When we were brand new at this game and had just started breeding our dogs, I was always surprised by the strange questions and strong beliefs of people who truly knew nothing about dog breeding whatsoever. Now, I’m not trying to sound pompous or superior in any way, but truly...this story reflects the fact that there are some people, no matter how much science, biology or plain fact obviously state otherwise, they continue to believe what they believe. “DAVE” is a perfect example in this humorous retelling of the tale.
Once upon a time, before the internet and the ability to research EVERYTHING...When folks began contacting us inquiring about the pups we had for sale, either via referral, newspaper ad or because they’d heard thru the grapevine, I always made it my first priority to educate them. Were they familiar with the breed? Did they know how large a Standard Poodle was? Yes...surprisingly enough, some people had never seen one, and often, especially people who didn’t grow up in this country with the privilege of having a dog accompany them through their childhood, a poodle, in their mind, was a small to medium sized dog and NOT the 70-80 pound giants they would encounter upon entering our premises. We often used this to our advantage when traveling and “hoteling it” by simply saying that, ‘Yes...we did have a dog...but it was JUST a poodle!”
I asked whether they knew what would be involved in grooming and exercise requirements, and whether they had a fenced yard. But, when I was blessed enough to be speaking with someone who had previously owned a Standard, this entire process was much less formal as they were obviously aware of most of the things I was trying to relate.
And so it was with Dave. He had recently lost his Standard and was looking for another.
Seems, once people have lived with them, they rarely return to any other breed, but are true to the superior intelligence, non shedding/hypoallergenic qualities and overall incredible personalities of the Poodle. Dave was no exception. We spoke on the phone a few times. (Remember, this was in the days long before every household and cell phone had email access) but I never actually met him in person. He lived in the lower mainland and we were on the Sunshine Coast at the time.
This particular summer, two of our girls had each blessed us with the arrival of nine beautiful, bright-eyed and boisterous babies. That’s EIGHTEEN puppies people! That’s a minimum of 4 - 6 poops EACH puppy per day, or close to one hundred “clean up in aisle five’s” PER DAY every day for at least 5 weeks or more than 3500 poop scoops! That’s constant face wiping and bum cleaning, and weekly bathing and nail trimming (18 pups is 72 toe nails to clip) so you can imagine how taken aback I was when Dave showed up to pick up his puppy and when he basically blew in the front door, announcing “Hi! I’m Dave...” while tiny red and apricot faces peered over the gated off kitchen, tails wagging in excited anticipation, and then he boomed while pointing to the passel of pups, “which one of them dogs was born first?”
“Sorry?” I questioned, brow furrowed and trying to process what it was he was asking.
“Which one of them dogs was born first?” he repeated.
Somewhat stunned as I’d never been asked that question before, I stammered, “Well, I’m not sure I can answer that Dave...why do you ask?”
“Cuz I don’t want that dog!”
“Oh?” I replied, my defences started to rise right along with my protective Irish temper.
“And why is that?”
“Cuz it’s gonna be aggressive.” He stated matter of factly, hands on his hips surveying the sea of wiggles all vying for his attention.
“Really?” I could feel the indignation rising in my throat with just that single word.
“And why is that?” I asked. Eyebrow cocked and posture shifting.
Now Greg and I have something we call the 2% “Whack-a-do Factor” which means, that no matter what business you’re in, you’re probably dealing with 98% decent, good, reasonable and honest folks, and then...there is the rare 2% you occasionally have to deal with who are totally whacked out. Guess which category I had already placed Dave in?
And then, with absolute authority, a straight face and deep sincerity he nodded his head knowingly and actually said to me, “Because it had to fight the hardest to get out first!”
My first response was to glance around the room thinking, “OK, where are the candid cameras?” Fortunately it was only a thought and not actually spoken out loud. I blinked, not once or twice, but a few times, trying to gather my thoughts and attempt to deal with situation at hand. Dave and I were alone. I was so grateful Greg wasn’t there because I KNOW he would have just burst out laughing and asked, “What planet are you from Buddy?” while doubled over, holding his stomach and trying to catch his breath. Greg’s always been known to control his emotions in situations like this and maintain his composure.
I searched Dave’s face. There was no smirk, no twinkling of an eye, no body language that remotely signalled this was a prank. He was serious. My next vision (and understand, this was all happening in nano seconds as I was trying to extricate myself from this situation with a modicum of decorum and was still unsure I could pull it off) was the visual of a water balloon filled to bursting with swimming puppies in boxing gloves, floating around, attempting to beat the crap out of each other, each of them hell bent to be the first dog to dive head first into that vagina. It was REALLY hard to keep a straight face while I endeavoured to begin my canine anatomy explanation.
“Well, you see Dave,” I touched my finger tips from each hand together as I pressed my tented index fingers to my lips to keep from laughing... “It’s kinda like this...
Dog’s don’t have one pear shaped uterus like we women do...they have two long “animal balloon” shaped tubes that run up each side of their bodies. The pups are laid in there like peas in a pod and they meet at one end like an elongated “Y” with the birth canal at the bottom. The pups are born one at a time, from either horn with no rhyme or reason as to how the pups are delivered. They don’t always alternate sides with one pup being born from one and then the second from the other, and one side may even be completely emptied before the other even begins, or they may spill two pups from one side and then one from the other until all the pups are born... I was gesticulating madly with my arms flailing, hands attempting to draw a clearer picture than this poor 50+ year old sod had envisioned previously, while thinking all the while that I was providing a service to humanity...when he interrupted.
“Nope...that ain’t how it is...” He set his mouth, hitched up his loose fitting jeans by the hips in an attempt to tuck in his more than slight paunch and he shook his head adamantly.
“Well...Dave...” I tried to begin again, “I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” I thought about pulling out one of my illustrated breeding books and then thought better of it...I had tried.
This was in the days before we colour coded each pup at birth with neck ribbons in order to monitor their weight three times a day and their feeding habits in between stints in the human baby incubator we now possess, as well as any other health concerns or behavioural monitoring was even a consideration. We weren’t even tattooing or micro-chipping our pups yet. As breeders, we were still relatively new to the game, (remember, it was almost 20 years ago) and at birth, identification hadn’t even entered into our protocol yet. Hell, we didn’t even have a contract! Looking back, we were so naive, and yet so fortunate not to have had to deal with anything serious. But for now, in THIS situation, what was I to do?
Usually creative and quick thinking but not one accustomed to telling anything but the truth, (even little white lies make me uncomfortable.) I guess I’m just not smart enough to keep my stories straight in my head, so telling someone one thing one time, and then trying to remember what I actually said is just too complicated for my brain.
Today, however...I broke my own rule and fudged JUST a little. You see...four of the pups had already been sold and they were all marked with the names of their new owners on small ID collars they wore proudly around their little necks. I pointed accusatorially to two of the pups wearing the bands and said, “They were the first borns” as if I were giving up homie’s in a gang related shooting.
Dave just snorted. “Poor bastard’s that end up with them dogs!” he muttered under his breath. He chose his puppy, paid me and left. It was this incident that had me drafting deposit contracts that clearly stated that “We have the right to refund a deposit at any time up to and including the pick up date of the said puppy if we personally feel it is not in the pups best interest to be placed with that family.” It remained front and centre on all our contracts from every day forward since. It’s not that I felt Dave would be a bad dog owner. He certainly had shown in our previous conversations that his other dog had been a loved and cherished member of their household, so I didn’t feel like I could just NOT sell him the puppy we had both committed to in a written contract, but it DID make me more aware and was the catalyst for change in our re writing and re wording of a new one. 2% Thanks Dave!