Dear past and future puppy owners,

I loved them first.

I thought of you, years before you even realized. I planned for and cared about your baby long before you started thinking of adding to your family. I worried about your future with that puppy before you even knew there would be one.

There were hours upon hours spent researching lines for the parents of your puppy. Going over breeder after breeder, choosing not only my dog/child but looking for a complementary dog that would produce the best puppy for you as well. Worrying if you'd be happy, if I had chosen correctly, and that your puppy would grow up healthy and happy. Going over puppy after puppy with fellow breeders, running over my program with as many knowledgeable breeders as I could, determined to not miss anything. Tracing lines back as far as I could, learning the ins and outs not only for my knowledge, but so that I was informed & prepared to go over every detail with you, to answer the questions that sometimes you don't even ask.

Then there are the years of watching your puppy's parents grow. Loving them and enjoying them as part of my family. Taking them every where I could, training them, socializing them, showing them new games to play to help express their individual talents, watching how they fill out. Asking myself if I had made the right choice in both of them. Scrutinizing their conformation, how they move, their intelligence, ability to form a bond or relationship and their overall temperament. Then there was the stress of health testing. Praying not only that my babies were structurally and physically healthy, but that they possessed the genes to make your baby healthy as well.

Finally came the time to put your puppy's parents together. For the next 63 days I worried, I obsessed, I grew excited. I watched your puppy's mom like a hawk. Making sure my baby was okay, monitoring her diet better than I do my own. Concerned that she was getting enough of the right nutrients and that your growing puppy was getting the best start possible. I spent hours on the couch, floor, and bed with her watching her tummy grow and anxiously waiting. As your baby and mine grew, I laid my hands on her belly and felt the first movements of your puppy. As the time grew close I spent most nights with her beside me, taking her temperature, and making sure she didn't go into labor without me knowing, in case something went wrong and one of our babies needed help. When your puppy was born and placed into my hands, I held my breath as I cleaned them up, watching their movement and breathing, checking them over, and wondering if you'd love them as much as I already did. I helped your puppy's littermates when they had trouble waking up. I grew anxious as we checked the babies for clefts and heart problems when they were only minutes old - I finally could breathe again when given the 'all clear'.

For the next 24 hours I laid in a 5x5 foot space with my baby and her babies so she grew accustomed to being with them and didn't worry about where 'mom' went. For the next 8 weeks my life revolved around puppies. Watching them grow and making sure I was doing everything possible to make sure they started their lives the right way. Making sure each one was getting enough to eat, weighing them 2x a day, giving them enough socialization time, exposing them to new 'safe' people, dogs and places. I was the first person they saw when they opened their eyes. I spent my weeks playing with them and keeping them safe.

I searched for you and interviewed you. As you spoke I tried to read your character. Would you love that puppy as much as I do? Would you bring it in as part of your family? Would you care for this tiny life that I brought into this world, that I am responsible for? Some of you were turned away but some of you were welcomed into our family. The day you took your puppy home was harder than I'd ever let on (even though I cried for each one). I was excited for you but I was also terrified. Had I chosen correctly? Were you who you seemed to be?

My love and worry didn't end there. I have thought about your puppy regularly - saddened when I didn't get updates, ecstatic when I did. I hoped you were caring for your puppy the way I care for mine. I answered your questions happily and would answer them again. When your puppy's brother got neutered I waited on word he was okay. If one day, a puppy's parents decide it no longer fits into their life I will welcome them home with open arms - sorry that I had chosen wrong for them, and determined that it wouldn't happen again.

I loved your baby first and I will never stop.

Author: Heather Andelin

What is a Breeder?

"A Breeder (with a capital B) is one who thirsts for knowledge and never really knows it all, one who wrestles with decisions of Conscience, Convenience, and Commitment. A Breeder is one who sacrifices personal interests, finances, time, friendships, fancy furniture, and deep pile carpeting! She gives up the dreams of a long, luxurious cruise in favor of turning that all important show into this year's "vacation".

The Breeder goes without sleep (but never without coffee!) in the hours spent planning a breeding or watching anxiously over the birth process, and afterwards, over every little sneeze, wiggle or cry.

The Breeder skips dinner parties because that litter is due or the babies have to be fed at eight. She disregards birth fluids and puts mouth to mouth to save a gasping newborn, literally blowing life into a tiny, helpless creature that may be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams. A Breeder's lap is a marvelous place where generations of proud and noble champions once snoozed. A Breeder's hands are strong and firm and often soiled, but ever so gentle and sensitive to the thrusts of a puppy's wet nose. A Breeder's back and knees are usually arthritic from stooping, bending, and sitting in the birthing box, but are strong enough to enable the breeder to show the next choice pup to a Championship.

A Breeder's shoulders are stooped and often heaped with abuse from competitors, but they're wide enough to support the weight of a thousand defeats and frustrations. A Breeder's arms are always able to wield a mop, support an armful of puppies, or lend a helping hand to a newcomer. A Breeder's ears are wondrous things, sometimes red (from being talked about) or strangely shaped (from being pressed against a phone receiver), often deaf to criticism, yet always fine-tuned to the whimper of a sick puppy.

A Breeder's eyes are blurred from pedigree research and sometimes blind to her own dog's faults, but they are ever so keen to the competition's faults and are always searching for the perfect specimen. A Breeder's brain is foggy on faces, but it can recall pedigrees faster than an IBM computer. It's so full of knowledge that sometimes it blows a fuse: it catalogues thousands of good bonings, fine ears, and perfect heads... And buries in the soul the failures and the ones that didn't turn out.

The Breeder's heart is often broken, but it beats strongly with hope everlasting... and it's always in the right place!

Oh yes, there are breeders... and then there are BREEDERS!!"

Author unknown