My family had two dogs in my youth. The first was acquired for free through one of my dad's patients, who's dog had a litter of puppies they wanted to get rid of. Our second dog was the offspring of a friend's dog, which they did pay for. My mom's childhood dog was also a freebie.
Our dog acquisition story was completely different, as we did not know one person with puppies to dispense to friends. I found that seeking out your own dog is much more complicated than getting a freebie puppy. Maybe I made it more complicated than it needed to be, as I was determined to be educated and responsible about the whole thing. I learned a lot, so I thought I'd pass on my experience in 12 easy steps to prepare/help another novice for the process.:
Step 2. Become familiar with your state lemon laws on buying a dog... like if the seller is legally required to provide you with a state health certificate. Other good protections are a contract allowing you a few days to have the animal checked by your own vet and a health guarantee (1 year, 5 year, etc.) on the animal.
- A responsible breeder who adheres strictly to the AKC breed standards, tests their animals' health rigorously, and ideally shows their dogs creating "champion" lines... which seems kind of obsolete since it will be a family pet and you'll be neutering it but, hey, you want a healthy dog
- The animal shelter.
Step 4. You will soon discover that breeders who adhere strictly to the AKC breed standards, rigorously test the health of their animals, and show their dogs creating "champion" lines, have waiting lists months out for expected litters and charge more than a mortgage payment for their puppies. Budget and common sense will prevent you from forking out the money. Instead, you will obsessively contact every breeder of your Step #1 breed you can find within a 6 hour radius, in hopes of finding a puppy that comes close to your budget. You will not. You will wonder who all the people are that are paying for dogs at these prices. Don't they know our economy is in the tank?
Step 5. You will then move your search to the local dog shelter. There you will discover that the majority of the dogs available are: Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Pitbull/Rotweiler mixes, Bulldogs, or Bulldog/Pitbull mixes. None of the dogs here are on your Step #1 list.
Step 6. One day, in a moment of weakness, you will visit the website of a local pet store. And then again... and then again.... Soon you will become comfortable with the idea of irresponsibly buying a dog from the pet store. Upon inquiry, you will learn that they also charge the equivalent of a mortgage payment for their dogs. Their dogs are supposed to be inferior. Apparently, they don't know that. That's okay, because puppy mill horror stories have been haunting your conscience anyway.
Step 7. One day, in a moment of desperation, you will search for puppies on a local ad website. You will find that the majority of dogs available are: Yorkies, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, and Pitbulls. None of these dogs fit the list you created in Step #1.
Step 8. Your local news channel will play a segment on people who are burned after buying dogs from ad website sellers. This will scare you back to responsible puppy research.
Step 9. The process of finding an affordable Step #1 dog from a responsible breeder has become like an addiction for you. It is the ultimate puzzle to be solved. Your husband will become overwhelmed by the blackhole you have fallen into and declare he is willing to share a home with any breed of dog, in hopes that this will facilitate a decision and he will soon have his wife back.
Step 10. Your parents will not understand the trouble you are having (see second introductory paragraph), and wonder why friends with puppies aren't knocking down your door to get rid of them. You will curse Bob Barker and the spay/neuter campaign, resent that your friends aren't overburdened with puppies, and wish that your streets were filled with stray dogs to take in. You recognize the irony of being so selective about buying a dog, when you wouldn't care what breed a stray dog is... But you can't help yourself.
Step 11. After weeks of research with nothing to show for it, you will decide that maybe you have been too close-minded in your breed criteria and consider new breeds. Repeat steps 1-10. This will always lead you back to your original list.
Step 12. Finally, when you can't take it anymore and you think you're brain will literally fry, through divine intervention you will find your puppy (responsibly or irresponsibly- it's your choice)! You welcome your sanity back, your husband will welcome his wife back, and your children will be elated with their new furry friend.
Now, you just hope your puppy will live up to all your expectations after spending the best years of your life on researching and hunting for the "perfect" dog.
So far, she is.