***Please Note: The following article is in no way endorsed by any of the named entities, Star Yorkie, the ASPCA, etc. It is merely an opinion piece written by the author on a whim. Cited names/brands are for example, only.
I like to publish a lot of pet owner advice, and even share some tales of our own four-legged friends, here on Time Out Truffles- but there is something on my mind (for months now) that I have yet to divulge.
You see, I have long wanted a toy breed dog to add to our family. While chihuahuas are commonly the most readily available, there is one breed that has held an unparallelled place in my heart; the Yorkie. By definition a Yorkie falls into the toy breed, most often weighing less than 8lbs, full grown. However, there is another 'genre' that garners an equal amount of heat as it does praise- the 'teacup' Yorkie. Teacup dogs are, by definition, less than 5lbs full grown, and often 4lbs or less. Many reputable breeders, and AKC show parents, turn their noses up at the term 'teacup'. I am no expert, but I consider myself an intelligent woman, and I do necessary research to educate myself on many topics. I have seen both sides of the fence, but it boils down to; a teacup puppy is a puppy bred by smaller frame/weight parents, in hopes of siring another 'teacup'.
Teacup litters aren't always 'teacups', they will (when purchased from registered breeders) always be of good pedigree and registered, but there is no true way of knowing the adult size of a puppy at conception, or even birth. Of course, breeding teacup puppies is a practice that brings in a great amount of income worldwide each year- so a formula of sorts has been devised to estimate a puppy's adult weight/size as early as 12 weeks. This is based on an average adult size for the puppy's 12 week weight, vs recorded weights for adult dogs of similar measurements. Sounds quite complicated, right? Well, it is, actually. And, unfortunately, there are many 'garage' breeders that have little grasp of pedigree, or even basic veterinarian health, and sell these pups at a hefty price. Even worse, are the poor puppies cranked out and sold at a fraction of their 'worth'.
Now, I've already, likely, stirred up many emotions and thoughts in you, my loyal readers. Hopefully some good (or at least thought provoking), but history leans towards the negative stigmas associated with such thoughts. Believe me, I have likely had all of those thoughts- to the point of keeping me up at night. If I was to adopt such a puppy, how would I know it would be healthy? How do I know the breeder is legitimate? How can I justify paying such a hefty price for a puppy, when there are so many in shelters? The latter, being my biggest moral struggle, and precisely the reason I have spent months now turning on the computer (in the morning) to check updated Breeder Sites, Craigslist Listings, and the Local Animal Shelter. Because, first most, I want a family member. Whether that new addition costs $1200, and comes from a breeder, or $250 and hails from a shelter; is not the important part to me.
Before you can fairly comment on my query, you should know just a little bit more about me. It can be assumed, by reading this blog, that I am a wholehearted animal lover, who spoils her pets. I have also never bought an animal (discounting the 'adoption donations' at shelters and $10 'rehoming fees' on Craigslist). I have also never been one to turn my nose up at an animal for it's pedigree, or breed, and have owned (or cared for, but most important LOVED) everything from a Pit Bull to a Chihuaha, to a Mutt. I am always the first to volunteer for pet-sitting when a friend goes away, and for near a year my home was open as an in-between house to rescues from the local shelter. Frankie was rescued from a second chance house up in Northern California, and Truffles was adopted from a stray litter locally. I am, for the most part, a shelter girl.
Now, the issue I am having, is a long harbored love for Yorkies; built on several long term relationships with dogs of this breed. Whether it be a roommates dog, babysitting a neighbor's pet when it would get loose, or playing with my aunt's 2 angels during holidays. Traditional or 'teacup', I love the teddybear faces, the hypoallergenic coats, and their wonderful personalities (which I've also associated with intelligence). In general I want to add a canine to our home, but I want a canine small enough to go everywhere with me! I work out of the house, and would rarely be away from the pup; but would prefer to take the pup along whenever possible. Small dogs (no matter their weight) have health risks, and can easily get into mischief, I know. They are also high energy, and require lots of interaction and love; which I have plenty to give.
Whether teacup or not, the 'Yorkie' breed is often considered a purebred and will run several hundred to adopt; obviously more the smaller they are estimated to be. The concept of 'buying' a family member terrifys me; only for the sake of the animal itself. How can I be sure the animal is coming from a loving breeder, and under the healthiest of scenarios? Many of the larger, reputable' toy breeders offer a 1 year health guarantee, and health check. Buying from a breeder also means I would have support for any breed specific questions, training issues, and general concerns. The pet would be relatively socialized, primarily peepad trained, and have a documented personality. Now, if I am 'buying' a dog, I am not going to be rushed- I will be picky. And I don't mean picky in the normal breed snob sense (about ear structure and pedigree, or even appearance), I will, however, be picky about the personality match. I want a dog that makes my heart jump! And, for this reason, I have been in absolutely no hurry.
Because I am in no hurry, and I am (essentially) waiting for the animal to find our family; I regularly keep all options open. I am not set on a teacup Yorkie. I do not demand our new family member be a certain color or breed. Yes, I have a favorite local breeder wesbite I check religiously, but I also know my heart could fall in love with a sad face from the Humane Society. Now, having adopted many animals that were not puppy/kitten age (in fact Truffles was my first puppy/kitten ever), and all from shelters or broken homes- I also know the trials of going that route. It's hard for me to say that adopting from a shelter is without it's own shades of grey. In fact, I have had many awful experiences- from animals becoming severely ill and dying, to personality issues that endanger other animals and people, to 'shelters' scamming people for hundreds of dollars. I've seen a bit of it all. I know many of the concerns I might have with a breeder are just as justified at my local shelter. And, since it is not the money I am afraid of losing, it is the animal, my heart is the most hesitant.
Dogs, in my opinions, are no less than people; pets are family, children. There are thousands of homeless dogs, in hundreds of breeds. Dogs wind up at the shelter from bad breeders. Dogs wind up at the shelter from poor pet owners. Breeders will breed whether their dogs sell or not. And sometimes those dogs even wind up on the streets. To shun a reputable breeder for selling dogs is (in my opinion) no where near equal to the crime of a pet owner who neglects their pets, or allows them to breed because they are not fixed. Pointing fingers for the animal overpopulation is almost a fruitless task. Do I jump at the chance to pay $1400 for a dog, of course not. Do I feel the animals at my local shelter are treated in accordance to their $2-300 adoption 'donation/fee', no. I could be upset about both sides of the fence all day; but none of it will complete my family, or give a deserving animal love. And, as I am not a breeder; I am a forever home, I feel my love is just as needed by those teacup puppies, as it is those animals sitting in a cage (at the shelter).
In all, it boils down to this- Our family will soon grow by 4 tiny paws. I have loved so many great animals, of all walks of life, and every age. This time, it will be a puppy- next time, who knows. Other than that, I cannot say if I will buy are 'adopt'; but, in my opinion (no matter how much or how little the money), we are adopting. We will love our new family member like a child, provide it the best healthcare we can, and spoil it rotten. And, of course, we'll keep you tuned every step of the way. Here's hoping there are puppy kisses in our future!