Tuesday 27 February 2018


If I remember right, the last time it snowed was 2012/2013. We survived it so I can't fathom why everyone is now panicking.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

A Letter to the Government

Government Consultation

Dear Sir or Madam,

I write to you in response to the consultation on the proposal to ban the third-party sales of pets in England. I am a small-scale breeder of Poodle (standard) producing about one litter per year for the purposes of breed conservation and for canine sports such as agility and working trials. I have been breeding since 2013 and I have never broken even in this 'business'.

I am supportive of a ban on the third party sale of puppies, but have some concerns I would like to draw your attention to about potential consequences were this to be implemented.

As a breeder who provides lifetime support to my puppies' owners, I feel the relationship between the breeder of the dog and the owner is vital. It is very important that the breeder be informed of any health conditions that develop in dogs they have bred, so that they can warn other owners and are aware of what issues might be present in their bloodline and can make careful breeding decisions to reduce the risk going forward. It is also important that if the owner's circumstances change and they can no longer keep the dog, that it is returned to the breeder so a suitable new home can be found. The owner also benefits from the support given by the breeder if there is ever a problem with the dog, since the breeder is experienced and knowledgeable about their bloodline and what problems might occur. If puppies are sold by third parties, buyers acquire dogs in the absence of this supportive relationship, and owners are deprived of specialised support and breeders are deprived of necessary information about the health of their bloodlines.

My biggest concerns about the implementation of the ban would be the effect on the breeding and importation of dogs for what is termed 'retail rescue' and the potential impact on persons who for whatever reason need to rehome an older dog and lack the support of a breeder. Traditional 'rescues' that take in dogs whose owners can no longer care for them are in decline. Often rescue organisations will only accept abandoned dogs or dogs who have been confiscated as part of a welfare prosecution. Many organisations such as the RSPCA have become politicised and are becoming more like animal rights lobbyists than animal welfare organisations. I am concerned that if the sale of any pet animal by a person other than the breeder were to be banned, some people who could no longer care for their pets would have nowhere to turn, and this would result in an increase in abandonment and euthanasia of otherwise healthy animals. One way to mitigate this would be to use the microchip legislation to force breeders to accept back animals they have bred. But in the case of irresponsible breeders who have no intention of offering lifetime support, this could also result in returned animals being euthanised or dumped.

In addition to this, as a conservation breeder, I will sometimes rehome my own adult dogs to carefully selected people if it should turn out dogs I have are not suitable for breeding, or if when they have finished breeding I feel they would benefit from a quieter home with fewer dogs. Sometimes these might be dogs I have acquired from other people, and in the search for unrelated dogs I sometimes import dogs from abroad. It would be impractical for me to have to return these dogs rather than matching them with suitable families. I would suggest that third party sales only be banned for dogs under a year of age.

In the past few years there has been a huge increase of 'rescues' importing dogs and selling them. A lot of these ventures appear to be profitable businesses. The dogs themselves are often sourced from puppy farms, foreign meat markets, or even found on the streets in foreign countries, with the marketing angle being that people buy these dogs because they feel sorry for them and their horrible origins. Such dogs can have serious issues resulting from their poor start in life and often do not make good pets. The welfare implications of owning such dogs are probably worse than buying dogs from domestic puppy farms, and there is a serious risk of diseases being imported. If there is a problem with stray dogs in other countries, trap, neuter, release programmes and finding homes for dogs in their own country should be pursued. I feel that because of this, there needs to be a serious examination of the law on imports of dogs and its enforcement. As a breed conservationist I also feel that this must be done in a way so it does not adversely impact breeders carefully importing dogs from high-welfare breeders abroad to use in their own breeding programmes, as having access to this source of new genetics is vital to the gene pools of many breeds.

Additionally, the government has recently been focusing on promoting the licensing system. I would like to stress that, in my opinion, the best breeders produce only one or two litters a year and invest a great deal of work into raising their dogs and offer the best post-sales support, and are unlikely to be licensed. I would like to see more recognition of the importance of small hobby breeders in breed conservation, and the quality of dogs they produce being the highest available to puppy buyers.

In summary, I request that included in this legislation should be measures to address:

1. Making it possible for persons with a genuine reason to privately rehome an older animal to do so.

2. Preventing the importation of dogs to sell, including under the guise of rescuing. People should only be allowed to import dogs to own for themselves, and all imported dogs should be able to be traced to a breeder in their country of origin as necessary biosecurity.

3. Acknowledging the quality and importance of small hobbyist breeders dedicated to conserving historic breeds and producing fewer than three litters a year, as opposed to commercial breeders producing large numbers of litters every year for profit.

Thank you for taking the time to read my concerns.


Sunday 11 February 2018

Spice Litter Birthday

Happy birthday to Saffi and her brothers and sisters, the 'Spice' litter, one year old today! Thanks everyone for sending me a recent picture of your puppy. It is wonderful to hear from all their families and see how they are doing. :-)

Saffi Pup

Neo, image from his family

Chester, from his family

Fuchsia, awaiting her Master's return!




Links page

I've added some links to blog posts and articles I've written to the Links page on the site. The blog feed makes it difficult to find things and I've noticed a few people linking to the site who seem to be looking for the post about dew claws or the article I wrote about colour genetics for the Poodle Club of Canada. I've tried to include informative articles which people found interesting, but there's also a link to the notorious April Fool's blog post of 2017 for those who would like to enjoy it again.


Adhara gave birth in the early hours of Tuesday the 6th. I had a substantial waiting list for this litter, and I suspected there were not very many pups, as the heartbeats were very difficult to find with the Doppler, and anyone who did not know Adhara would be forgiven for not realising she was pregnant. This is what she looked like a week before whelping:

It turned out there were nine puppies. I have no idea how she managed to fit them inside her. Unfortunately the delivery was not straightforward and this litter got off to a tragic start, as we lost 4 of the puppies, and I've been too stressed and exhausted to write anything on my blog up until now.

Adhara started showing signs of labour late on Monday evening. Soon after, her waters broke and she started passing lochia, a sign that a placenta had detached prematurely. Despite this, she was not having contractions and was lying calmly in bed, and I could feel nothing in her birth canal. I was at my wits' end and preparing to go to the vet at 1 AM. Then, at least 1 1/2 hours after her waters broke, she started straining. I examined her and felt a nose in her birth canal. It took some effort for her to pass the puppy, because of it being the first one but also as it turned out he was dead and already in rigor mortis, but she managed it. She then had two dead runts. The boy could not be revived, but the girl started to gasp intermittently in response to mouth-to-mouth and Adhara's licking. It was now 3 AM and a huge relief when Adhara delivered a live, moving puppy, and proceeded to have five further normal, if somewhat small, puppies without complication.

The runt weighed less than 100 g. While she recovered and moved around normally, unfortunately she would not suck, and would swallow nothing I tried to put in her mouth to help her, and she passed away naturally that evening. Horrifically, on Wednesday evening, one of the two black girls managed to get under Adhara's elbow on the wrong side of her body while she was lying in the box licking the pups, and Adhara leaned on her and killed her. This happened in seconds, minutes after I had checked on the pups, and I was sitting right next to them and nobody made a sound. I'm absolutely devastated by this, as it's one thing to lose a runt or a pup that was born, for whatever reason, on the banks of the Styx, and when a stillbirth happens it's enough just to be thankful that the bitch is okay, but to lose a pup who minutes ago was healthy with her whole life ahead of her, warm and full of milk, is horrendously unjust. This has only happened once before, years ago in the litter that Adhara herself was born in, and I wonder if it may be connected to low birth weight. Although the pups in both litters were healthy, they weighed half as much at birth as Indi's and Hobsey's puppies did. I am so sorry for the person who was waiting for the last place, who that very morning I'd told in honest optimism that the pups were doing well and that fingers crossed there would be a pup for them, and whom I had to tell what had happened and that it was now unlikely there was still a place on the waiting list for this litter.

Because I do not want to lose any more puppies this way, I have been keeping the pups in a basket and having to get them out every two hours for Adhara to feed and lick under direct supervision, which is exhausting. She has been picky about food throughout most of her pregnancy, and is still not eating all or some of her breakfasts, and doesn't seem to produce a huge amount of milk, either, particularly considering there are only 5 pups, and I have been trying to supplement the smaller pups with artificial milk, although it's unclear how much goes in the pups compared to how much ends up on the pups and the bedding. So far the hard work is paying off and all pups have gained weight. I had only planned to breed Adhara once to keep a pup from her, so hopefully one of the bigger girls will be suitable, and Adhara can get back to doing agility, which she loves and is probably rather better at.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Alpacas weathering the winter

The year is still at its nadir, and the animals and garden are intent on just getting by until spring. Snowdrops and hellebores have appeared, only to drown in the rain.

The alpacas welcome neither the rain nor the wind, but do their best to sunbathe when there is any sun to be had.

The emus have not shown any interest in breeding thus far -- you can see Odette behind the pacaboys in the picture. Either they can't stand the sight of each other or the weather is so bad even winter-breeding birds are not interested.