Here is the story about how we got involved with breeding.
My husband wanted a dog so we went on our search for the breed for us. We couldn't agree on anything, but he was insistent upon a large breed. I wanted something kid friendly. My first choice for a breed was a Bernese Mountain Dog. At the time there were very few in the US and the waiting lists were incredibly long (usually two years or so for a quality dog) and they were quite expensive.
Our second choice was and Old English Sheepdog. Being young, two years seemed like forever to wait for a dog when you really wanted one NOW. I had gotten on a couple of waiting lists for a Bernese, but never figured anything would come of it. We decided to get an Old English Sheepdog. When we found a breeder, she convinced us we needed two puppies to grow up together to keep each other company. Breeding was not our goal at all with these dogs. We were taking the advice of a breeder and thought we were doing the right thing to make our new puppies happy. She sent us home with Zack and Georgia, a male and a female from two different litters and we were totally unprepared for what was to come.
My very first experience as a breeder was a litter of 13 OES puppies that the mother would not care for. We held her down for the first two days so the puppies could get the much needed colostrum, but she was such a horrible mother and I was afraid she might hurt the babies so we didn't put the puppies back with her. At the time my husband worked full time and went to school, so it was just me caring from them. It was a 24 hour job. Feeding 13 large breed puppies was no easy or quick task. By the time I got done with number 13 it was literally time to start over. I really had no idea what I was doing as I never anticipated a mom violently rejecting the puppies, but did the best I could. If I had to leave the house, I had to have my mom come and babysit the puppies and feed them.
Once the puppies got their eyes open they had no contact with their furry mother and I became their only mom. I fed them, cleaned them and cleaned up after them. When they were about 4 weeks old I started story time, and read to them every day with my daughter. I swear those little puppies would sit and listen to me like they understood every word I would say. I wanted to give them lots of stimulation since they didn't have their own mother to teach them anything and I was clueless. I was young and the mom of a toddler so it seemed like the thing to do. I would sit on the floor and let them crawl all over me, kiss them snuggle them, teach them not to bite and then story time was to calm them down. Silly as it sounds, those puppies turned out unbelievable.
That experience was one of the hardest and one of the most fulfilling of my whole life. I think most people would have given up and never bred again, but it really struck me on a deeper level and knew it was for me. I have often said that most first time breeders should go through something like that to see if they really have what it takes to be a breeder. It is so much more than just putting two dogs together and letting nature take it's course. It is nice when it works that way, but experienced breeders know that is doesn't always and you have to be prepared for anything. I didn't decide to continue with the OES, but love them to this day.
After my OES puppies were almost all gone to their new homes, I got a call from one of the Bernese breeders who said they had puppies and offered me pick of the litter. She had gotten a very famous stud (and Westminster winner) and was keeping a male and female from this litter. She couldn't decide between the two best boys so she said I could pick to make the decision for her. I did and a month later I got a dog that would become the furry love of my life. My Brody was like my best friend. A year later we added Maggie to our family. She was a dream girl. (We lost Maggie late in 2009 at the age of 13) They were unbelievable show dogs and unsurpassed as family companions.
After a few wonderful years, we lost Brody unexpectedly. I was devastated and it took almost two years to be able to speak his name without crying. I was heartbroken over the loss of my beautiful boy and friend. Bernese are a short lived breed with the average lifespan being 6-8 years if you are lucky, but many live less. I always fed mine holisitically and gave them nothing but natural treats, baked them healthy cookies, and gave them the correct supplements for their joints and to hopefully help prevent cancer. I went by the book with everything healthy you are supposed to do. My Bernese never got hip dysplasia or cancer or any of the awful things that plague the breed.
There was a hole in my heart from losing Brody. I loved Maggie dearly, but I was really bonded with Brody and it wasn't the same. I love both boys and girls, but there is something about the momma's boys that is different.
I was inconsolable over the loss of my beautiful boy, but the thought of getting another Berner boy was out of the question. Initially everyone encouraged me to get on a waiting list and start over. I knew that it wouldn't be fair to another Bernese puppy that would never be my Brody.
I decided that if I was going to give my heart to another dog I wanted it to be a very long lived breed and something different. We didn't have the internet yet, so back then we did our research in books.
My decision to get a Tibetan Terrier was a pretty easy one. My husband wasn't quite so opinionated as he once was and left it up to me. Tibetans looked like little mini sheepdogs but thankfully were not herding dogs so they don't come with the stubborn natures of the OES. We welcomed our first Tibetans into our lives, which haven't been the same since. If you ask my husband what his choice would be if he could only have one dog for the rest of his life, he would tell you without hesitation, a Tibetan Terrier. They are just the best all around all purpose dogs for everything. They are playful and cuddly, smart and sweet, love to do things outside, they love to go for walks, but do not require constant activity. There is nothing you could want from a family companion that a Tibetan Terrier will not provide.
Now we are a family of Tibetan lovers and breeders. They are truly a part of the family and live with love and lots of attention. Tibetans should live in a home and not in a kennel. Puppies are wonderful, but they are a lot of work if done properly, which is the only way they should be done.