There are many excellent articles on the internet that explain and warn about getting a Newfoundland dog from a back yard breeder. In spite of that, more and more Newf puppies are being churned out this way. While this type of breeder has always been around the dramatic increase in recent years is something that troubles me deeply. When Newf Friends Newfoundland Dog Rescue did a statistical analysis, it turned out that 77% of their surrenders originated with back yard breeders.
My suspicion for the cause of the many folks jumping into breeding Newfs is the price they now command. Here in southern Ontario prices from reputable breeders range from $2000 to $3000. Such prices are due to the high costs involved in doing it right including the many health clearances being done these days. For someone looking at these prices and only planning to incur the most minimal of costs, this might resemble winning a lottery. Without the costs and other constraints of proper breeding practices it is easy to undercut the devoted breeders and still make a substantial profit.
Realizing that technical articles on BYB’s are obviously not enough to combat this scourge I began looking for a way to go past the facts and logic and get to the heart of the matter. However I couldn’t think of any way to do this until I received an e-mail from Tami Baker. With her kind permission I now share her note and my reply with you first here in the Newf News and then over the internet.
Dear Mr. Maniate:
My name is Tami Baker and my husband and I have recently lost our Alice a Landseer beauty in brown and white. I am certain you have heard before from other Newf owners that theirs was/is a very special dog. Alice was more than special to us, she was our best friend and making the decision we did to put Alice to rest has left us broken hearted. I can tell you I have never felt a loss like this before!
Alice was only 4 and half years old. She was born the runt of a litter of 10 and when we first saw her at 5 days old we were told then that she had what the breeder called a “funny gait”. Still I was drawn to her and for the next 8 weeks we went to see her, bottle feeding her for the first few weeks until she was strong enough to fend for herself. When we brought her home we had our 3 year old granddaughter still at home with us and the two of them formed a bond like I have never seen. Even when Hannah moved out (with her mom and Dad) I would tell Alice that Hannah was coming home and she would get up and sit at the door waiting for her to come. I learned not to say it too soon before her arrival as Alice would not move from her spot. Young or old Alice was kind and patient with everyone. She had the ability to know when you were happy or sad and always gave comfort when it was needed.
As she grew it became clear that she was going to have trouble with her hinds. She never did do stairs inside of the house but could manage the couple up to our front door. We even built wide and low stairs to the back yard for her so she did not have to struggle. We began a medication regime and moderate exercise. Alice never did run; she only did a bunny hop with her back legs moving in tandem. When she was younger I took her to daycare a couple of times a week so she could play but once the legs started really giving her trouble we stopped for fear she would get hurt with the other dogs running around her.
By September 2015, not quite four years old, Alice needed TPLO surgery on her right hind. We went ahead with the surgery and although the procedure went well, her preexisting condition made the recovery very difficult and painful. She never did regain full use of that right hind. We did continue with physiotherapy and medication; her outings had become limited to the back yard only and then just to the front.
After Christmas this year Alice started having great difficulty getting up at all; she required assistance to lift her bottom up just to stand. At this point I must tell you she remained as sweet as can be even though she was in such pain. Her meds at this time now consisted of Tramadol, Gabapentin, and Metacam; without these meds she was suffering pain. We took her back to the surgeon who performed the first surgery and he told us the other leg needed to be done (TPLO) but given the outcome from the first and the advanced arthritis they would give no guarantee she would get up on her own again. We had not been given any alternatives. Alice’s life had been reduced to laying on her bed and being carried outside and back again.
My husband Tom and I agonized over the lack of options given to us. We loved our girl; she had become our fifth child (we raised 4 human ones), but we feared doing this surgery and putting her through more pain without success. Was it selfish of us to do this to her because we could not bear to let her go? In the end Tom and I decided to put Alice to rest.
During this ordeal I began to research options and try to learn as much as I could. I tried to contact the “Breeder” only to find out they are long gone. When we got Alice we were not educated on back yard breeding and things that can happen when these dogs are bred without the care and attention that I now realize was not given to Alice and her siblings as it should have. We believed these people when they told us the linage of the dogs was perfect and without any concerns. I can tell you even if I had been educated, having met Alice, I do not know as I would not have taken her, funny gait notwithstanding. She was a one in million and I can tell you our lives are much better for having her be a part our family. I trusted when I should have been more educated and that is guilt I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Through my research is how I came across your web site and I have to say your articles and really your overall philosophy of breeding is what led me to want to reach out to you. Your many years of being a breeder and obvious lover of Newfs I had hoped you may be able to help us come to terms with this decision and to help us moving forward. We are not sure if we will ever get another Newf, I would be so afraid that we would end up in the same position again. Neither Tom or I have really been able to talk about this to anyone, it has been too painful. We want to move forward and we want to do so being very well educated. We both hope to someday be ready to have another Newf in our lives as the void that Alice has left is huge. We know she will never be replaced but perhaps with the support of people like yourself we will be ready to bring another one into our lives and give them the same love and respect that they give us. We would be sincerely grateful for any advice you may have for us to move forward.
I did add a couple of pictures; the first is Alice in her pristine beauty and the second one is Hannah and Alice after swimming at the cottage, both tired out!
Most respectfully and sincerely,
Tami and Tom Baker
My heart goes out to you. No one should be put in such pain.
While Alice certainly had physical challenges her temperament reflected the special benevolent character of the Newfoundland breed in all its glory.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about not being educated about back yard breeders as most of us do not start out that way. When my late wife and I got our first Newfoundland in 1975 we found out later and to our utter dismay that we had purchased her from a BYB. Pooka’s physical condition was excellent but her temperament was not that of a Newf. When she attacked our toddler son we realized the full extent of our mistake. We tried to keep them apart but my wife was also threatened when I was not home. Having chosen this breed because they were not only supposed to be good with children but also because they’re natural nannies and protectors it was with extremely heavy hearts that we took her to the vet for the last time.
To most people the term back yard breeder is just catch phrase often made even less sinister when we use the acronym BYB. Your recounting of what this phrase could really mean in terms of human misery is well written and very heartfelt. I believe that when something goes wrong we should look for whatever good we can salvage. In this case you can help educate others by letting me share your ordeal. As more and more folks are clued in it will be harder for BYB’s and their more commercial counterparts, puppy mills, to continue to thrive at the expense of both the dogs and the adopting families. There are warnings on the internet such as this one from the website of Newf Friends Newfoundland Dog Rescue but they do not have nearly the impact of an actual story like yours. While you did get to enjoy for a short time the immense joy of having a Newf, it becomes clear that a breeder has a duty to do their best to produce dogs that are sound in both body and soul.
Just like falling off a horse where the sage advice is to get back on, the same principle applies to losing a Newfoundland. You should consider getting a puppy or adult Newf from a reputable breeder or from an approved Newf Rescue organization. Here is a referral list for breeders in good standing with the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. For approved Newf Rescues check out Newf Rescue Canada’s regional contact list.
If you don’t feel quite ready to get another Newfoundland just yet you can still get back on the horse by volunteering with your local Newfoundland Rescue. This way you can ease back into Newfdom as you and your husband are obviously meant to have a Newfie as part of your family.
Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979. In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.
Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.Newf News