The first dog we got as a family was a “silver” Labrador Retriever. We found her breeder on the AKC website. They were based out of Cary, IL and we dropped in to take a look at the litter. There were 4 adult Labs outside and the litter inside. The breeder went on to tell us that he has a friend in Wisconsin that he breeds his dogs with. Sometimes he has the mom and sometimes his friend does. Sounded fine with us. Less inbreeding. We decided to put money down on the next litter.

Soon after we got news that the dog was expecting a litter in March and she would be ready in April. I always thought that puppies couldn’t be separated from their mother until they were 8 weeks, but he assured us that it was ok. We got to take her home soon after she was weened at 5 weeks old. (Turned out that is the worst thing you could do. Those puppies don’t learn manners.) When we went to pick her up, only 2 puppies of the 10 in the litter where left. We named her Belle (Silver Belle) and took her home.

We read all the puppy books, crate-trained her and set up a bell at the back door for her to ring. She went to puppy training, and teenage dog training and adult dog training, but never really picked up on obedience unless you were holding a treat. Belle hated other dogs, she didn’t really like to be petted and she became very aggressive with food. Her aggression wasn’t over her food, it was our food that she thought was hers. She stole food from tables and counters and right out of the kids hands. This went on for 2 1/2 years.

One day, my middle daughter had a few girls sleep over. They were watching a movie and eating popcorn. We closed the basement door so Belle couldn’t get down there. Unfortunately, one of the girls opened it to go to the bathroom and Belle ran down after the popcorn. She went right for the bowl and my then 8-year-old grabbed it back from her. Belle bit her on the hand in front of her friends. She started bleeding and needed stitches.

Unfortunately, Belle had bit the kids before but never drew blood. After that, I couldn’t trust her and tried to find her a new home. I tried everyone I knew in the dog business – other groomers, trainers and shelters. One shelter told me that the most humane thing to do was to put her down. She said not all dogs could be saved. I pulled out my paperwork from the breeder and found he only guaranteed his puppies 48 hours. Was this a goldfish or a dog?

Since we took my daughter to the hospital to get stitches, they had to report the dog bite to the county. Even though it was my dog and my daughter and everyone was up on their shots, we still had to keep Belle for 10 days after she bit my daughter so she could be checked for rabies. She stayed in her crate and only came out when the kids were not home. The rabies exam was a “visible” one and I was expecting a blood test or something that could justify my keeping this dog another 10 days. With no one willing to take her, we had to make the decision to put Belle down at 2 1/2 years old. We were all devastated because we raised her from a puppy and thought the AKC supported reputable breeders. I cried my eyes out when I left the vet. Where did we go wrong?

Turns out it wasn’t us. After checking Belle’s papers from the AKC, we found that her grandparents were father and daughter. Belle didn’t come from a breeder, she came from a puppy mill. The AKC turns their head to puppy mills. They get money for every dog registered. Their health or ancestry isn’t important.

We still wanted to have a dog but we waited until the end of summer to start looking. Not trusting breeders or pet stores, we went online to My husband told the kids that if we didn’t get another puppy, we could get two adult dogs. We found our dogs at Animal House Shelter. They were sisters and were originally adopted out together as puppies. They were returned to the shelter due to the family having to downsize. They were 1 1/2 years old.

Anna and Chloe

These are wonderful dogs! Anna and Chloe are lab mixes who have all the benefits of a Lab, but none of the bad traits. They are gentle with kids. They don’t chew anything and spend most of their day relaxing. They enjoy daily walks and are relentless in their pursuit of attention.

Moral of my VERY long story? If you are looking for a new dog, give the shelters a try. Don’t support the puppy mills. They are only out there to make a profit.