So you want to get a dog…

A few years ago I was helping out on an undercover video project for one of the larger animal protection groups.  The subject was about pet shops selling puppy mill puppies, despite said pet shops’ vehement denials.  Just under seventeen thousand dogs were tracked.  You read that right: SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOGS.  And you know how many of those pet shop pups came from reputable breeders?  Not one.  Every single tracked dog came directly from a known puppy mill, or worse from one of the middle-men companies that try to cover up what the mills are doing.

 

Go into any pet shop.  The one in the mall with the fresh-faced kids working behind the counter.  The one in the run-down strip mall that also sells exotic birds and reptiles.  Any pet shop that sells dogs is selling dogs that came from puppy mills.  Absolutely, and without question.  I don’t care what the person behind the counter tells you, they are either lying, or reading a script from corporate.  End of story.  There is NO exception.

 

And you know why?  No reputable breeder would sell to a pet store.  If they did, they wouldn’t be reputable.  A good breeder, and there are some out there, wants to know where each and every one of their dogs is going?  Into what home, and with whom.

 

Now if you have doubts as to what I’m telling you, ask said pet shop flunky where the dog came from.  Write the name down, then go home and Google.  I guarantee you will find that the name given you either is a well-known puppy mill, or is one of a handful of middle-men (Lambriar and Hunt are two of the biggest) brokering for the puppy mills and smaller backyard breeders (just as bad), or that the name just does not exist.  And really now, who doesn’t exist on Google?  That should probably raise the biggest red flag.  A huge “what are they trying to hide?”

 

After working on the undercover piece, I found myself visiting any and every pet shop.  And on every cage of every dog I saw the names of those puppy mills and brokers.  No exceptions. I remembered them all so well.  And in every store I was told that the dogs came from loving caring breeders who only had a few litters a year, and that they would never get animals from a puppy mill, etc., and so forth.  A load of crap, unless you consider hundreds of dogs living in their own feces and urine, sleeping on wire, and in many cases double-decker cages where the top dog’s waste ends up in the bottom cages, and well, you get the picture.  Not my idea of a “loving home.”  I saw the hundreds of hours of video. The images will haunt me forever.

 

And look, as I’ve suggested, there are reputable breeders.  And if you do your homework you’ll eventually find one.  But if you want to make a much smarter decision.  If you want to actually do something good.  As in something that’ll get you points in the hereafter, kindness points, so to speak.  Skip the breeder altogether and visit your shelter.  Guess what, if you look around, and you can visit any shelter in any town, not just yours, you’ll find more pure breds than you’ll know what to do with.  You’ll find puppies.  You’ll find rascals in their terrible twos.  You’ll find seniors who want nothing more to sit on the sofa with you and watch whatever your heart desires.  You’ll find dogs or every size, every breed, every energy level.  I’ve seen Chihuahuas.  I’ve seen Great Danes.  I’ve seen every breed in between.  Take them out of their cage.  Go for a walk.  (No, really, go for a walk with a bunch of dogs.  Even dogs you have no desire to adopt.  You’ll be their hero for the day.  You’ll feel as if you did the greatest deed of all.  You’ll get some exercise.)  And you’ll find your dog.

 

And if shelters get you down.  And I’ll be the first to admit they can be depressing as hell.  (Think of what it’s like for the pups living there.). Go online.  I know you can because you’re reading this online.  Search rescue groups in your area.  You’ll find abuse rescue groups, you’ll find senior rescues, rescues that are breed specific, more rescues that you can shake that proverbial stick at.  Look at the photos.  Find a pooch that speaks to you.  Read his/her story (sorry, a dog is not an “it”).  Then go visit the dog.  Take him/her for that walk.  See if you bond.  Remember this is a lifetime relationship.  It should not end until one of you goes on to the great beyond.  But you WILL find your dog.

 

And if you’re one of those people who really feels the need to spend $2,000 on a puppy, do this instead.  Go to the shelter, or find that rescue group, pick out the puppy of your choice, and write the shelter/rescue group a check for $2,000.  You’ll help not only the dog you’re adopting, but a bunch of others as well.  And that money will go to animals who really need it.  Not to the owners of puppy mills lining their pockets off the suffering of dogs.  Do you really want to support that?  I sincerely hope not.

 

One last thing.  Perhaps you already know everything I’ve written. Perhaps I’m preaching to the choir.  Then great, but I’ll bet you know someone who’s considering a dog.  And they might not be armed with this information.  So inform them.  Tell them to not buy from a pet store.  To never buy a dog from a pet store.  Don’t be embarrassed. Wouldn’t you want to know?  If you had no idea that the folks at pet store were lying to you about puppy mills, and about where your future best friend came from, WOULDNT YOU WANT TO KNOW?

 

Speak up.  Step up.  Do something.

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More top ten…and Springsteen (not the rock star)…

First off, after two weeks I can say that Springsteen is doing quite well adjusting to his new home. Likewise Phoebe has become a great big sister to the pup. I’ll post more pix soon. We’re also closing up all the work on the Connecticut State Film Commission Tax Credit we’re receiving for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and I will be posting a long blog explaining how everything went down, a good how-to for other indie filmmakers in the state.

But for now, yet another Top Ten CD list. This time from old friend Rob DeRosa. For the best of CT-based music you can hear Rob’s radio show on Thursdays on WESU FM, which is 88.1FM. It’s called HOMEGROWN. You can also listen to archived shows at: www.myspace.com/thinmanmusiclabel

Here now is his top ten:

The Hold Steady- Stay Positive. How could an ex Springstee fan not like these guys? Way too many words sometimes and chock full arrangements- that’s what drew me to early Bruce and it’s what enthralls me about The Hold Steady. I just hope there is no Nebraska in them to screw it all up.

The Mountain Movers- Why Don’t We open the Chest. This band is a pleasure. While I loved the horns on the first CD, the less is more approach here works even better. If Ric promises to bring extra strings, I’ll hire them for Daffodil Fest so I can hear this stuff live in my own backyard, so to speak.

The Manchurians 5×4, The Minster EP. I know, my label. But if this and my next picks were not worthy, we wouldn’t max out credit putting them out. This one rocks in a different way than the last one- probably due to Dean’s layering of sounds and his co-writing energizing Roger to write more songs than he ever did. Short- liethey like their live sets- but it kicks ass.

Frank Critelli- Watlzing Through Quicksand. Frank’s songs always had room for a full band and this disc shows why. His songs here are expansive and moving- and the tight band behind him propells him to rock star staus instead of simply the best folkie out there.

The Sawtelles- Dime Museum. Previously a either love ’em or leave ’em style- this CD shows incredible growth and cohesion of their rather unothadox style. Shany Lawson produced them the way it should have always been. Peter’s words are intiguing and Julie sings better than ever before.

MGMT- Oracular Spectacular suffice to say that this incredibly popular band was for all intense and purposes, my discovery. Well. not entirely- but the Wesleyan duo got their first off campus gig from me- as well as their first club date at Cafe 9 and their first airplay on my radio show. Then they went on to play every festival in the world this year( Cochella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading, SXSW, Austin City one, two in australia and a few in Japan.) and get on most big music magazines best of lists. They deserve it. It’s a psychedelic dance fest with pithy, ironic and cheeky lyrics. AND the drummer is nailing Kirstin Dunst. Every young rockers dream story.

Perpetuating the puppy mill…

Okay, here is our application for one of four male lab pups available through Labs4Rescue.com.  I omitted only personal info such as address and phone numbers.

 

Time at current address:    15 years
Own or Rent Residence:    Own

Specific Age Desired:    Puppy

Please specify why are you interested in this particular dog?    There just something about the kindness in the eyes of these specific pups which catches out attention
Would you consider a Special Needs dog?    No
Will you accept a Lab-mix?    Yes
Preferred Activity Level:    Any
Preferred Sex:    Male

Ages of all adults (including yourself) and children who live at your house:    Two adults, 49 and 42, no kids
Do they share your interest in adopting a dog?    Yes
Who is the dog primarily for?    Adult
Who will care for, train and exercise the dog?    Both adults
Does anyone in your household have allergies?    No
If Yes, to what allergens?   
May we visit your home prior to application approval?    Yes

Pet Number 1, Name:    Phoebe
Pet Number 1, Species:    Dog
Pet Number 1, Sex:    Female
Pet Number 1, Spayed or Neutered:    Yes
Pet Number 1, What happened to the pet?:    6 year old lab/hound mix

Pet Number 2, Name:    Kilgore Trout
Pet Number 2, Species:    Dog
Pet Number 2, Sex:    Male
Pet Number 2, Spayed or Neutered:    Yes
Pet Number 2, What happened to the pet?:    Yellow Lab.  Died 4 weeks ago at age of 13 years of tumor on liver.  Full description is on my blog: http://www.GuyWithTypewriter.com

Pet Number 3, Name:    Casey
Pet Number 3, Species:    Dog
Pet Number 3, Sex:    Female
Pet Number 3, Spayed or Neutered:    Yes
Pet Number 3, What happened to the pet?:    Black lab.  Died in her sleep 2 years ago at age of 12.  We believe is was most likely also of tumor on liver.

Name of Current or Primary Veterinarian: Here I listed out vet’s name, address and phone, and stated it was the only vet we’ve ever had.  (I likewise called my vet and gave them the okay to release records if requested.)


Will the dog be allowed in the house?    Yes
How long each day will the dog be left alone (without humans)?    Less than 2 hours per day
Where will the dog stay when it is left alone?    In the kitchen/living room/dining room area
Are you familiar with the use of a dog crate to train the pet during your absence or at night?    Yes
Is your yard fenced?    Yes
If so, please describe the type of fence, its height and the dimensions of the fenced area?    Cedar fence about 4 feet high.  Yard is about 1/10th of an acre.
If you do not have a fence, will you install one?   
What is the approximate size of the dog’s yard area?    1/10th of an acre
Will the dog be walked daily?    No
Will the dog be exercised in a fenced yard?    Yes
Will the dog be allowed to run free without supervision?    No
Will you take the dog to an obedience training class?    No
Have you ever owned a dog?    Yes
Have you ever owned a Labrador Retriever?    Yes
If you have a dog, does he or she receive monthly Heartworm preventative?    Yes
Are you aware that Labs are active?    Yes
Are you aware that the routine costs of maintaining a dog average over $500 per year?    Yes
Have you ever sold, given away, or surrendered a pet to a shelter?    No

Please tell us why you want a dog:    We always liked having 3 dogs.  (We don’t have kids, nor will we ever have kids)  When Casey died, we felt bringing a puppy into the mix was unfair to Kilgore at his age.  So we waited so he would get the most attention in his senior years.  Phoebe is only 6, and thus we want to expand our dog family once again.

Please tell us a little of your lifestyle, your family including any special activities in which your dog would be included:    Gorman is a writer/film editor who works at home (We have a full film editing suite in our attic).  Kris manages a coffee shop.  We are home a lot.

If and when you move, what will you do with your dog?    Dogs will come with up, WITHOUT QUESTION.  We are of the opinion that a dog is like a child.  It should be against the law to just give away your dog, just as it is to give away your kid.

Do you understand the state and local ordinances concerning licensing and leashing?    Yes
Have you, or any member of your family/household, been cited for leash law violations or cruelty to animals in the past?    No

Please tell us how you became aware of Labs4Rescue and its programs:
Other:    Gorman has edited videos for HSUS.  A friend at HSUS recommended Petfinder, which led us to you.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about your application?    If you want to see Kilgore and Casey, they were the star of their own little video which can be found on the first page of my site: http://www.GormanBechard.com.  It’s a cute 45 seconds which will make you smile.

 

 

OK…that plus a $15 application fee got me this response:

 

Will you take the dog to an obedience training class?   No

Thank you for your interest in Marley’s puppies…I have received many
applications under consideration.  As I stated in my bios, one of my
personal criteria to adopt is a family committed to the future
education of their Lab.  Per your application, you have stated that
this is not in your plan.  You many want to consider another great
Lab.

Thank you
Edee
Labs4Rescue

 

Hmmm…kind of rude and abrupt, if you ask me.  And all because I told the truth and didn’t check off a box which would have been so easy to check.

So I pull up the puppy’s pages, and this was the description:

 

VERY ACTIVE, VERY SWEET, AND READY DECEMBER 4! Marley’s Malcolm was born September 18 to Marley, a Yellow Labrador Retriever that was found abandoned just two hours before giving birth to a total of 10 chocolate puppies. Marley is a very sweet and mellow Lab, weighing about 55 pounds. Her rescuers have since adopted Marley and Labs4Rescue has been entrusted with 8 of her babies which will be ready to leave their foster home at approximately 11 weeks of age on December 4. We do not know what breed of dog sired these puppies, but we presume another Lab since they all have Lab features and they are all Chocolate with little if any white on them.

Malcolm, at 8 weeks of age, weighed 11.25 pounds. His fur is dark chocolate and he is all chocolate with only a white blaze on his chest and white tips on three of his toes with the exception being the right front toe. Malcolm is anticipated to be a large, high energy Labrador when he is grown. The puppies are working on their crate training in their foster home and they are very socialized with people and other animals. They love to play with each other, other dogs, toys, and they don’t shy away from water! To adopt one of these puppies, you will need to have plenty of quality time at home, be committed to obedience training, and to a lifetime of challenges and rewards associated with living with a Labrador.

Only one puppy can be adopted by each qualified applicant. Please read our website and adoption process carefully before applying.

For additional information about Marley’s Malcolm please email…

 

OK…nothing there about TRAINING CLASS…so I wrote back:

 

Edee,

 

I’ve stated this because we personal train our dogs, right by the book…quite literally, we follow Brian Kilcommons’ GOOD OWNERS, GREAT DOGS to the letter.

 

I’m home enough to be able to devote the time to training a new puppy. 

 

And all three of our dogs have been very well behaved because of this. 

 

However, if obedience class is criteria for getting one of these pups, and the above isn’t training enough, then we will agree to take the puppy to obedience class.

 

Please let me know…

 

Thank you,

 

Gorman Bechard

 

P.S. If you haven’t, please read my blog www.GuyWithTypewriter.com which in detail describes the death of our last pup and the pain.  You will not find a more caring family.

 

 

To which she replied:

 

ok, will call to discuss further…thank you for expanation.

 

And call she did, the next day…

Imagine my surprised to discover the pups that one would think are in Killingworth, CT…at least that’s the only town mentioned in their listing, are actually down in Memphis, TN. 

(Edee insists the listing specified that the pup was in Memphis.  It absolutely did not.)

After hearing this I explained that I would like to meet the pup before making a decision.  I mean, am I delusional, or is this the responsible thing to do? 

Edee tells me this is not possible, that a lot of people rescue dogs before meeting them.

(My mind is reeling…irresponsible people perhaps.  But I am also questioning what sort of dog rescue group would adopt a dog out to someone they’ve never met?)    

So I offer to drive down to Memphis to meet the puppy before making a decision. 

Again, this is squashed.

(Now I’m wondering what they might be trying to hide?)

The conversation ends, I find her tone condescending at the very least, so I write her this email:

 

Edee,

 

There is nothing on the pup’s listing that mentions Memphis.  The ONLY town mentioned is Killingworth, CT.

 

http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=12404292

 

Which I honestly feel is quite misleading.

 

I am also concerned that I offer to come down there to meet the dog, which I think is above and beyond in terms of responsibility, and that notion is squashed by you.

 

I also take issue that you are willing to give these pups up to people whom you’ve never met, but who just happened to answer the questionnaire in the “correct” manner, and happen to have the $350 fee. 

 

Seriously, a lot of raised red flags.

 

Gorman Bechard

 

 

Edee never wrote back.

But, I cc-ed a bunch of the other people working for Labs4Rescue, and that night received an email about two other male labs, and did I want to see pictures? 

Yes, I did. 

I got the photos and a phone number AND the info that the pups are down in Louisiana.

I called, and spoke to a very nice woman who basically said I could drive down and pick up one of the puppies if I really wanted to meet it first.

I told her I would think about it…though having to go to Louisiana for a puppy seems ridiculous.  Aren’t there a lot of unwanted pups in New England, or in New York, or Jersey?  Hell…I’ll gladly take a three/four hour ride. 

Now, as my application stated, I just recently did a little work on a puppy mill expose, and I know that 99.999999% of dogs in pet stores come from puppy mills.  Seriously, Google any breeder and or distributor you see listed in ANY pet store, and that’s what you’ll find…they’re a puppy mill.

And I really wanted to do the right thing by saving an unwanted pup.

But after just three days of dealing with a rescue group, I’m ready to plop down $1500 bucks at my nearest pet store.  Mind you, I WON’T.  But if I’m feeling that way, I can only imagine the frustration of the average Jane and Joe who just want a dog.

The rescue groups should be helping to put good dogs in the hands of responsible owners, instead I’m seeing that they actually feed the need for pet stores and puppy mills by making the adoption process so over the top ridiculous, or my being misleading with their info, or both.

Rescue groups should be working towards eliminating the need for puppy mills. 

Oh yeah, the woman in Louisiana said that unless it is noted that a dog is being fostered in a certain town, that I should have known that meant it was being housed down south. 

Well considering it says that NO WHERE on their site, how am I supposed to know this?  Through osmosis?  Am I a mind reader? 

I used the largest pet finding website to search for a LOCAL dog…but these dogs aren’t local.  Which is fine…BUT TELL US.  I would never have put in an application for a dog I could not see before bringing home. 

I also feel it’s a nice way to get the $15 application fee.  Bet those add up quickly.

So, yes, I’m frustrated and annoyed.  And yes, I know there are probably people at Labs4Rescue without the rude attitudes.  And who really care about the pooches.  But as a dog lover, I do have a problem with bringing into my home a dog I’ve never met.  C’mon, personality is so much.  And we have another dog…I want Phoebe to feel comfortable and happy with her new little brother.

And likewise, I think it’s very irresponsible to adopt a dog to someone sight unseen, someone who has the $350 fee, and who just happened to check the right boxes.

Something just doesn’t seem right.

Perhaps I’ve spend too much time watching puppy mill footage.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

Or perhaps I’m just not fit to own a dog.

Kilgore Trout (1995 – 2008) R.I.P.

A tumor the size of a grapefruit.  I saw it on the x-ray, filling the space between his liver, his spleen, and his stomach.  Perhaps encroaching on his lungs as well.  Suffocating Kilgore Trout  from the inside out.

At first we thought it was a reaction to Previcox.  A drug given to him just about four weeks ago to help with his hips.  He was having the worst time walking, this glorious pup who would jump, would bounce, like on a trampoline whenever he saw me. 

(watch the clip that now opens my website as proof…it’s 45 seconds that will make you smile.)

At first the drug did wonders, until he stopped eating, starting vomiting.  Side effects all, so many serious side effects.  How could this fucking killer pill be on the market? 

I am angry.  I am seething.  I know Previcox did not kill my dog, but it certainly didn’t help there in the end.  A shot of Pepcid did for a while.  But still the appetite nowhere near the vacuum cleaner-like enthusiasm with which he used to eat.  Less and less every day.  And the vomiting returned.  Bile, from his mostly empty stomach. 

More Pepcid.  But it didn’t seem to help this time.  Finally a trip to the vet.  You could see it in her face as she checked him stomach.  Perhaps we should get him x-rayed…now.  The normally busy hospital would take us NOW.

So I dropped my wife at home so she could tend to our other dog, and drove Kilgore down to Central Hospital in New Haven.  It was quick.  He sat by my feet afterwards as I waited on word.  The receptionist said the vet wanted to speak with me.  She gave me the news.  None of it good. 

How long does he have? I asked.  A few days, was the response.  Or perhaps to the beginning of next week.  (This was a Thursday.)  The x-ray technician showed me the tumor.  It was massive.  All encompassing.  There was nothing to do but make him comfortable during his last few days.

But a small meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken pulled from a breast was all he could manage.  A few strips of it really.  And a little water to follow.  That would be his last meal.  My dog who could eat anything and everything, from a full edition of the Sunday New York Times to financial magazines (he especially loved to “tear into” MONEY and KIPLINGER’S) to, well…anything he could find in the yard., gross or not. 

Whenever I put a 12-pack of beer away, he’d wait patiently, then snatch the empty box as I pulled out the last beer and put it into the fridge.  Then he’d play keep-away with it, or tug-of war.  Or he’d lie right down and start ripping it to confetti. He especially loved Rolling Rock boxes.

But he could eat anything and everything, always without repercussion.  Now, nothing…

He walked around on his own on Friday.  Venturing out into the yard, up on the couch with a little help.  He wagged his tail, but mostly slept a lot.

That night, Friday, what would be his last night (october 24), I slept on the couch with Mr. Trout.  Well, he slept on the couch.  I was mostly on the coffee table, but that was ok.  He rested his chin on my leg, I scratched him behind his ear.

My wife and I kept asking anyone we knew…how would we know when it was time to put him to rest?  Well, he told us.

Kilgore got up twice that night, went out into the yard, slowly, but surely.  But then came the morning.  Almost two days now without food or water.  And when it came time for him to go outside, he made it through the door, but had to lie down after only a few steps.  He couldn’t get up.  We knew…

We had already made an appointment at the vet for Saturday morning.  Originally for a check up to see if there was anything else we could do.  But now I needed to call them, and change the appointment until late in the day.  The last appointment of the day.

He couldn’t really walk, so I carried my friend out to my Jeep and laid him down in the back.  And, the three of us took his final ride.  My wife sat in the back with him, as I went into the vet office to make sure everything was ready.  Then I carried him in and laid him on the table. 

After a while the vet came in an asked if we were ready.  No, how could anyone ever be ready?  But I knew he was in pain, I knew he was so tired, and I certainly didn’t want that thing inside of him to burst.

He lay, as he always did at night, two paws straight out in front, his chin resting perfectly centered between them.  I squatted down so that I was nose-to-nose with my friend.  He never took his eyes off me as the doctor administered the drug that would put him to sleep.

When his eyes finally closed, I kissed his head. Something he so hated until a few weeks ago.  I’d always do it at night, and he rub at the top of his head with his paws as if I’d given him cooties, or something.  It was a ritual.  But he was wagging tail.  And in my heart I always believed he was perhaps embarrassed in front of the other dogs, like why was I kissing his head in public?

But this would be the last time I’d get to kiss the top of Kilgore’s head. 

Goodnight, my sweet prince, perhaps one day we’ll meet up on the other side.

(i.miss.you.)

(so.fucking.much.)

in his spot...
in his spot...