I can’t quite believe it, but this will be our sixth Christmas with our dog, Jake.
On the 1st of December 2012, I stepped off the train from Edinburgh to be met by my husband, who was carrying a tiny, furry ball of black and white in his arms. We didn’t intend to get a dog for Christmas – we’d lost our old rescue dog that October, and within just a few weeks realised we couldn’t have a home without a canine companion. I’m going to tell you how we found Jake, but first I want to express how important it is to do your research when looking for a puppy or dog. The reason? I was recently contacted by the Scottish Government who have launched their Buy A Puppy Safely campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the devastating consequences of illegal puppy farming.
What shocked me most about illegal puppy farming was that one in four puppies bought online will die before their fifth birthday. When I think of Jake, having just turned six, I realise just how distressing this figure is – Jake is in his prime. He’s gone through the unpredictable puppy phase (which, being a border collie, lasted until he was two!) and the bouncing-young-dog phase (actually, he’s still a bit nuts at times) and has become a wonderful family pet. Bless him, he was our first and only baby for many years and now he has two human pups to help take care of, and he does it so well. Honestly, he’s such a well behaved dog and yet he’s hilarious and crazy and sweet too. To think that one in four dogs bought online will be dead by this point is sickening. And if they’re lucky enough to be one of the other three, they could well end up with a serious health condition, behavioural problems or a nasty infectious disease. Please, don’t take that risk when searching for your own puppy or dog – do your research and if you think you’ve come into contact with an illegal puppy dealer contact the Scottish SPCA animal helpline (03000 999 999). Research shows that Scots are more likely to buy an illegally-bred puppy than they might think – only 24% buy from an approved breeder.
That said, we didn’t buy Jake from an approved breeder and even though he’s a pure-bred border collie, he doesn’t have any papers. That isn’t important to us – what’s important is the dog’s early start in life and its nature and temperament. I’ll explain how we found our puppy without falling into the darkness of illegal puppy farming.
After our old dog died in early October, within a couple of weeks we began looking out for border collies that needed to be rehomed. It waasn’t that we wanted to replace Mya – it was just that she was such a special member of our family and she left a huge gap. We needed to fill that gap, yes, but she would be impossible to replace. However, we’re dog people – we needed a dog!
Quite quickly, we found a two year old collie called Aero in the Edinburgh area who needed a new home. We went to meet his owners, a couple who clearly adored him and had trained him perfectly. Sadly, one of them wasn’t well and they couldn’t continue to give Aero the time he needed – we agreed to take him and set a date for them to visit us and, if they were happy with our home, leave him. Unfortunately, the night before they were due to come they phoned to say they were giving Aero to their friends nearby so that they could still visit him.
To say we were gutted would be an understatement – there was anger, frustration and tears, and even though we tried to understand from their point of view we found it hard to deal with. We decided we couldn’t go through tat again – the excitement of having found a dog being so swiftly followed by disappointment and sadness. So the hunt for a puppy began.
Over the next six weeks my husband searched tirelessly for a border collie pup. He practically crossed the entire country to find the right dog for us, but it wasn’t until December that he finally found ‘the one’. He had been to Dunbar to visit a family who had advertised their dog’s litter. Instantly he felt at ease – it was clearly a family home. When he arrived he was made to feel welcome, was offered a cup of tea, and shown to the puppies straight away. Importantly, the mother was with them. Additionally, the (human) parents and children were all interacting warmly with the dogs, and they were more than happy for my husband to ask questions about the dogs and puppies. They told him that the father of the pups was a working farm dog of theirs, the mother their domestic pet. The litter had been five, but sadly one puppy had died, one they were keeping, and the remaining three were for sale. It was clear these dogs were well looked after and loved. And so it came to be that Jake found his forever home in Broughty Ferry that very day.
I’m so thankful that we found a superstar of a dog. But truth be told, we found him becuase we searched tirelessly for the right sellers, the right home, the right puppies. We spent hours looking online and in newspapers and took many trips to visit the people selling dogs, before committing to buying a puppy.
Thanks to this research and dedication to our puppy before we even had him, we now have a healthy and happy dog who is, without question, a huge part of our family. I hope he’s with us until he’s old and grey, which is more than can be said for too many puppies. Please, remember, puppies aren’t just for Christmas – they’re for life. And we should want to give them the best, longest life they deserve, so let’s all do our bit to help stop puppy farming by supporting the Buy A Puppy Safely campaign all year round.
My top tips for finding a puppy or dog
1. Do your research
Like any other purchase, the more you compare, the more you’ll learn. Knowledge is power and some solid groundwork before buying a pup will place you at an advantage over illegal puppy farmers.
2. Consider your surroundings
When you visit the seller, take in your surroundings before you’re distracted by the gorgeous puppies. Illegal puppy farmers will go to great lengths to fool buyers, from renting fake houses to producing counterfeit paperwork. Look for family photographs and signs of a house or flat being lived in when visiting puppies, and remember that paperwork isn’t everything, so don’t base your thoughts purely on certificates. If the mum dog isn’t there, ask why, and if you can go back to see her another time. If they say no, walk away.
3. Trust your gut
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. My husband visited a litter and was close to bringing a beautiful girl pup home – so much so that he messaged me a picture of her – but he hesitated. This hesitation stemmed from something not feeling right, which he couldn’t put his finger on, but it was enough for him not to take the risk. I still think of that puppy and hope that she found a happy home.
Images: Kris Miller