Our GGR Adoption Experience Spring 2007
or Our Million-Dollar Dog!

By: User Name: Aerie   (Author's real name is on file with Gentle Giant News)

November 5, 2007

After going through GGR website, and foolishly believing that we would be adopting from a rescue who will send you home with a fully trained, healthy dog, we filled in the application and sent it off. Within hours we were approvedyipee!!! We called GGR as we intended to adopt a smaller dog, Italian Greyhound or whippet and were told by Burt that we were in luck they had a lot of IG's right now and many whippets, including one who talked! Fantastic, we were told to email our desired dates to visit Norco and promptly did so. There was much disorganization and lack of communication regarding our appointment time, we wanted to firm up a day in plenty of time so we could arrange to take a day off work to go down to Norco.

We made the trek to GGR, and arrived at the facility at 3pm as instructed. There was no one there and the gate was closed, so we went down to the primary school down the road (we were instructed not to park on the road near their house to wait) and waited until 3:15. When we arrived there were two other couples already there, and waiting in their cars. We waited until Tracy came to let us onto the "estate", then we were ushered into the greeting area-six dirty plastic lawn chairs on dirt area not far from the puppy pen and the grassy play area.

GGR's facilities were dusty and dirty, but so was the town of Norco! There were no feces on the lawn, but we waited for Tracy to pick up before we were allowed into the "estate". The "estate" was not too dirty in my opinion, although the public rest room was disgusting and without toilet paper or soap.

There were mice scurrying around the puppy pen. They free-feed the puppies, so I am not surprised to see the mice coming for a free meal.

We were not greeted by "the herd", perhaps it was because Tracy was doing this adoption day by herself. The dogs we saw looked healthy, though one was dragging his back end, Tracy said he needed an operation and wasn't for adoption yet, so don't know why he was shown. We were also shown Tracy's own personal dogs, which again were not for adoption so no point in parading them around.

We were not shown any IG's or whippets, after saying that is what we wanted, not sure if there were any available. One of the dogs we were considering needed to be neutered before we could take him; we were told he was about 1 yr old. We decided on a Borzoi puppy, though she had not had her rabies vaccine. She had to be taken by Tracy to the vets for rabies shot mid adoption day while the others waited for us to return. We received a copy of the rabies vaccine record. Pup had abrasions on her rump, leg and muzzle. Tracy gave us medicated shampoo to treat this. The abrasions on her leg and muzzle are still there today…she has bald spots. According to Tracy, the vet in Norco gave pup a clean bill of health after rabies shot.

We signed contract after Tracy went through it with us (which took forever!) and we signed a separate Borzoi/Windhound contract agreeing not to join any Borzoi/Windhound groups. Tracy told us that these groups were unscrupulous and cull "undesirable" and rescue Borzois and Windhounds to keep their prices artificially high. She claims that they get Borzoi group people coming to GGR, adopting them from her then killing them, which is why she has her rule about having to be a previous adopter. I seriously doubt that! I have spoken to several Borzoi breeders to try and get help with my pup and they hardly seem sinister. None of us were previous adopters, so it was odd that she brought this puppy out to be viewed. We must have been a very trustworthy looking group.

Pup was microchipped (we have since changed it to reflect us as sole owners) and we had our photo-op and video diary done. Our adoption experience took about 4 hours, and I think we may have picked a pup too quickly as we had a long drive home and wanted to get going, we also pressed to wrap up our adoption so we could get on the road. I felt bad for the others who then had their adoption day drag on…but they were both within an hour of home. It was dark when we left, so the rest of the dog viewings would have been in the dark.

We paid $990.00 for our pup…half cash half by credit card. She was on the expensive end of the scale, we were told, because Borzois are very rare and expensive. Turns out, they are neither, and we could have had a carefully bred Borzoi pet pup from a breeder for less or a rescue Borzoi from the Borzoi rescue for $300.00. We were expecting to pay around $600 for a dog from GGR, this is what they lead us to believe, expensive, yes, but they are fully trained! I feel we were misled and overcharged, but in a position where we could not dispute the price.

Our pup was filthy and smelly; we had to drive home with the windows open! When we got our pup home it was apparent to us that the GGR housebreaking/training/socialization had not taken with our pup. Calls to Tracy in the following weeks for advice were not helpful, in fact they were demoralizing. According to Tracy, the pup was fully housetrained, crate trained, socialized, behaviorally trained before we took the pup home. The pup was "perfect" at GGR; we were doing something wrong. We are obviously very bad puppy parents. We were advised by Tracy that popping pup on the nose with the paper towel roll was appropriate behavior modification technique. We were told to cloister our puppy for two weeks to have it bond to us properly…she is now socially inept, and fearful of people-though I am sure this not the sole cause of this behavior. We were also told not to bathe her for 2 weeks…but she stunk! I confess-she was bathed before the 2 weeks were up.

When we got home it was also apparent that our pup was not a picture of health. After a week of violent diarrhea which she never had at GGR (yeah sure!) Tracy assured me that this was normal and due to the stress of a new place and the water. I took her to the vet who dewormed her and gave her antibiotics for giardia. She also had a terrible cough, which we noticed at GGR. Tracy said no one at GGR had a cough. She was coughing when we were signing the contract! I pointed it out to Tracy at the time, who said it was due to excitement.

The vet suspects that she was fed crappy food too early in her life and it may have caused food allergies and IBS. We have been on several different foods to try and clear this up; the next step is a bowel biopsy, ultrasounds and other (no doubt expensive) tests. The vet said she was slightly underweight, was "runty" and was probably aged correctly. The vet could not feel any scars from spaying, but did say that may be the result of very young neutering and very good suturing, he also said that many vets who neuter rescue dogs at a young age often put tattoo ink on the sutured area so that it is easy to spot. He will confirm neutering at a later date for me. The vet was surprised that our pup is so unwell, he said that Borzois are very hardy dogs, and suggested poor breeding and poor care in early life may have brought this on.

That was a week after bringing her home; we have now had her for almost a year. She was in for a check up not too long ago because I thought she was going into heat…it appears that there may be a piece of the uterus left, which according to my vet happens very rarely. Or she simply was not spayed. Time and expensive tests will tell. We had also noticed that she becomes winded and wheezy after short runs, which is VERY unusual in a sighthound. It appears that the upper right quadrant of her lung is damaged to the point of not functioning. According to the vet this would have happened after birth, by trauma to the chestspecifically the mother or more likely a person or another heavy animal stepping on her and basically crushing her ribs into her lungs resulting in perforations and irreparable damage. He said there is no way it could go unnoticed by the human caregivers because this pup would have been in severe pain and distress. Thankfully she will be ok, though never able to run without difficulty. As she cannot tolerate grains we have her on a special and not surprisingly, expensive diet.

We are convinced that our pup is the product of a puppy mill. We were told pup and her littermates came from Texas, but not much else. Why would a litter of Borzois from Texas end up at GGR? Our pup has been seen by a Borzoi breeder who said she is so far off conformation standards that she was either poorly breed by someone who doesn't know better or who doesn't care. I find it hard to believe the litter is from one of the "reputable breeders all across the United States and Canada …that the breeders aren't using to show or otherwise haven't sold, or dogs that have been returned to them..." as they state on their website. We are sickened at the thought that we may have contributed to the continuance and fiscal enrichment of a poor breeder or puppy mill breeder. We could have taken the money we gave GGR and bought a pup from a reputable breeder or rescue and had change left over for fun dog stuff and reduced vet bills to boot.

While we love our poor pup to death, we are upset with GGR for not providing us  with a dog who is sound, housebroken, and behaviorally trained (this pup had never been on a leash) which is what they promise on their website and in person:

"Our Gentle Giants and Little Giants are healthy, housebroken, and behaviorally trained and socialized to get along with people, dogs, cats, and other animals when properly introduced. When you adopt a dog from us, you have the luxury of taking your dog home immediately and enjoying it the same day without having to go for medical care or training classes."

This was not even close to the reality of our pup. We have had the "luxury" of maxing out our credit cards paying hundreds for training, hundreds on vet bills and thousands on special foods. Fixing this dog's health and behavior is has surpassed the original outrageous adoption fee. She came to us scared and sick, she does not socialize with other dogs well, becoming extremely anxious. She does not socialize well with people, barking jumping and cowering. We cannot take her out with us -it makes her too anxious and upset. On more than one occasion someone had to carry all 70 lbs of her crying and writhing into the vets, trainers, away from other dogs, people etc.

We are still a year later reeling from this experience, we feel foolish and angry. We hope to find a way to right this situation and warn others of this rescue.

Note: I have kept this purposefully vague and used a pseudonym.

I'm reviewing my options re the Wards and do not want to prematurely prejudice any avenue.

Permission to Post This Testimony has been Granted by the Author

This comment is from individual person voicing his/her opinion and warning about Gentle Giants, based on what he/she has  personally encountered with Gentle Giants.

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