My trusty Old English Sheepdog Molly ended up with cancer and died in May, 2013. She was 12, weighed over 100 lbs, was friendly, and loved camping, fishing, hiking, and “singing” at fire trucks.
Losing a loyal friend of 12 years is tough. We’d selected Old English Sheepdogs (twice) because of the incredible family loyalty and their tendency not to stray “far from camp” (unlike the Irish Setter we had before the Sheepdogs).
Sheepdogs are great, because they don’t shed, but a downside to the breed is that they aren’t usually willing to accept a “stranger”. That includes grandkids. Since all my kids are grown and Louisville is a very safe town to live in, we wanted/needed a smart, non-shedding hypoallergenic gentle extrovert. My grandkids range from 2 to 20 years old, and one is allergic to lots of things. My “favorite” breed is the Standard Poodle (smart, non-shedding, but sometimes ‘stand-offish’), and I’ve yet to meet a Golden Retriever that isn’t gentle by nature, and usually smart. So, the obvious choice was a Goldendoodle. Besides, they’re too cute to dislike [superemotions file=”icon_biggrin.gif” title=”Big Grin”].
My criteria for selecting a breeder was somewhat simple. The kennel needed to fit 3 basic requirements:
- Something I could afford,
- Not be an obvious “Puppy Mill”
- Someone who screened for the usual defects (hips, joints, genetic defects, etc). (I’ve had ungood experiences with those from the previous 2 Sheepdogs.)
FINDING a breeder who fits all 3 of those 3 basic desires — NOT so easy.
I ended up finding pretty much everything I wanted in — of all places — Lyons, Nebraska: Heartland Classics. I grew up about 45 miles north of there in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Only a 570 mile drive!
I never dreamed a dog you can’t register with the AKC would cost $1500 from most Kennels that meet criteria (2) and (3) above. $750 was “my target price range” (give or take a bit). I found a couple on the InterwebzTM, but I really didn’t want to drive 1500 miles to pick a new puppy up. I have a “mental thing” about having a puppy sent by airplane. It just doesn’t sound right. I wanted to personally meet the breeder and get a sense of the type of environment in which the pup was whelped. Most reputable breeders also encourage that, where possible.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Heartland Classics goes to eleven. Here’s my personal experience:
I made a phone call in July, talked to Barb Lierman, and made a deposit over the phone. I wanted a female, and Barb told me there would probably be one available, but “pick of the litter” and one other person was ahead of me for choosing. There were 2 females available (5 males, 2 females in the litter, if memory serves me), but nobody had their eyes open at the time I saw initial photos of the litter.
I got an email from Barb about a week later indicating I could have my pick of either “Catie” or “Cha-Cha”. It was a tough choice, but I intentionally picked Cha-Cha, the runt of the litter (or, quoting Barb, “Meet Cha-Cha. She is a beautiful little girl weighing in at 12oz. She is as of now, the smallest of her litter; but that could all change in a jiffy!“. My other choice was the last pup born, or “This is Catie. She is our last, but not at all least, female of the litter. She also weighs in at 14oz.“
I picked Cha-Cha because it looked like she might end up blonde-ish on her nose and maybe chest. At 16 weeks, Minnie’s got a blonde nose and a blonde chest. She’s kind of a show-stopper (and weighs 24 pounds as of November 2, 2013). Minnie is smart and cute, and she knows it. Heck, she flaunts it.
What I learned about Heartland Classics:
- They truly are “a Family Operation”. I made several calls (including a few indicating concerns about being able to make it on schedule due to Colorado’s “Biblical Flood Event”, and ended up talking to several people — Barb, her Mom, and her Dad.
- The “environment” Minnie (Cha-Cha) was raised in is a converted farm. When my grandddaughter & I arrived (5:30 PM local time), I figured they’d be closed, but my granddaughter said “Look! The sign says OPEN”. We went inside, saw nobody, and walked around looking for anybody. No luck. What I did notice walking around the farm area is that every building seems to be converted to a Kennel, and every building was immaculately clean. I mean CLEAN. There were a couple areas where the runs were “open”, and a bunch of really cute dogs (pups, mostly), ran out to the chain-link fence barking “PICK ME! PICK ME”. Impressively healthy environments. Really happy dogs.
- We were about ready to head out, when Barb drove up and got out of her vehicle carrying an injured dog of some sort. She’d had to make a vet run, and apparently the area is as crime-ridden as Louisville (virtually none). I asked her if it was too late to complete the transaction on Minnie, and sure enough, about an hour and a half later, my granddaughter & I were driving to Salix, Iowa (Barb gave us the “shortcut” route), and the cutest puppy I’d seen was bonding with my oldest granddaughter on her lap. Side note: Barb did apologize for a messy office. I thought that was trivial. Office was messy with paperwork, but odor free.
- I ended up with a pup with a “mental issue” I’ve not encountered in 50 years of raising/owning dogs. Minnie, from the day I picked her up, tried to learn things and immediately responded to positive training methods (she learned how to fetch from another dog, and house trained herself!). One day, though, I had to get stern with her (involved the street, off-leash distance from me, and a UPS idiot driver up the Cul-de-Sac). She just plain shut down mentally. I called Barb about that, and Barb recommended Positive Perspectives, by Pat Miller. The one you really want for “mental issues”, though, is Positive Perspectives 2, also by Pat Miller. I read through that a couple of times and now have a pup that can distinguish urgency from criticism. You can call and get good advice from Heartland Classics — they stand by their product.