (Tessa), I love giving a dog a second chance.  There is great satisfaction in taking a dog who was abandoned (Maddie) or on her own for no known reason or who was too wild and crazy for a family to handle and lavish him or her with every good thing life has to offer a dog!

When I think about Sammie and Maddie now it means a lot that I can say, "I gave both of them a GREAT life".


Rescue dogs know they have it good.  Tessa knew life on the streets, having to eke out her own existence, at risk of danger and starvation.  Dean knew the sorrow of being ripped from the family he knew and loved.  Maddie knew abandonment.  And Sammie knew long days in the shelter.

They all knew they had it good.  Not having it so good is there - someplace in their brains.  Sometimes I sit down on Tessa's sofa with her and I hold her in my arms and we snuggle and I know that she feels safe and loved by the expression on her face.

And while appreciate the sweet innocence of a dog who doesn't have any concept of any of that, I also appreciate the strength, the resilience, and the courage that my second-hand dogs have.  They all had it in them to love and trust again.  I admire that to the very core of my being.

The Past Made Them Individuals

Yes, rescue dogs come with "baggage".  But they also come into the household as unique individuals.  Not everything that a rescue dog brings in from his or her past is bad.  Much of it is good, actually.

Dean may have been left to run wild in his home, but he was left to run with children.  He still loves children and is awesome with them.  He got a level of socialization with children that I can't really provide to a dog.  On the rare occasions when children come to our house, Dean is always right there to play with them and entertain them.

Tessa knows how to bounce back from difficulty.  She's a survivor.  While I would never deliberately abandon a dog to teach him or her how to survive, the fact that Tessa has done so has given her a strength that is downright inspiring!  It is one of the things that I admire most about her!

And while I miss the years I didn't get to spend with my rescues, I do appreciate that they bring the selves that they were before they knew me into our relationships now.

And . . . bonding!

Notice, I didn't say that my breeder dogs bond with me more than my rescue dogs.  I have simply not found that to be the case.

I would say that the dog I have the strongest bond with is Tessa.

Speedy and I had something very special because I raised him, and I'm sure Bandit and I will have something like that, too.

But I have found that one of the greatest sources of bond-building has come through working with my rescues to help them overcome the not-so-great aspects of their pasts.

The capacity to bond is not rooted in whether or not I raised the dog.  It depends much more on who the dog is at heart.

I expect to enjoy raising my well-bred Border Collie puppy and I will always appreciate the lengths to which his breeder went to prepare him for his new life. 

On the other hand . . . I plan to rescue again.  Absolutely!

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