Regular readers will know I love dogs.
No matter what size or breed, in the majority of cases they love me too (it helps having a biscuit pocket, and word gets around pretty fast in the doggie world).
We got Maggie from a farm on the outskirts of Axminster. The Dam was the son’s dog, and the money raised from selling her pups was to be used for his driving lessons.
There were two collies and two springer spaniels on the farm, so whether it was by accident or design that ten Sprollie Pups arrived is unclear. All I can tell you is that those little puppies were loved, allowed to play, and had 2 bitches as well as a cow provide ‘mother’s milk’, and an ample supply of kibble.
Some years ago we thought about opening a boarding kennels, looking for a property with space for huts, runs and exercise as I have never had a problem with clearing up after a dog (either end), it’s Humans I can’t deal with.
Our basic plan was this:
Each run would be concrete with a drain at the bottom. The runs would be hosed down every night after the dogs had been put to bed, and thus clean for the morning.
Water would be fresh every night, changed in the morning and checked frequently.
No dog would sleep in a dirty bed/hut and in the colder months, there would be some form of heating.
Bedding would be in proper pallets off the ground in their huts, which would also be concrete and cleaned daily when the dogs were exercised.
We would hire at least one full time kennel attendant.
Once again, it was the Red Tape (and finding a suitable property) that snookered us.
Dog breeders I have come in contact with are few, but they view canines differently with dollar signs and 0s attached rather than members of the family and loyal pets, but hey, that’s Business.
My first breeder was an acquaintance I met when I was going through my divorce.
I was horrified when he admitted that if he didn’t like the look of a puppy or it was white (he bred german shepherds), he killed it.
My second was a relation in a roundabout way, who had converted a bedroom in their house for their dogs. It was wall to wall cages, 2 high, and they were exercised in the garden once a day. They had seven dogs which were allowed to join the family for an hour and only let out of their cage to be fed, mated or toileted.
I didn’t care that there was a Crufts champion in their line. To me, it was cruel.
My fourth breeder was a Cruft’s Supreme Champion owner, who quite frankly has no control over his current dog, and believes that training should not be started until the dog is 12 months old. IMO the basics of house training, recall, lead work and socialising should be started from day one.
Which brings me to the breeder in-between.
Champion ribbons galore, and a waiting list for puppies well into triple figures.
She was looking for someone to help out 3 or 4 times a week, plus the occasional full day when they had a Show. I offered my services for basic wage, cash in hand.
I got up at 6am to arrive at 6.30 as originally requested.
I was sleepily greeted and asked not to arrive next time until 7.30, and please not to be so cheerful.
There were nine outbuildings and runs, a Puppy room (plastered with accolades including Best in Show, Best of Breed, Best Bitch, Best Puppy, Best Dog), and the barn had been converted to a grooming parlour ( a sideline business) which was also used to house 3 cages.
Inside the house (and not for my eyes) was apparently a wet room where they had more dogs, and a conservatory where I was once invited for coffee and noticed at least 3 piles of dog poo behind the sofa.
The most number of dogs I ‘looked after’ at any one time was 27, but that included nursing mothers and their pups, and the larger runs housed two or three dogs at any one time.
Those animals lived in squalor.
They had newspapers in their huts and their bedding stank of pee and faeces.
My job was to change the papers, clean up their mess, sweep out the cages and replenish their water bowls.
No exercise, no fuss, no treats, and definitely do not allow the dogs to mix!
Left to my own devices, I enjoyed the job as I would let the dogs out of their runs in turn as I cleaned it out. Rubber gloves were not provided so I bought my own plus a supply of large garden bin bags for the soiled papers as sometimes there weren’t any. My tools were a long handled dustpan and soft brush, string headed mop and a bucket.
I would shake out the bedding, wash down the floors as best I could (try using a soft mop on concrete!), get rid of the dirty paper and replace it with clean, then wash out their bowls and give them fresh water. Getting them back in after a taste of freedom was sometimes tricky, but most of the time, it wasn’t a major problem. And yes I did sneak in the occasional treat and some cuddles!
The puppies were gorgeous, and I couldn’t resist having a fuss if ‘Mum’ let me get close enough.
In the two hours I worked, I cleaned, swept, shifted, lifted, changed, and cleaned some more, but I got everything done.
Problems always arose when ‘She’ was there to supervise.
Instead of letting me work my way round in order, she had me going all over the place, no system, no logical sequence, and so precious time was lost and I felt so was hygiene.
When I asked her what to use to scrub out a particularly dirty and smelly kennel, she gave me a hand scrubbing brush and told me to get down on all fours. I felt like Richard Gere with his toothbrush cleaning the steps in An Officer and A Gentleman, and only did it the once.
Every day when I arrived, the dogs were locked in their huts but the runs were filthy, yet rather than let me clean up the mess before letting them out, ‘She’ was adamant that the dogs be let out first (and thus got even more dirty than the filth they’d slept in), and I had to work round them.
I also tried to keep the yard clean, but got reprimanded as the kennels took priority.
No matter what their age, or status in the Cruft’s League, NONE of her dogs were toilet trained.
Her bitches seemed to be forever pregnant and the puppies sold as soon the ink was dry on the Registration documents. When the bitches were too old to breed (at 7 years of age) they were sold and there was a waiting list for them too.
And she could expect to get thousands for a Dog with a Title, not to forget charging hundreds in Stud fees.
I’m afraid I only lasted a couple of months, but it had nothing to do with the dogs, cleaning up after them or being unable to get the stink out of my hair or clothes despite hot showers and hot washes every day.
It was my own distress at the conditions those dogs had to live in, conditions I could do nothing about, and conditions I didn’t agree with.
‘She’ had also ensured that Dog Breeders were at the very top of my Shit List.
As you can imagine, I do not have a lot of time for Breeders.
Yet when I lost my first GSD (before Hubby days and the above) and wanted another, I went to a breeder. If I wanted a puppy, I could choose the Dam and Sire and have the pick of the litter.
Or I had a choice from an existing litter.
The dogs were kept in runs and kennels outside. The runs were clean and spacious, and there were two people exercising 4 dogs in an adjacent field.
I didn’t want a puppy though, but I could have brought home at least two if I had.
I was after an older dog as we already had a dog at home, and the only one available was a five year old bitch that had been tied up at their gate and abandoned.
She was nervous and afraid of most people, and it was believed she’d had a litter but as soon as the pups were weaned, she was dumped.
I asked to see her, and she was a pitiful shaking bag of bones.
The man who brought her in talked to her all the time in low encouraging tones as he approached me. She stood in front of me, and eventually sat down close to my knee.
I said I’d take her, and it was agreed that they would bring her to the house the following Friday. If she didn’t settle in a fortnight, I was to ring and they would come and collect her.
I lost her to cancer at the end of 1990, and like to think she had five good years with me.