The tragedy of breeder rescue situations

9 November 2017

We have them in every breed: situations where things have gotten out of hand, the animals are neglected and somehow, the humans don’t see it; won’t admit it; and resist help.  And there is no need for me to include a photo similar to what we see on the television during the holiday season.  They are terrible photos.

Last week, I got pulled into one of these situations and lost my life for five days.  The tearful frustration that eventually led to my bowing out of the challenge was precipitated by many deep feelings and, ultimately, a sense of powerless anger.

I think I have a better understanding of these rescue situations, now.  One can’t deny that some form of mental illness seems to play a part, as does a ‘hoarding’ orientation.  Surrounding ourselves with the unconditional love of multiple dogs: they don’t judge us and we feel very much loved.  And as for whether there is a monetary component to these rescues?  It’s unclear.  In 2014, our breed had a large US rescue of 31 Tibetan Terriers where money hadn’t been an issue – but we also have rescues where money is a real problem.  The common underlying element I’ve seen is that the human seems to lose the power of discernment and there is a disconnect between true reality and what they ‘see’.

WB loving 14 year old Mia in Hopkinton, MA. 2006.

14 year old Max on the couch. Popponesset, 2006.

Way back in the beginning of my journey in this breed, I fell deeply in love with my first two Tibetans; littermates, one male and one female.  They both lived to 15 and passed, within one month of one another.  It broke my heart but I didn’t lose my way, as I’d already brought the foundation pair for my Kensington breeding program into our lives and these two young TTs helped me through my grieving.  It was right then and there, I realized I didn’t ever want to go through the death experience again.  And the only way I saw to avoid future death experiences would be to re-home my animals, when the time came to retire them from my breeding program.

I took matters further and vowed to myself never to either become a rescue situation or let my pack grow to a size beyond that which I could lovingly manage.  So, instead of grieving at death, I grieve in anticipation of each of my beloved animals moving on and into new forever homes at retirement.  But it is a ‘softer’ grieving period, as the animals live on and their departure allows for the arrival of a new puppy in my pack.

Is it easy?  No.  Is it painful?  Yes.  How do I plan for it?  I leave it up to the universe and inevitably, the universe presents options and I treat each one as a real possibility.  Toward that end, I’ve been sharing these inquiring forever families who are looking for older Tibetan Terriers with peer breeders, as I’ve learned that the practice is healthy for me and we must share our learning with our friends.  Together, this practice of re-homing retiring dogs can help to keep our breeding packs smaller and reduce the number of annual rescues.

Georgie Girl, now retired and splitting her time between Naples, FL and Concord, MA. 2012.

Along the way, too, there are the puppies I choose to breed and raise.  I’ve been asked many times, ‘How do you give them up?’  Well, I look at my forever families and see the joy that these puppies bring them and my circle of peeps widens, with each litter.  So, I’ve come to think of myself as the ultimate ‘foster’ mom.  I try to stay in the moment and enjoy each dog, each day that we’re together.

And I remain committed to keeping only puppies who are better than my best-bred-to-date.  That keeps the bar high, my brain properly focused and some semblance of order in the pack.

GRCHB Billie on the table at Westminster. 2017.

I do not want a large breeding program, as my mental health requires diverse interests and activities.  And I do like to keep control – ha! – over my pack.  Puppies keep you humble, as you just can’t control everything.  And nursing mothers?  They are a joy to care for and to watch.  When I get a puppy who truly speaks to me?  The older animals help to raise the baby and together, the pack swells and shrinks rhythmically over time.

Oliver in Charlestown, enjoying the breeze. 2017.

In about two weeks’ time, my beloved Oliver will be leaving us for his new forever home in New Jersey.  GRCH Kensington’s Oliver Twist is my pick from my first litter and my first Grand Champion.  At 8 1/2, he is no longer in my breeding program and so, it makes the most sense to have him enjoy his mature years with two devoted humans, where he can be pampered, well cared for and no longer bothered by teething young puppies.  And soon?  He will bring joy and share love with his new humans.  We have so many friends who rotate in and out of our house and our lives – some match our breeding cycles and come to help with new puppies – some come up to visit annually during a particular season or for particular events.  Oliver has been the meeter & greeter extraordinaire.  Of course, he will be missed.  But I would rather hear of his future antics while he enjoys good health, than lose the plot and have him suffer from being one of too many in the pack.

Oliver’s new home in NJ, come Thanksgiving. 2017.

Oskar, Izzie, James, Coppi and Georgie Girl have all come and gone, before Oliver.  Each has been very happily re-homed, beginning in 2010 when Oskar left.  I love when each of these animals comes to board with us.  And I love accepting invitations from their humans who live throughout New England.  I get to see my kids again and they always make a big fuss over me.  These dogs enrich my & our lives and I only want the best for each one of them.

Out for a snowshoe with my good friend, Kate. Stowe, 2017.

In the end, we must take care of ourselves, so that we are able to nurture those around us who depend upon us.  Caring for yourself is not selfish in a bad way.  It is selfish in a good way and necessary for being ‘leader of the pack’.  Asking for help does not imply weakness.  Rather, it implies that you know your own limitations.  Asking someone whether they need help?  That’s a demonstration of love.  And knowing one’s limits and being able to identify when you’re getting too close to the edge?  THAT is when we learn to ask for help from our peeps.  Through collaboration, we can make it a better world.  And I have yet to not feel good, after being asked for help.

Going forward?  Know that you can ask me for help and I might just ask you for the same.  ;>)

One comment

  1. Maureen says:

    THIS was a perfect essay on this often painful subject. Kudos to you my dear!

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