As you probably know by now, Up For Pups is adamantly against the sale of companion animals in pet shops. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the following:
- Pet stores generally buy their “stock” from puppy mills: commercial breeding farms where dogs are kept in small chicken-wire cages and bred again and again, until they can no longer breed and are then discarded in whatever manner is easiest for the miller (I know this for a fact because I have fostered some of the “lucky” ones and their issues are usually too many to mention – let’s just say that the local vets and dog trainers know me well)
- Pet store puppies that come from puppy mills often have genetic diseases and behavioral issues because their parents weren’t adequately tested for health and behavioral traits and because they are weaned early so as to bring in cash ASAP
- The sale of animals at pet stores encourages people to fall in love with “that puppy in the window,” taking it home without researching the breed and considering whether the breed, or a dog at all, is right for them (thus, lending to the shelter overpopulation problem)
Having said that, Carrie Boyko, our new friend from BlogPaws and founder of the All Things Dog Blog, where her dogs teach her every day how to be a better pack leader, sent me a story about her daughter’s Papillion, Oliver, whom they adopted after he fell ill at a pet shop. This is an example of a pet shop owner at least doing the right thing for one sick dog (although, in my opinion, the really right thing would be to stop selling dogs and cats, period).
Here’s Oliver’s story (which luckily has a happy ending):
As a family with two dogs, things were humming along just fine with us, that is, until our daughter took a job at a pet store (swallow). She wanted to work with animals, and after all was said and done, we decided it would be good for her to see the “real world,” meaning the inner workings of a pet shop. What we didn’t know was that her experience would change our family. The bottom line is that Oliver came to us as the result of our 17-year-old daughter’s desire to have a toy-sized pup of her own.
While working at this pet store during high school, Toni had seen Papillons come and go, falling in love with each one’s adorable, affectionate play style and disproportionate size to our two Retrievers at home. She wanted to experience something different, and she wanted to call him hers.
As each Pap came into the store, Toni begged and pleaded with us to allow her to bring one home. Our answer was always the same. “We have two dogs to provide for. That is enough. Besides, our dogs are big.” We worried for the safety of a little one among our two lively, larger dogs. Tanner, at the time was still a 50 pound, gangly adolescent of 15 months, who was sure to become 20 pounds larger with maturity.
This story had an unexpected ending for me. One day, Toni called home from work, saying that a Pap had arrived in poor condition. He had become sick and would be committed to the ‘hospital wing’ of the pet store, under the care of “Doc,” who visited the puppy twice daily and thought the pup might not pull through his illness.
The store owner notified the breeder, who indicated her sincere affection for her “offspring” by telling the owner to keep him, rather than sending him back to her. The breeder worried that the puppy would not survive the trip back to her facility without a nurse or doctor in tow. She merely asked that the store owner adopt the puppy to a family that would love him.
Enter Toni. The phone call went something like this: “Mom! The breeder gave the Papillion to the store. I can take him home as soon as he is better.”
“You realize he may not get better. Right, honey?” I replied
“He’ll be fine. I’ll check on him regularly and let him know he is loved, and he will have a home. Doc is doing everything he can for him; he will get better.”
How could I say no to this dog-loving daughter who wanted nothing more than to nurture a little one of her own. I pulled out my dog book and read up on the characteristics of the Papillion breed. Knowing that my Retrievers would receive him with a welcoming attitude, my concern was for the temperament of the Pap. I knew nothing of their typical attitudes or personalities. What I read turned my heart upside down, melting into the tissues as I sobbed. We would soon be a family of three dogs.
A few days later, Doc released the three-pound patient into Toni’s care, and we spent a couple of hours selecting all the things a toy-sized dog would need. It seemed that nothing we had at home was correctly proportioned for this miniature canine version.
The downside came when we took Oliver for his neutering. A blood test turned up an abnormality in his liver enzymes, which turned out to be a common problem with pet store pups: liver dysplasia (hepatic microvascular dysplasia). Fortunately for us and Oliver, a natural treatment of milk thistle each day has his problem under control for nearly three years now. He’s a healthy, happy, symptom-free boy, and has earned his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Certificate from the American Kennel Club. Yay, Oliver!
While I am well aware of the reputation of pet stores, my daughter’s experience working there was a good one, and our opportunity to adopt Oliver went as well as could be hoped for, especially given his little health hiccup. Fortunately, it appears to be nothing more than a hiccup.
I am thankful that this little bundle of joy pulled through and was able to join our pack family. We’re now complete with three kids and three dogs to match, as little Oliver has rounded out our furry family quite nicely. He’ll probably make a great therapy dog one day, whenever I decide to retire. What d’ya say, Oliver? –Carrie Boyko
I’m glad this pet shop did the right thing for Oliver and that Oliver turned out to be a great family dog. Unfortunately most people don’t have this experience, but their bad experiences have nothing on the horrific lives the breeding dogs suffer. The best thing we can do for dogs like Oliver (and especially for Oliver’s parents) is to not patronize stores that sell companion animals to send a clear message that pet stores are for pet supplies – we can get our dogs and cats elsewhere.