On June 7, 2000, the KBTC of Southern California (KBTCSC) rescued a litter of 6 8-week-old Kerry puppies, and on June 13, 2000, rescued their dam from a backyard commercial breeder. Together, they represent an abject failure on the part of some breeders to properly screen and track their homes, and they represent the resounding success of a Rescue program and the people in it.
A club member alerted me to an ad in a Riverside newspaper listing Kerry puppies at far below the usual price. We learned that the puppies were 8 weeks old and unregistered, that the papers on the dam and sire (not on the premises) were missing, and that the seller was not a good-hearted but misguided backyard breeder interested in the puppies' welfare--he was selling solely for profit. And he was having trouble finding Kerry buyers.
I immediately placed the following ad in the same paper to mitigate the damages:
Kerry Blue Terriers. Know before you buy. For info on the breed, pups, & rescues, call [phone number] or see www.kerryblues.info.
On the morning of June 7th, the advertised puppy price dropped to "dumping prices," and we made the decision to acquire the litter. By late that afternoon, all 6 puppies were purchased and in safe hands. Our rescuers reported depressing conditions. The puppies were enclosed in a chain link pen with no toys, no grass, and a dirt-filled water bowl. The dam was separated from her puppies and staked on a chain, shaggy, covered in mats, and filthy. Her igloo doghouse was her only shade. And just as disturbing, the seller was also selling a litter of another breed.
Initial efforts to get the dam out failed, and the next 7 anxious days were full of false starts, revised plans, and dashed hopes. On the morning of June 13th, I was informed of a "Heat Alert" in the Riverside area, with temperatures expected over 100 degrees F. A full-coated Kerry lying in the dirt with no shade was not likely to make it. (Please note that the local Animal Control office considers an igloo doghouse adequate shade, though in reality, it is nothing more than an oven.) With minimal hope of success, and the specter of a dead Kerry at the end of her chain, another pair of rescuers went in to negotiate. In the anxiety-filled dead space between not knowing and knowing, the call finally came: "We got her!" Tears of joy and relief streamed down more than one face out here in Southern California.
Suddenly, the KBTC of Southern California found itself in the position of placing a total of 8 Kerries--6 puppies, the 2-year-old dam, and O'Riley, the previously rescued, starving 8 to 10-month-old stray male that was found in a mountain area in May. One small club could barely handle it all, with one Rescue Coordinator to place the dogs, and a Rescue Fund that was running dry. Although all 6 puppies and the dam were in surprising good health (minor problems were successfully treated), one pup sustained a broken leg in the past that went untreated. The leg was malformed and the dog was limping, and we were facing corrective orthopedic surgery that the specialist described as "complicated, prolonged, and expensive" (estimated at $4000). But from the very beginning, a number of small miracles began to happen.
First, club member Pasquale (Pat) Goglia came forward without hesitation and volunteered to foster the entire litter until homes were found. He went from a family of 3 Kerries to an overwhelming family of 9 with six 8-week old puppies (!) overnight. And he never missed a beat. How many of us could have done that? No amount of thanks will ever do justice to Pat's contribution to this rescue.
Then, the KBTC of Northern California stepped in to help shoulder the responsibility of placing these rescues. Both Judith Bruno and Eileen Andrade, the two Rescue Coordinators, worked tirelessly in fielding calls and emails, reviewing adoption questionnaires, screening homes, and spending their summer weekends doing home checks of potential adopters with their own Kerries. It was a huge undertaking, and they set a shining example of how cooperation between two Kerry clubs can accomplish great things.
Then, donations began to come in to help finance this rescue. One donor from the KBTC of Southern California sent a check to pay for the acquisition of all 6 puppies! Other donations were received from the USKBTC and members of both California Kerry clubs, but most of the help came from an unexpected source: KB-L'ers, the Kerry newslist subscribers. Checks came from as far away as New Hampshire, Florida, the entire East coast, and Canada, and many states inbetween, from pet owners, breed fanciers, and breeders. It was an incredible outpouring of generosity, compassion, concern, and dedication to the breed, and truly an empowering moment in the Kerry world. The Kerry community wrought a miracle: their support allowed one small club to meet every expense involved in this rescue--and the costs were considerable, measured in thousands of dollars. In a very real sense, these puppies came to belong to all of us.
The other miracle that happened was the sudden appearance of a home for the little puppy with the broken leg. The couple had owned Kerries before (and she had grown up with Kerries), they had experience with difficult medical problems and in providing specialty veterinary care, and they were willing and able to accept full responsibility for the puppy's care and medical treatment. Equally important, they had experience making tough decisions in the best interests of the dog. Within a month of his placement, "Murphy" had corrective surgery, was fitted with a brace using the Iliazarov procedure, and underwent twice daily adjustments to lengthen his leg that were as painful to his owners as they were to him. The latest prognosis is that the brace will be removed in mid-September, with additional (though comparatively minor) surgery likely thereafter for the puppy to regain full and normal mobility. In the meantime, this little puppy is surrounded by love and will be given every opportunity for a complete recovery.
Together, these miracles achieved a remarkable goal: by Labor Day, 2000, all dogs, including O'Riley (the stray), had been placed. Of the 8 new families, all have strong commitment to the breed, 4 have owned Kerries before, 3 currently have another Kerry of the opposite sex in the household (one of which is neutered, of course!), and 2 have experience with other terriers (Wire Fox Terriers and Scottish Terriers). Two families now own their very first terrier, and we are pleased to welcome them into the Kerry community. Thanks to the efforts and networking skills of Eileen and Judith of the Northern California club, 4 of the 8 families are located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Three are located in the greater LA area, and 1 is in Washington state.
A few people made this rescue necessary, but many made it possible. I wish to thank my brave-hearted colleagues, whose privacy I'll respect, who entered where most of us would fear to tread, and pulled off one of the largest Kerry rescues in recent history. I especially want to thank club member Pat Goglia, our "Foster Father Extraordinaire," for fostering the entire litter until every puppy had a home. He's one in a million.
Except for ongoing follow-up on these placements, this rescue is finished. It required a vast amount of time, effort, commitment, and resources--both human and financial. What made this rescue necessary? In all likelihood, a series of errors that were completely avoidable. The litter's dam and sire were most likely sold without a spay/neuter agreement or a limited registration. It is possible that one or both were sold without a written contract to homes that weren't properly screened by their breeders. It is doubtful that home checks were never done, and if the dam and sire originated out-of-state, no one in our local club was advised that the dogs were here. No one here was ever asked to lend any assistance or friendship to the new owners, or help them link up with the local Kerry community. And because we have been unable to find the breeder of either the dam or sire, one thing is painfully obvious: these breeders lost track of their dogs. As a result, both dogs ended up in a "breed for greed" situation, were bred indiscriminately for profit, and the lives of 6 puppies were at risk. It shouldn't have happened. While bad things happen to good people, worse things happen to innocent puppies. We all have to do better to serve and protect our breed.