Sometime last summer I spoke with a friend who had just placed the last of her twelve Rottweiler pups. I asked her when she was going to do this again. "Well," she said, "I have to get a second job before I can think about it."
I decided the stress had gotten to her. She wasn't making sense. She'd sold eleven top quality purebred puppies! At the time, I was planning my own litter. After all, friends had been asking for pups from Clea for over two years. I had seven homes already lined up. All I had to do was make arrangements for breeding, go through the whelping, and there I'd be with a pup of Clea's for my own and expenses covered by the sale of the rest of the pups. No amount of cautionary tales from breeder friends reached my ears. I had it planned. I had it covered.
One year later, the only thing I have covered is my ears when someone asks, "When are you going to do this again?"
You see, breeding a litter turns out to be like playing golf. It can be a great hobby. Every once in awhile, someone makes money at it. The rest of us, if we proceed with appropriate concern for the welfare of the breed, the dam and the pups, lose money.
How is that? you may ask. I imagine each story is different. Here's mine. If you don't want the particulars, just let me tell you that I could have bought a show-quality pup from one of the top breedings in the country for less. What price education?
First, Clea had a thorough examination. Her X-rays had already been submitted to OFA and cleared, but a vaginal exam, brucellosis test, shots, baseline bloodwork and general health exam before breeding were in order. Several long distance calls and visits to discuss pedigrees later, and after a flurry of video tapes and long distance calls with the stud owners, an arrangement for a stud was settled. Clea came into season. She and I went to the stud, as is customary, and the stress of travel brought her right out of season. For a week or so, far from home, we waited for her to come back into season. After she did, we visited the local vet school for exams and tests to properly time the breeding. Finally, the breeding was accomplished, and home we came.
Veterinary visits every six weeks or so followed, with an X-ray toward the anticipated whelping date to determine the number of pups. Many long distance calls to ask questions of experienced breeders, searches through catalogs and trips to the store got me a good whelping kit with sufficient emergency supplies for the variety of things that could (but didn't) go wrong.
Statistically, a lot of things can go wrong with a whelping, up to and including the death of both bitch and puppies. Clea produced six healthy puppies. I was thrilled.
I began contacting the seven homes I had lined up. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn the operational meaning of "hubris." The family that had waited the longest, insisting for three years on a pup and only a pup from Clea, had just gotten a Jack Russell Terrier instead! Another had gotten a Husky, having tired of waiting for a dog. Another could not resist a pet shop Pyr. One woman's mother had gotten ill and needed tending, so no time was available to care for a pup. One family had gotten three Australian Shepherds in the last month! One family was moving to Tucson. Three other families had been on my list, but after further discussion with them, and an evaluation of their changing circumstances, I felt reluctant to place pups with them after all.
The long and short of it is that for the next ten weeks, I searched for appropriate homes. Luckily, a wonderful family from California wanted another Pyr, so I placed a sweet male puppy in exactly the right home. I kept two; the stud owner took one. For reasons that still cause me to chew vigorously on my pencil eraser, the placement of the other pups cost about $200 in long distance phone calls and long-distance trips to six homes in order to place two pups. I enlisted the help of club members and referral services. I talked at length with a family in New York, one in Southern California, one in Montana, and one in Texas. The stud owner tried to help. Good friends sent me referrals. Ultimately, although I had tried to avoid it, I placed an ad in two papers and wound up making dozens of futile long distance calls in response to inquiries. "Yes, they bark. Yes, they shed. Yes, they get big." I finally arranged to co-own one provided I would pay for training and showing. The other went to a wonderful farm in northern Oregon, where she is presiding over sheep and goats and chickens and even a cat or two. I paid for early spay-neuter to make that placement work.
There are more costs to come. My contracts promise that I take pups back as needed, and I am responsible for X-rays and GDC/OFA evaluations at two years of age. So, the long term costs will be at least another $800 even if everything goes smoothly and there are no returns.
In the meantime there were the exams, vaccinations and microchipping, along with litter registration fee. I made a number of phone calls to get appropriate contracts to use as models. The feed bills mounted. The time it took to tend, test, train and exercise the little tykes took days from my work schedule.
Overall, I estimate that the pups I kept cost around $1200 so far, more when the X-ray bills for the whole litter come due. This does not count the expenses of raising these puppies. They are both healthy, sweet-tempered and smart. I love them no end, and I don't begrudge the time and money for their obedience courses, conformation training -- sixty miles away from home -- or grooming, food and veterinary care.
On the other hand, if I ever plan to breed my darling female puppy, I will have to find a second job.