04 June 2020
Time to Say Goodbye
By Lynda Goetz
One of the most appealing photographs in my newspaper this week was of a record-breaking litter of fourteen Labrador puppies (mixed black and golden) rather amazingly lined up and posing beautifully. Three thoughts crossed my mind: firstly, how thrilled the breeder must be; secondly, how exhausted the bitch must be; and, thirdly, admiration for the skills of the photographer. I have found it virtually impossible to get a good photograph of all eight of our puppies together (at least since the stage when they could only just toddle across the floor): maybe it’s to do with the breeding.
Ours are designer ‘Pattadoriels’ (Mum is Labrador x Patterdale, hence Pattador and Dad is a pedigree field Spaniel), or, as they used to be called, mongrels. Unfortunately for us, at least from a financial point of view, they do not feature on the list of desirable crossbreeds. These are, as we now all know, cockapoos, cavapoos, labradoodles, jackapoos etc. These so-called designer dogs, as well as Kennel Club breeds like Labradors and Cocker Spaniels (the latter made even more popular by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge owning one) are, it would seem, currently fetching rather eye-watering prices.
Not only the Daily Mail, but The Economist and other newspapers, have recently noted the inflationary rises in puppy prices, as many people have seen lockdown as an opportunity to fulfil the dream of owning a puppy. Puppies are undeniably cute, but do most people really appreciate the costs not just of buying a puppy, but of owning a dog? There are the costs of feeding and of insurance or, alternatively, of unexpected veterinary bills, not to mention the cost of kennelling when away on holiday. Nor, indeed, are there just the financial costs to consider, but the time involved in owning a dog needs to be factored in. Like children, they need attention. How is this going to work out when life gets back to ‘normal’? Even if there is more working from home in our post-Covid world, there will still be days when there is no-one in the house. What happens to the dog then? Will it be left to have its own form of isolation breakdown?
Children are beginning to go back to school. Lockdown is being relaxed. For us it is rather sadly time to say goodbye to our puppies, who were eight weeks old on 3rd June. We have watched them from the moment they were born; from being helpless little slippery bundles to being incredibly lively, cuddly characters wreaking havoc around the garden. They appear to have boundless energy and an endless desire to run, roll and wrestle.
We are, against our better judgement, keeping one, but the rest have good homes to go to. Without even advertising, we found homes for all of them and could have sold even more than seven had our poor bitch managed to produce more. However, we are not charging thousands for them, not even many hundreds. We did not breed them for the money, but simply for the fun of doing so. As a family we have really enjoyed them and they have certainly made lockdown a time of new life and joy, rather than frustration and despair.
Of course, we had no idea this was going to be the situation when we elected back in February to commit to mating our bitch Pepper and looking after her puppies. Mongrel she may be (Labrador x Patterdale not of course being a recognised designer breed) but so many people had said ‘Oh, if she ever has pups, could we please have one?’ that we decided it would be good timing. We could never have anticipated how good; wonderful weather and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of people wanting puppies. It will be sad to hand over ‘our’ puppies to their new owners. They are all individual characters and over the last eight weeks we have got to know them all. We are fortunate to know all the homes they are going to and to be sure they will all be looked after and valued – even if they didn’t cost the earth.
If you really want a dog and are in despair about the lack of puppies currently on the market, it might well be worth waiting a while and adopting a ‘rescue’. I predict there will be plenty of these to be found in the months to come as people realise, once the kids have gone back to school and work beckons, that they wanted a puppy but don’t really want a dog. When dog walking is no longer one of the few forms of exercise available, sports are back on the agenda and we are allowed to exercise anywhere in the country, it is almost guaranteed that there will be deflation in the puppy market – if not perhaps in some others.