Drifterís Story: A message for breeders

Why go to a responsible breeder?

Drifter died the second full week in September 1992. He lived to see his five-month birthday and his story is not atypical of the purebred dogs that wind up in rescues and shelters, a fact that rains shame on breeders who falsely profess to love their breeds and the breed club that exists to protect these wonderful dogs.

Drifter was an Akita puppy born to a dam out of pet store stock and a sire from champion parents. The owner of both sire and dam said he didnít even know the bitch was in heat, and he blamed his girlfriend for not keeping the dogs separated.

Drifter was a poor example of his breed, He was long-coated, his ears flopped, his eyes were too large and his eyelids drooped, his tail was soft, he had malformed front legs with severe growth plate problems, and he was almost certainly dysplastic. His radiograph showed evidence of a front leg fracture that had healed itself. Two veterinarians advised that he would suffer constant pain and probably would not be able to carry his adult weight on his fragile legs. His play sessions lasted scant minutes, probably because his legs hurt, and then he collapsed. He had trouble getting up, especially in the morning and after a long nap. He was euthanized so that he would not have to endure a life of increasing pain and crippling.

The person who owned the sire and dam of this litter was ignorant of both knowledge about dogs (let alone Akitas) and of the consequences of producing this litter. He should not own an intact dog. But the one who was really responsible for this travesty was the breeder who sold him the male and helped him acquire the female.

Conversations with Drifterís owner, his fatherís breeder, the pet store owner who sold his maternal grandparents, and the person who produced his litter brought forth the following information. Drifter's father was purchased, his owner said, for $500 and stud service rights from a well-known Akita breeder, who also arranged for him to acquire a bitch produced by pet store parents. The breeder said the dog was a son of a champion sire and dam and that the dam was a full sister to Drifter's mother. Drifterís litter was linebred on pet store stock.

When Drifter came into the local Akita rescue chapter, his sire's breeder urged the rescue to make sure the litter's producer didnít get the puppy back. She said that she and his former girlfriend were trying to get the dogs away from him. She said that she evaluated the litter at nine weeks and saw nothing wrong with the puppies except that two males were long-coated and that one coated puppy appeared to be clumsy. She purchased a bitch puppy from the litter.

Drifter was sold to a man who had no business buying a dog, let alone an Akita. Neither the buyer nor the producer of the litter was certain when this man bought the puppy (the buyer said he had the pup about four weeks, the seller said it was only a week or maybe two), and the buyer never gave the pup a name. We do know that he was surrendered to Akita rescue in Cincinnati at 14 weeks of age because the buyer said he didnít have time to spend with a puppy and that his eye and front leg problems were quite evident at that time.

Drifter looked like a St. Bernard mix puppy. He had a wonderful temperament, was soft and cuddly, loved to play, and was quite bright. But he was euthanized in September because of slipshod breeder practices and failure to screen puppy buyers.

His sire's beeder made the original mistake in selling a dog to, and arranging for the acquisition of a bitch by, an ignorant buyer ó a mistake that was compounded by the failure of Drifter's breeder to behave responsibly to his dogs and then to the puppies they produced. He finally placed Drifter's mother with a friend because, he said, she was born in a barn and never adjusted to living at his home. He said she will be spayed. However, he kept a bitch puppy from the litter.


Screening puppy buyers involves a tremendous commitment on the part of the responsible breeder, and the margin for error inherent in the process allows irresponsible breeders to excuse their errors in judgement. Those who produce large numbers of litters are more likely to make such mistakes simply because they must find more and more homes for their puppies. Rescue organizations see patterns emerging as dogs from irresponsible breeders encounter the rescue network. Obviously, some breeders are on the wrong track. They lament puppy mills and discourage people from buying pet store puppies, yet they accept pet store bitches for their studs for the fee. They breed litter after litter without care for the consequences. They talk novice owners into elaborate puppy-back co-ownerships that result in breeding litters that should never be produced. They spend thousands of dollars to finish a dog, then breed solely on the Champion of Record credential. It doesnít matter that bad bites, joint problems, bad temperaments, and poor conformation show up wholesale in the litters. They are interested in winning for its own sake, winning to boost their egos, winning to jack up the price of their puppies. They sell this litter to anyone so they can make room for the next litter. And puppies like Drifter are born in pain and suffer the consequences.

Drifter could be an anomaly. The dogs that produced him may never produce another genetically unfit offspring. But he could be an inevitable result of inbreeding or linebreeding on pet store pedigrees. The fact that some puppies in his litter (or any other litter from pet store stock) are _phenotypically_ correct does not make them suited _genotypically_ for breeding stock.

The litter sister purchased by the breeder of Drifter's sire has a championship and has been bred.

(Modified from an article that appeared in the October 1992 HEADlines News; a national newsletter for Akita owners. Used with permission. Reprint requests to Canis Major Publications )

[More on finding a dog]

Norma Bennett Woolf

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