I need to get serious for a few minutes. A friend has tapped into my guilt over breeding my dogs and I need to explain my feelings. When my first litter was born in 1961 I was a kid and the breeding was accidental. Yes, my bitch should have been spayed and would have been if I had the money available to do it at that time. I believe very strongly in subsidized spay and neuter programs. I really think a big part of the problem would be addressed if more people were able to afford the procedures. Yes, vets need to make a living, but pet overpopulation is their problem, too.
Anyway, even though I was quite young, I managed to find good loving homes for my puppies and as I stated once before, they lived into their teens. Since the time I had that litter and my second litter, in 2006, I have shared my home with eight rescued dogs, all of whom were either abused or neglected. We also took in two others that we fostered and found them safe permanent homes.
When I got involved with Portuguese Water Dogs I didn't intend to breed, but slowly came to that decision. We proceeded only after all health screenings were done. Right up to the day we bred Samba, I still wondered if I was doing the right thing. I am terribly aware of the numbers of dogs and puppies that desperately need homes. I have even had doubts at times since my pups arrived as to whether I did the right thing.
Bentley was my first PWD and as much as I loved him, he was not the finest example of breeding. I very much wanted to combine certain lines and produce the best litter I could. Fudge is from a fine line of American produced show dogs and Samba is from Portuguese working dogs. I think our pups are a great combination of the two. Every day when I look at them I feel pride and amazement at what we've produced. Having held them when they were seconds old and having been there for every event in their lives, has given us a very special bond.
We now have twelve dogs, eight PWDs and four mixed breed rescued dogs that all still carry baggage from their early days of abuse. We have had to work extra hard to get past their early memories and behavior problems, but it was worth every minute. I don't think we treat our mixed breed dogs any differently than our purebreds. They get the same food, health care and training. They travel with us and sleep with us. There is no difference. We will probably own more rescues in the future, as there is no shortage of them.
Yes, I feel guilty at times. Perhaps I am perpetuating the problem. My females are all spayed and all but two males are neutered. Fudge was purchased on a breeding contract. I am obligated to either freeze semen or keep him intact. I'm not sure I'm finished showing him, so for now he will remain intact. Noah is currently intact. I haven't made up my mind yet what I'm doing with him. He will certainly not be allowed to roam or have access to any intact females.
I have read a number of reports lately on the medical pros and cons of spaying and neutering. Our breed club recommends waiting until the animal is fourteen months old. We had Bentley neutered when he was 6 months old and he had a number of problems with his back and legs. He never developed the heavy muscles that I see in my current PWDs. I don't know if waiting is the reason, but if it saves the dog the pain that Bentley lived with, then it is surely worth waiting.
Will I breed again? Probably not. I won't say never. My guilt is close to the surface on this subject and I can only do my best for my dogs and encourage others to do the same. I try to be available to my puppy buyers for any help or encouragement I can give. I can support local shelters and continue my own education on health and legal issues. My dogs are now, and have always been an important part of my life.