I saw someone walking in the park this morning without a dog. I was taken aback. So many people have bought dogs in lockdown, specifically poodle crosses (cockapoos, cavapoos, and all the other poos) that I actually noticed when someone did not have a ball of fluff lolloping at their feet and was merely out to get fresh air. There are reports of sales of fancy dog breeds soaring by 650 per cent over lockdown. The price of poodle and bichon frise crosses, dachshunds, French bulldogs, and other popular breeds have shot up. If you haven’t got £3,000 plus for a puppy, forget about getting one.
Those of you not au fait with doggie trends, poodle and bichon frise dogs aren’t considered cute enough on their own so they are bred with cocker spaniels and cavalier King Charles spaniels to get a hyper-cute and “hypoallergenic” dog. (My speech marks are there because there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog. They are not skin creams. This is just how they are marketed because they don’t shed much so don’t spread the dander on their skin which some are allergic to. )
In these lockdown times, unscrupulous breeders have been churning out puppies from exhausted bitches at breakneck speed to meet the demand. Now, many of these dogs, bought in the first lockdown, are being resold on completely unregulated sites where you can but a second sofa, hire a gardener, or buy a dog for £3,000 from an idiot who bought a puppy in lockdown without understanding that it’s like bringing a little furry person who thinks the half the world is its chew toy and the other half is his toilet.
I have been that idiot. In my distant past, I had to rehome a dog. If you’re a dog lover, you give the dog to someone you trust will give it a wonderful home. Mine was taken by the lovely couple who dog-sat her. You do not ask them for money. You shouldn’t get a refund on a pet you can’t look after. Sites like Pets For Homes and Gumtree are full of ads treating dogs like a fancy pair of shoes they lost the receipt for and want some of their money back.
Dog posts are all along the same lines: “It is with a heavy heart we have to rehome Fluffy as our work circumstances have changed.” By this, they mean “lockdown is over and we have to go back to work and did you know if you leave a puppy alone for hours it craps on your favourite rug, barks the house down and eats your sofa?” And they ask for a couple of grand for it, which is still at least a grand or two less than what a breeder is charging for a new one so they get snapped up quickly by this current trend for cuddly toy-looking dogs.
Just before this lockdown, I got myself a second-hand dog from a registered rescue shelter. I had to stop myself from mentioning this in the first line of this column by the way. Rescue dog owners will usually tell you they have a rescue dog quicker than a vegan will tell you they are a vegan.
My dog, Benji, is an ex-street dog, rescued from Romania by a charity called Many Tears Rescue. It is much harder getting a rescue dog than buying a puppy. You have to be approved. They look at your lifestyle, your home, and suss out your suitability. Folks who run rescue shelters didn’t go to all the trouble of setting up a charity, taking in dogs who have been abandoned or mistreated just to give it to someone getting a dog for their kids on a whim because the novelty of a trampoline has worn off.
Good breeders, like the one I bought my golden retriever Taylor from, breed for the love of it and make very little profit once you consider the time and expense they put into rearing the puppies. But right now, you have to really make an effort to find them amongst the hideous puppy farmers who are mating daughters with their fathers and shovelling their pups out to whoever turns up with the cash quicker than you can say “it doesn’t look like it’ll survive the night”.
Third-party puppy farm sellers will, on pet websites, make it look like they have the puppy in a home, surrounded by kids, but dig deeper, a lot deeper.
I don’t think I’m imagining it, but my street-dog Benji looks so utterly grateful at being with us. He’s so desperate to please, to learn, and to do the right thing. He’s very different from my born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-her-mouth, privileged golden retriever Taylor. Benji wolfs down every morsel of food immediately and gratefully. Taylor looks up at me and asks if it comes with a salad.
A dog doesn’t have to be an eight-week-old pup for you to bond with it, and you don’t have to have a walking teddy bear. Dogs are like children, when it’s yours, you love it, no matter how much of your life it destroys.
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