A trip to a Missouri Pet Auction.I have included this story in my scrapbook because it is a memory I feel good about. There are many pros and cons about whether going after her was right or wrong, I was not the breeder of this dog however I owned her father. I want to thank Dorie Hurley, Millbrook Kennels for writing the following detailed account of the events so eloquently.
Suzy's story begins in early 2006 when Vanassa Sypher was informed that a bitch sired by one of her stud dogs was being sold at a Puppy Mill Auction in Wheaton, MO. After much conversation and soul searching, and with the auction less than 1 week away, Vanassa decided that she was going to MO to try to rescue the bitch that was out of her breeding, and anything else we could save. We thought that they might go cheap enough and we could get all 10 of them out of there. Vanassa asked me if I could go with her and I immediately agreed to go. Luckily I have a Great Aunt who lives in Indiana and an Aunt and Uncle who live in Springfield, MO. This was a 17 hour drive for us and we were going to need a place to stop for the night. After a few phone calls it was arranged to stay in IN for the first night, drive to MO the second day and go to the Auction on the third day.
The trip to MO was quite uneventful. Vanassa was living on Tums and I was losing my fingernails. We stopped only to eat or sleep and answer the call of nature. We arrived in MO in the late afternoon on February 9th. I had told my aunt and uncle why we were going and they had told my cousins we were coming. My cousins all placed orders for their favorite Tasty Cakes, which is a small cake like treat that they don't sell in the Western areas. The most interesting visitors that night were my cousin Jamie and her husband Steve. Steve is a dog food vendor that sells dog food to the Puppy Mills. (At this point in my story I will start to refer the the Puppy Mills as Commercial Breeders) He and Vanassa sat and talked for hours about what to expect at the auction. First, the word puppy mill was not to be mentioned at the auction. In the west, Puppy Mill meant Lancaster, PA. The Commercial Breeders of the west despised the Puppy Mills of Lancaster. They felt that the breeders of Lancaster made them look bad. As of this point in our trip Vanassa had been living on about 3 rolls of Tums. I think this alone called for another roll. Steve also told her where we should sit, what we should do and how to conduct ourselves.
The morning of the auction dawned bright, but cold. We said good-bye to my Aunt and Uncle. They wanted us to come back and stay with them again that night before returning home, but we knew we wouldn't. We had no Idea of the dogs we were going to try to rescue and would not expose their dog to anything we were unsure of. We drove the hour to Wheaton, MO and found a place to eat breakfast. Steve had told us that the auction would start at 8:00 and the dogs would start to sell around 10:00. As we neared the auction site we saw two large buildings, connected by an enclosed walk way. Steve had advised us to get our numbers, get a catalog and then go look at all of the dogs. He stressed that we not spend too much time looking at any one dog as that would only serve to drive up the bidding. As we walked through the dog building it became obvious that the conditions were not what we had feared. These dogs were clean, well fed, and groomed. The bedlingtons had about 1 inch of hair that was not dirty or knotted. The Yorkies were all in coat and had the skirts to their feet. As you and I know, this hair doesn't grow over night. Now I will admit, these dogs were being auctioned off at an auction house. I was not on the private property of any commercial kennel. However, there was no stench of dog and people were doing around cleaning up feces and spraying urine down drains.
We found the bedlingtons and Vanassa was instantly able to pick out the bitch that her dog had sired. These dogs, all 10 of them, were all in the same pen. Each dog had a number tag tied to their neck and after checking the number with the catalog we were able to confirm that this was indeed the proper dog. We moved on and stopped to look at a few more dogs, but were going over the catalog. We saw that Suzy (which is what we later named this dog) had been bred to a male who was also being sold at the auction. We found his number and wandered back over the the bedlingtons. We saw him and took a good hard look. Cameras were not allowed so we had to commit him to memory. We also took note of another bitch whom we later named Holly. Holly was a little bitty skinny thing. And then we realized that she was pregnant also! It broke our hearts and we were glad we were going to attempt to rescue these dogs. During our walk around we came across a family of Airedale Terriers. There were four dogs in this pen. It was the mother, the father, a 10 month old puppy and a 3 month old puppy. I fell in love with the 3 month old. He was just sitting there trying to figure the whole thing out. My heart cried out for him. As we continued to walk around I noticed a group of people going around to the cages, taking each dog out and examining it. No one else was able to handle the dogs so I kind of watched him. He was checking each dog and calling out comments to the others with him, such as, Missing teeth, cyst on back leg, Missing an eye, in season and bred and showing and more. We finally forced ourselves out of the building. It was just too hard. We found some seats on the bleachers and watched the auction. At this time they were selling items like heating pads, food and water buckets, automatic feeders and more. It was strange to sit there and see something so normal take place just before the dogs were sold. I used the restroom so many times I think people were starting to wonder about me.
Finally the dogs were up. The auctioneer went over the terms of sale, methods of payment and the Bruco guarantee and the terms and conditions of that guarantee. The first dogs to be sold were Pomeranians. There were 30 Poms being sold with a total of 583 dogs to sell that weekend. Here is how they sold the dogs. They had 4 to 5 people bringing the dogs out. Since Poms were small, each person had 2, one in each arm. They had dogs number 1-10 and put them on the table. Just looking at the catalog for hints the auctioneer would say stuff like "Good mother, has been running with a male, seller saw a tie last week." "Good mother, free whelper average litter of 5-6 pups" Every comment was directed at making that bitch more desirable as a breeder. So now the bidding begins. The highest bidder gets the dog of his/her choice. Then the bidding starts again until all 10 of these first dogs are sold. Then another 10 come out. If one of the dogs was pregnant and showing, the person with the dog would stand her up on her back feet to show her belly! Instantly the price for her would jump! The top price for Poms was $675.00 and it was a pregnant bitch. The father of this litter was also sold for $675.00.
Next up, the Pugs. There were 31 pugs being sold. Top prices were $655 and $650. The comments were She tied on Jan 25 and 27th. This one was on her hind legs showing off her belly. The other one was Bred and due on March 6. She was also showing off her belly!
Next up were Papillon's. They didn't bring too much as they were left over Christmas puppies. They were from a litter born on August 16, 2005. Not old enough to breed and too old to sell as puppies.
Next, the Airedales. Here in begins the story of Reggie. The four Airedales were brought out and I just choked up. I decided that if he didn't go too high, I was bringing that pup home. I sat back and listened as the auctioneer tried to get 400, 300, 200 and finally settled for an opening bid of $50.00. I watched it go for a bit and jumped in. I looked no where but at the auctioneer just nodding my head each time he looked at me for a bid. I ended up paying $165 for the little guy. His mother sold for $80.00 and his father and brother sold for $50.00 each.
Next up were the Bichons. Here is where I believe that a large rescue group was involved. These dogs were selling for $775 and they were taking all the dogs on the table. They had started out bidding for each dog, but jumped in and bought "lots". There were 28 Bichons sold that day.
Next up, Tibetan Terriers. Only 2 were offered. A female and a male. Each brought $1,500.00
Next, Welsh Terriers. 5 were offered and the highest price again was for females at $850.00.
Westies were next and, as I am sure you are guessing, a pregnant female brought top price of $575.00
It was about this time that the auctioneer was cautioning people about being sure they got the right dogs. Someone had received the wrong dog and was on their way home with someone elses dog. I decided to walk back to see if my Airedale pup was still there. He was, and on my way back I was stopped by someone. They asked me if I just bought the pup and if I wanted to sell him. I asked why they wanted him and they said they just wanted to take him home. I stated that was all I was going to do. Turns out they were from Airedale Rescue and had purchased the other 3 Airedales. I told them not to worry that the pup would be staying with me, in my home. They seemed relieved, but a bit skeptical.
I worked my way back to the auction to see the last of the Westies sold. Next were 3 Kerrys, all sold for $350 each.
Lakelands were next, 2, which sold for $1,500 and $900.00. Guess which one was the bitch!
There was one Lhaso for sale, a pup for $400.00.
Now we hit the Bedlingtons. Remember the format of the auction. Highest bidder gets first pick! There were 6 females and 4 males. The females were brought out first. Suzy was immediately put on her hind legs. She was bred, showing and BIG! Her last litter had been 9 pups. She was only 2 1/2 years old at the time. The auctioneer couldn't stop talking about how rare these dogs were and was doing everything he could to drive up the bids! The bidding started and Vanassa bit the bullet and jumped in. She finally ended up winning the bid and selected Suzy. The price that she paid was in excess of $3,000.00. The bidding started again and I couldn't help myself. I followed my heart and purchased Holly. As stated, I spent over $2,000.00 for her. We sat there and watched the rest of the dogs sell. We couldn't afford any more. We had taken the 2 pregnant ones and left them with the rest. The father of Suzy's litter sold for $1,275 since he was proven. Holly's sister also sold for over $2000.00. Two of the bedlingtons, 1 dog and 1 bitch did not sell, and the balance sold for $1000.00 each. The two that didn't sell were not sold because there was a reserve of $1000.00 that was not met. Both were APRI reg and boasted 11 and 12 champions in their pedigrees. The bitch was 5 years old, had produced litters and was due back in heat. However, 5 is getting a bit old for a Commercial Breeder's dog. It was only after this was all over that we finally absorbed the amount of money that we had spent. We were a little stunned, but did not regret for a minute what we had done. We said Goodbye to the people we had sat with and went to collect the dogs. Our only regret was that we hadn't been able to get them all.
We paid for our dogs, got their paperwork and a pick-up slip. We took our pick-up slip to the dog building and they went and got our dogs. Suzy came out first. We took her and put her in a crate. Holly came out next. Poor thing was so skinny it was heartbreaking. Then came Reggie. As a 3 month old pup he was bigger then the girls. He wrapped his paws around my neck and hung on. Vanassa had to peel him off of me. We got in the van, looked at each other and let out a big sigh. We had done what we could and had at least gotten the bitch we wanted. We left the auction around noon and headed home. The plan was to keep switching drivers until we got home. About 15 hours of driving and quite a few potty breaks later, we were done. I couldn't wake up and Vanassa was seeing too many lines on the road. We pulled into a rest area and slept for about 2 hours. We got up and started again. We made it home in 2 hours, 1 hour before over a foot of snow was dropped on us. I don't think either of us moved much that day. We were physically and emotionally spent.
Now came the decisions. First, it was decided again, that little Holly, at 10 pounds 4 ounces was in no condition to have a litter of pups. I called my vet and he agreed to spay her. I told him that I didn't even want to know if she was pregnant. He agreed and to this day I don't know. I was later able to find her a home were she is still the queen of the palace.
Vanassa began to prepare her home for Suzy's litter. On March 6, Suzy whelped a litter of 8 healthy puppies! She turned out to be a great momma and took care of her babies. Vanassa, however, worked around the clock keeping up with the 8 little kids, especially as they got older! We took pictures, posted them to the website and searched for homes. Not everyone wants an unregistered dog of questionable parentage. We knew the dna status of the pups as we had paid to have the testing done. In due time, all of the pups were placed.
As for Suzy... She was homed and it didn't work out. We were more then happy to accept her back and she is currently living with Vanassa, and happy to be back! Vanassa has started some basic obedience training for her and may one day seek to give this happy little bitch her forever home.
As for Reggie... Reggie grew up with Pano (growing pains) and was later found to have Hip Dysplasia in both hips. One hip was quite severe while the other was mild. My vet concluded that it would be best to remove the ball from the ball and socket joint. His left hip is held together by muscles and tendons and ligaments. There is no joint there anymore. This little (now big) guy has wormed his way into my and my families hearts. Reggie is in his forever home.
And that is the story of Suzy, Holly and Reggie...