Being a breeder is, for me, not as much a title or an end goal as it is a journey, complete with peaks, valleys, unexpected curves, hidden pitfalls, and many, many mile-markers. I passed one of those mile-markers this weekend.
We are constantly asking ourselves, “What is best for my dog(s)?” What’s the best diet? The best vaccination protocol? The best preventatives to use? The best trainer to work with? Until it happens, we never imagine that when we ask ourselves what is best, the answer will be, “Not me.”
As more and more dogs have come to populate my household, it has become increasingly apparent that Ian is not happy living with a whole pack. Though Magnum was on an extended stay at my mother’s house, Ian has been unhappy and on edge. Even when he has had one-on-one play sessions or walks, the joy on his face has quickly extinguished once the gang is back together again. He is on edge around the puppies and is always on duty as the Fun Police. Because of all this, I made the decision to place him with another family for a trial run, to be made permanent if he proves to be happy there, and they are happy with him.
Ian was my first Cardigan and I call him my “gateway dog” because if he hadn’t been so wonderful, the rest would not have followed. I cut my show handling teeth on him. I learned to groom on him because OH BOY did those curls need taming. I earned my first AKC title ever when he got his CD, and learned — the hard way — that Open obedience is indeed called The Heartbreaker for a reason. I had my first introduction to agility training with Ian. From the first moment I saw his photo on Karen’s website, I knew he was my dog, and I never would have imagined that there would come a time when he wouldn’t be.
As a breeder, and a “dog person,” my driving force is to do the best by my dogs. That is a simple imperative — simple, but not easy. SO not easy. It absolutely broke my heart to take Ian and leave him there, despite the fact that they are an absolutely lovely family and a wonderful home for him. I am only thankful that I could hold it together until I got out the door, because I didn’t want to upset Ian by being upset.
Because the hard fact is that, if I am to continue on this journey as a breeder, this will not be the last time that I have to let go of a dog that I never thought I would. One comment breeders frequently hear is, “How can you bear to part with them? I could never give my dog away.”
I once wondered that same thing. But something I’ve learned along this hard/wonderful/heartbreaking/exhilarating road that I’ve chosen is that it’s not because we don’t love them; it’s not because we are eager for the next set of ribbons on the wall, or because we only value dogs who are valuable in the show ring or in the whelping box. It’s not because we want to “get rid” of dogs once they are no longer “useful.”
It’s because, sometimes, the answer is, “Not me.”