The other day, I was walking my dog around our normal route in our relatively small, middle class suburban neighborhood in upstate New York. He is a Goldendoodle, half Golden Retriever and half Standard Poodle. He weighs about seventy pounds and trots along the pavement like he owns the place. He has no idea how big he is, he’s goofy, funny, and one of the most loving creatures I’ve ever come to know. He has other dogs and small children climbing over him frequently, and would never maliciously hurt another soul. When my boyfriend and I got him, he quickly fit like a puzzle piece into our quaint, loving life of adventure and simplicity.
It was on this walk that I encountered someone I had never met. My dog had never met their dog, and we were about to cross paths. I noticed quickly that the person was scowling at me, as if I were someone who had betrayed them horribly. They pulled their dog to the end of the sidewalk, as an effort to get as far from me as possible.
As we approached each other, the person spoke to me angrily, saying “Would you like us to let you pass?” as if I was royalty, and with a strong sting of mockery. I carefully replied, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think we were in your way.” And moved to the opposite side of the sidewalk in an effort to share the space.
The woman with her mixed breed continued to scowl and replied, “I wouldn’t want to get in the way of your designer dog.” It quickly hit me why she was so angry; I realized she was a rescue dog activist and was “discriminating” against my beautiful, loving dog in a very hateful way.
I did not reply to the woman and continued walking, for I felt speaking back to her would lead to a losing battle.
I’ve gotten stares and scoffs from people before because of my Doodle, I’ve had commenters on social media say that I should feel responsible for shelter dogs being euthanized; I rarely dignify them with a response. I don’t feel that I should have to defend my beloved pet, or my choice to get him. He makes our lives better, happier; who dare judge something so sacred? I love my pet no more and no less than anyone loves their rescue pup, and I don’t think it’s fair for someone to decide for me that for whatever reason, that isn’t true.
Do I disagree with puppy mills? Absolutely, I think any breeding method that is harmful to any lives involved should be stopped immediately. Do I think dogs that were rescued from outdoor leashes or dangerous situations deserve a loving home? Absolutely, and I applaud anyone who is in the position to provide that for any animal. Do I believe that Pitbulls have a bad rap and they truly are incredible, protective, affectionate creatures who should be treated as such? Yes, and I will argue indefinitely with anyone who believes otherwise (they are just flat out wrong). However, do I believe that people who choose to buy puppies instead of rescuing should be shamed for their choice? No I do not.
I grew up in a home in which we bred our (purebred) Maltese twice. I came home from elementary school to tiny white balls of fluff running and tumbling to me; arguably one of the best stretches of time in my life. My mother researched safe breeding methods long before my dog got pregnant, and we followed all the correct protocols and rules that would protect her and her offspring; my dog was never harmed and cared for her puppies until they were old enough to care for themselves. My point here is that breeding, when responsibly done, is not bad and shouldn’t be treated as such.
There are many reasons one would choose to “shop”, and I don’t need to defend all of them but I will mention one: allergies.
When I first met my boyfriend and we discussed dogs and how much we both loved them, he told me he was allergic to them and my heart sank a bit. I was always obsessed with Golden Retrievers and knew that, with him, I wouldn’t be able to have one. We compromised on a Goldendoodle, with the temperament and affection of a Golden and the hair of a Poodle. We couldn’t have made a better decision! People who are allergic to dogs simply can’t go to any shelter and take any dog home. In fact, several dogs I’ve seen at shelters were surrendered there because someone in the house was allergic. Not to mention the number I’ve seen from people who had a baby, or moved out of the area, or moved to an apartment complex that doesn’t allow dogs.
I hear the story among dog owners all the time. “He was a stray, found skinny and roaming the streets. He refuses to go into any basement. He had health problems we had to take care of. He eats our food when we aren’t looking. We don’t know how old he is. But we love him so much.” And then they look at me and my dog with so much judgment in their eyes, sometimes with snide comments. I don’t get asked where we got him, because people assume and stick their noses up. Sometimes it feels like the dog park is the high school cafeteria, #AdoptDontShop stickers on almost every car in the parking lot.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to buy a puppy. I don’t think it makes someone evil, or a dog murderer. We don’t need less breeders, we need more responsible ones.
As long as there are people who will adopt poorly bred dogs and therefore, support bad breeders, these issues will remain. We need more responsible, educated pet owners. Bad breeders and puppy mills exist because people don’t want to pay a lot of money for their pets. You get what you pay for, which is generally a puppy with a health issue that arises and ultimately leads to it being dropped off at a shelter. Let’s end puppy mills, let’s end bad breeders, let’s spay and neuter our pets. Let’s try and eliminate the problem at its source. Let’s not shame people for spending a thousand dollars on a puppy. It’s their choice, their life, and just because they don’t make the same choice you would doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. Buying a puppy isn’t killing a rescue dog, and those who say so at an effort to guilt others is no different from someone saying hateful things due to political differences. Encourage others to adopt rescue dogs, but don’t shame them if they choose not to do so. Don’t attack me on the sidewalk and mock me for the choices you assume I made.
Oh and one more thing! We got our Goldendoodle from a rescue shelter. He was a stray, found skinny and roaming the streets. He refuses to go into any basement. He had health problems we had to take care of. He eats our food when we aren’t looking. We don’t know how old he is. But we love him so much.