Here she is. My little legend. Our Suki.
Suki was a very carefully selected, deliberate choice for our family. After a disastrous experience with a previous dog (years ago), we were reluctant to make the same mistakes. Years after that experience I knew that having a dog as part of the family HAD to happen. After all, I'd always grown up with dogs as part of the family and it felt wrong to deprive my children of that experience. Even after the last time. So on went years and years of research.
The right choice
I spent a very long time researching the right breed to fit in with our little family. Realising that part of the issue before wasn't just the breed we had chosen (a particularly mental Sprocker Spaniel), but it was also the way we tried to train him that created such a monster. We were loathed to make the same mistakes again.
Time and time again, French Bulldogs came to the top of the list for small families. But I was reluctant. From everything I had seen or read, Frenchies were riddled with health problems and came at a price. Because they are so sought after, backyard breeders had popped up all over the country, claiming to have the 'best of the breed' and slapping gigantic price-tags on really unhealthy and badly bred dogs. I was nervous. But time and time again, no matter how I adjusted my parameters, the Frenchie seemed to be the right choice for us.
Taking the plunge
After months of consideration I started to make enquiries. I had done enough research to know what to avoid. I needed to find a dog that had a good temperament, who could breathe without labouring and who had good, clear skin and eyes. Their nostrils needed to be wide enough to breathe without struggling and they had to show little to no whites of the eyes when looking straight at you. This much I knew. I decided that perhaps going for a rescue might be the best way. We didn't want to feed into the business of bad breeding and knew that dogs needed rescuing all the time. What we didn't know, was how impossible that would be. The French Bulldog re-homing groups had waiting lists longer than you can imagine. Every time a picture was posted of the latest abandoned Frenchie, there would be hundreds of comments within seconds. After quite a while of being unsuccessful at this approach I called all the rescue centres I could, no luck. Then I started to look into this a little further. While most of the dogs re-homed were absolutely fine, there was always this inherent risk that the dog in question may not be completely settled given its previous life. There were reports of dogs that had gone into homes with small children and were snapping at and biting them. It was a risk I wasn't willing to take. So, we decided to start looking at buying a puppy.
No-one could prepare us for this bit. We started the hunt for a puppy but we wanted to be sure that the people we were looking to buy from were reputable and not going to fleece us or sell us an unhealthy pup. We also didn't want to put cash into the hands of someone who was going to use it to continue their backyard breeding operation, or worse still, their puppy farm. It was harder than it sounds. After a lot of searching, we eventually found someone who seemed to be legitimate. She sent me photos and videos of her available pups and they looked like beautiful, healthy dogs. She gave me the price (£2,000) and told me that I could come with the kids and the hubby and meet him. We mulled over it. It was a lot of money, but it seemed to be the kind of price that you paid for a 'good example of the breed.' After weeks of discussion with this woman, a rapport was built and we discussed everything about the dogs; what their temperaments are, how to train them, what to expect. She continuously sent me pictures of the dog we were looking to buy and eventually we agreed that I would bring the family over to meet him. They were based in Colchester so it would be a good hour and twenty minutes to get there, so we planned the date and I asked her if it was set in stone as I wanted to tell the kids. She agreed. It was put in the calendar and I told the kids the exciting news.
The date was in the diary and we waited for what seemed an eternity. Then it was the day! Excitedly I got the kids into their coats and we talked about what the little Frenchie would be like. Would he be grumpy? Funny? Crazy? Sleepy? We got all our bits together and headed to the door. Then my phone pinged.
"I'm sorry for the short notice but my business partner wants another £1K for the dog."
That took the price up to £3,000. At the last minute.
All of my senses were screaming that it was wrong. Months of conversations with this individual, years of research and it was all to end in us being duped. I was devastated. But not as bad as the kids were.
Luckily I'm a suspicious bugger by nature so I had made a back-up plan. A family up the road from us who had four Frenchies as pets and allowed the bitch to have a litter. They were regular people who loved their dogs and I called them that minute to see if we could come and visit. They were happy for us to come over.
Love at first sight
We arrived in a family home with a floor full of puppies. The first thing that I noticed (not that I had a choice), was the Mum barging past them all to get a cuddle with me. The dad sat in the corner eyeing us grumpily and padded over to say hello. The puppies were everywhere! We sat on the floor of the kitchen while chatting with the owner and her husband and she encouraged us to carefully pick them up or to let them crawl into our laps. That's when we met Suki. It really was love at first sight. I could see that the parents were beautiful, calm and loving dogs. The pups were beautiful and sociable too. Plus, the household was busy! There were children, people coming and going, DIY projects, literally every kind of distraction and the pups were fine with it all.
We decided to be sensible and revisited Suki several times before committing, but what made me even more set on buying from these people were their insistence of only allowing the pups to go with people they trusted and at 12 weeks instead of 8 weeks. The owner was honest about any health issues (one of the pups had water on the brain so she was refusing to sell him to anyone), plus she demanded that people who were interested come with their passport and a utility bill as proof of ID. She wasn't letting her babies go with anyone and when we arrived, she confided that asking for those helped to keep the 'nutters' away.
Home at last
Finally, after what seemed like a VERY long wait, I went to pick Suki up with my little boy. She cuddled up to him all the way home and settled in instantly. We cannot believe how lucky we have been with her. Her temperament is wonderful, she is so calm and friendly and she loves my two children so much she just wants to spend all day in their laps. It's been such a different experience to our last one.
So, if you are considering getting a puppy to complete your little family, make sure you do the right research and consider your options. There are so many crooks out there, especially if you start looking at the pedigree breeds and 'desirable' dogs.
Be very careful. However, if you do it right, it will be so worth it.