I got the mixed-breed, money-wasting blues


What's your take on this doctor's take on "designer dogs"? Comment now online.

Stand back! It's been a frustrating day at work. When I arrived at the clinic this morning, I was immediately pounced on by a large, shaggy puppy. As the puppy bounced around the waiting room, his owner raved on and on about the bargain she'd found. She'd purchased this labradoodle for "only $1,500!"

I see more and more clients with high-priced (excuse the expression) mutts. Many of these dogs come from local breeders, one of whom has a stud poodle on the loose. This "breeder" sells labradoodles, puggles, lhasa-poos, yorkie-poos, cockapoos—you get the idea. Another kennel does the same with Chihuahuas. (I admit chorkies are cute, but when my aunt's Chihuahua and yorkie hooked up a few years ago, she was begging people to take the puppies, not selling them for outrageous prices.) These clients arrive at my practice carrying official-looking "papers" from the breeder after having paid $300 to $800 for a fad puppy. Do they even realize they've bought a mixed-breed dog?

It's not the dog—it's the price!

Don't get me wrong. I love mixed-breed dogs; I own two great mongrels. What bothers me is seeing clients pay extraordinary prices for these so-called "designer dogs" while millions of purebred and mixed-breed dogs, available at low prices and longing for homes, are killed in our shelters annually. If people weren't buying mixed breeds, maybe breeders would stop mass-producing them and more shelter and backyard animals would find homes.

Eventually the unruly young labradoodle left the office, but as the day progressed, I saw two more pet owners with their own new high-priced mutts. (I realize these individuals may become excellent clients, but that's not the point.) One relayed her story of how she had, with much difficulty and diligence, located her new pom-poo on the Internet. She announced how much she'd paid for him and asked if I thought that was a good price. Putting aside my usual bedside manner, I told her I did not think it was a good price, considering that her new puppy had ear mites, an overbite, an umbilical hernia, impetigo, and intestinal parasites. I told her the local humane society was offering similar puppies—vaccinated, dewormed, and neutered—for a fraction of what she'd paid. Furthermore, I added, it had been my observation that the price of a puppy for sale on the Internet bore no correlation whatsoever with the quality or health of that animal. Did I mention that this particular client was a close friend? We clearly need to educate potential pet owners about pet selection, shelter adoptions, and the value of spaying and neutering pets.

Melody Heath, DVM

Home at last

Fortunately, the pom-poo was my last appointment for the day, so I hurried home and vented to my husband. He suggested that considering the math (11 pups at $1,500 each equals $16,500), perhaps I should hang up my stethoscope and breed mutts. About that time my niece showed up and asked if we wanted to play her new Monopoly game.

"Only if I can be the Scottie and own Boardwalk," I insisted. She gave me a strange look and dumped out the game pieces.

"What the heck?" I asked.

My husband picked up the dog figurine, examined it, and confirmed my worst fears.

"It's a labradoodle," he said.

You, too, Parker Brothers? I give up!

Dr. Melody Heath is an associate at Viewmont Animal Hospital in Hickory, N.C. She's pictured with Daisy, a white-beagle mix adopted from the Asheville Humane Society. Send comments to ve@advanstar.com

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