June 10th, 2004, I bought a puppy.
I met his breeder in a gas station parking lot the day before, spoke with her for 20 minutes, and played with four puppies. Two bitches and two dogs.
There was one puppy in that litter that always kept my attention. He was big, burly, and a loud mouth. He demanded I pay attention to him and only him, though one of the sisters was the same and tried to get me to ignore him. He bit my fingers, and sat on my feet. He crawled in my lap and he kissed my nose.
That was my puppy.
On June 10th, 2004, I gave the breeder $250...my high school graduation money, and I took home one black and tan bundle of trouble. He squirmed and cried on the way home, not out of fear, but annoyance. He tried scrambling over the seats, searching for something to do, and he rolled in everybody's laps. He wagged his stubby little tail, and I smiled at him, all of the great things I had planned for the two of us running through my head.
Just an 18 year old girl and an 8 week old puppy on our way to do great things together.
It is now June 4th, 2008....6 days away from when I got that puppy. The puppy is now four years old, has his CD, his RN, and his CGC, and he is working on his BH, NA, NAJ, and CDX.
That puppy is Strauss.
I don't know what possessed me to do so, but after four years, I drove back out to that gas station...finding it was a miracle. I wasn't sure I could remember where it was. I only knew it was a BP out in Kewaunee. But I'll be damned if I didn't find it.
I asked the woman inside if she knew anything of the other puppies that had been sold, as when I had met the breeder four years ago in that lot, she had been dropping off a sister to a worker in the station.
The long and short of it is that the woman that owned her is in prison...and she'll be there for a long time. The store worker has no idea what's become of the sister, but gave me information on the puppies she knew about.
They're dead. Most of them anyway.
One brother was struck by a car and was later put down for health issues caused by his injuries. Two other brothers were put down for temperament issues...biting people. One sister was put down at 6 months for "hip dysplasia" (idiot vet never x-rayed her...she may have just had pano). The other 4 puppies are "Missing" for lack of a better term. I don't hold any hope of finding them.
To the best of my knowledge, Strauss is the last of the 9....and I'm probably the only one who cares.
There's not a **** thing wrong with this dog aside from the fact that he's got a semi floppy ear. He's drivey, and sweet, and has a temperament to die for. He's well trained and just an overall good dog. Sure no couch potato..probably why his siblings ended up with such poor ends. Never socialized and never trained.
What would have happened to my Mouse if he hadn't found me? What would have happened to me if I hadn't found him?
People tell me all that time that pedigrees don't matter, and titling doesn't matter, and if a dog knows how to come and sit, that it's good enough. They tell me that pricing doesn't matter, and that the breeder doesn't matter, they "just want a pet".
Let me tell you something...it DOES matter, DID matter, and WILL matter for all the puppies from litters like Strauss's.
I didn't expect to feel such grief over the knowledge of all their losses...but I swear it was like Strauss died 5 times and she listed each puppy that had passed for one reason or another.
He JUST turned 4 in April. How many of the rest of them even made it that far? Not that one sister for sure...dead at 6 months.
I honestly feel like I've lost family, and can't help but think of how unfair it is that one puppy, ONE blasted puppy ended up in a good home out of pure dumb luck. I can't believe how unfair it is that this ONE wonderful puppy is sound in temperament, and body, and spirit, and the rest met their end far too soon.
I didn't breed these puppies, didn't own these puppies, didn't even meet all of them. I did not sell them or train them.
So why do I feel responsible for them?
Why do I feel so guilty over their loss of life?
Why do I feel such a heavy burden for a problem that somebody else created?
I love my Strauss to death, and I thank whatever omnipotent being that may exist every day that he is mine, and that one puppy out of nine found his way to a good home. But I will always wonder if his siblings felt a quarter of the love I feel for this one puppy.
Rest In Peace brothers and sisters. I hope you've found a place for yourselves.
Go hug your dogs. Thank your breeders, your rescuers, and your foster homes...and say a little prayer for the family that may have been lost.
I will be damned if anybody will tell me that pedigrees and buyer screening doesn't matter.