Saturday, January 3, 2015

Why a purebred, and why not a rescue dog?

Almost everyone who knows me knows that I have a very small income and, financially speaking, really should not be spending money on a purebred dog, much less one from a rarer breed, coming from a responsible and thus, by necessity, expensive breeder. So my choosing a Havana Silk Dog seems pretty bizarre. Why on earth am I going that route rather than getting a shelter or rescue dog in dire need of a home?

People have many reasons for wanting a dog. As a writer who spends long hours working alone in my home office, and traveling alone frequently while birding or on speaking gigs, I want a dog who can go anywhere with me, is a jolly and fun diversion when something I'm working on is very depressing, can be trained to be reasonably quiet and patient when I stop to look at a bird, can hike fairly long distances comfortably but without charging into the woods chasing squirrels and other animals, is small enough that I can scoop her up out of danger quickly or carry her when she does get tired, and would be welcome in most motels. I also want one who will be happy with being around me on the boring days, in the car or my office. I do not have a domineering, "leader of the pack" personality, so need a breed that is fairly compliant and agreeable by nature rather than one that needs me to constantly prove that I'm top dog. 

I wouldn't even consider some breeds--those with shortened snouts that so often compromise their health, terriers (it's SO hard to break them of chasing small animals and digging, because those are precisely what they were bred to do!), chihuahuas (simply because someone had a mean, nasty one that kept nipping at me when I was a little girl), or beagles (because we had one when I was a little girl and he just ran and ran and ran, and ended up getting killed by a car). It's virtually impossible to adopt a healthy little puppy 10 to 12 weeks old from a shelter unless it came from a puppy farm or utterly irresponsible breeder, and that can mean I'd be facing the kinds of serious health issues that arise from bad practices. The up-front expense of a purebred dog from a responsible breeder vastly reduces the likelihood of horrific vet bills and a dog whose life is tragically painful and/or short in the future. 

Researching small breeds, the Havana Silk Dog seems perfect. It has every good trait of the AKC Havanese breed, without the issues that arise when dog breeders focus more on pedigree than on the health records of the dogs within that pedigree. The Havana Silk Dog Association of America broke with the AKC over that very issue, and that appeals to me. My breeder told me she had a wonderful Havanese dog who died of heart disease when it was only 9—that's just too young! There are no guarantees, but choosing this breed of dog, and a puppy young enough to adapt to my weird lifestyle from the start, would give me my best chance for an ideal little birding partner, and I love supporting a breeder who is making a sincere and conscientious effort to bring only healthy puppies into the world and give them a great start in life.

I am in good health and have good prospects of being healthy and active throughout this puppy's lifespan, but neither I nor the puppy can be guaranteed a long, healthy life. If she does live at least as long as any of our previous dogs, I'll have her well into my 70s or even my 80s. At that point, I'd be ready for the quieter needs of an older dog, so that's when I'll start adopting older dogs in need of a good home.

I've rescued several cats over my lifetime, including the two I live with right now; I spent many years rehabbing injured, orphaned, and pesticide-poisoned birds; and I work tirelessly on issues of bird conservation. I'm glad that so many great human beings rescue dogs in need—that's an important mission in life. My mission is focused on protecting and teaching about birds. Having a plucky little sidekick that I raise from a puppy one last time in my life to add some sweetness, joy, and energy, is something I badly want and will try to deserve. And that's that. I'm not willing to enter into  discussions about what anyone thinks I should have chosen instead. 

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