I just wanted a family friendly Labradoodle
June 7, 2009
By: A.J. Johnson

I came across the gentle giants website after seeing an ad on petfinder.  I was looking for a good “family” pet (we have two little boys).  The Gentle Giants site sold me on the fact that Tracy was a world class trainer and that each adopted dog would be fully trained to be non aggressive with kids and other pets (we have 3 cats).  Boy I wish I found this website first, because I could have saved my family 6 months of heartache and hassle. 

After traveling to Norco and waiting in the “designated” area inside the gate for over an hour, we were led into a very foul smelling fenced in pen with dirt floors and asked to sit and wait as Tracy brought out dogs one by one. It wasn’t anything like the flowery Huell Howser show they prominently display on their website where all the dogs get to run around a grassy area as families get to meet the dogs and interact. 

I was very clear with Tracy that above all we were looking for a dog that would be extremely kid and family friendly and that I had seen a labradoodle on the petfinder site.  After seeing a series of dogs that weren’t right for our family, I again reminded Tracy that we were looking for a labradoodle or similar dog that would be family friendly.  She finally took us back to her mysterious barn/kennel in the back of the property and brought out what she said was a labradoodle that she received a week prior from an animal shelter.   She said the dog was currently quarantined to the kennel suffering from “kennel cough” and that if we wanted to come back in two weeks he would be ready.  Already three hours into the process, I couldn’t imagine coming back to this place again (although little did I know I would be back there twice more), we wanted to see more dogs to see if there was a fit.  Finally she brought out an irish wolfhound that she claimed would be great for us, as the previous owner had kids but had to move out of state.  The whole family liked the dog and we took her home but it was obvious that this dog had lots of “issues”.  When I witnessed the dog snap at the kids with NO provocation and then lunge at one of the kids the next day almost biting my son’s face, I immediately called Tracy to let her know it wasn’t working out and that I needed to give the dog back.  Tracy is as bad with people as she is with dogs, because she was very defensive, telling me that the dog wasn’t like that before we took her home and that the last owner reported her being “great with kids”.  I now know after reading all these stories that Tracy is a liar and only interested in making $$$ (as witnessed by the new $250,000 pool they’ve installed in the back yard).  

We agreed that I would return brownie and come pick up the “labradoodle” we had seen as the kennel cough would be cured the next week.  Tracy swore up and down that marshmallow was a full breed labradoodle and that she had one with papers that looked just like him. (come to find out the dog was a terrier mix).  She also claimed that she found out more about the dogs history and that he was very non aggressive and would be excellent with our kids.  We took Marshmallow home and Tracy promised to fax us all his shot records.  (She never faxed them to us even after repeated requests.)  Shortly after we brought him home he started scratching himself all the time.  After a week, we took him to the vet and spent over $400 treating a hot spot he created.  The vet asked if he had been checked for mites and we thought he had because Tracy had told us that he had been to the vet a week before we picked him up for a full checkup. Come to find out he was infested with mites and after a medication bath he was cured.  Over the next 6 months we fell in love with Marshmallow and I have to say he was almost a perfect dog.  He was great in every way except he was very unpredictable with other dogs and strangers.  On walks and at the dog park he was social with most dogs but some he would growl and get very aggressive.  He was the same with people.  Some people would come up to him and be able to pet him and others he would growl and lunge at.  After he growled and nipped at a couple neighbor kids while I had him on a leash we took him to a prominent Los Angeles trainer who spent 3+ hours with us and from his evaluation informed us that this wasn’t the dog we could ever be comfortable knowing that he wouldn’t bite somebody.  So basically we would always have to be watchful and wary of people visiting our home and having him out on walks.  By this time we had bonded with this dog and were willing to make that sacrifice until he bit two people in the same week.   The last bite happened as my friend and I were petting the dog.  His bite penetrated my friends’ forearm leaving 5 deep gouges in the skin and drawing blood. 

That was the final straw, our mission was to find a non aggressive family dog and it was evident Marshmallow wasn’t it.  After having dealt with Tracy the first time, I dreaded calling her again but was still under the false impression that she cared about her dogs and was running a straight forward non profit dog rescue.  My email to her explaining the situation went unanswered for two days until I sent another email telling her that I found Marshmallow a new home (I really hadn’t but I figured correctly that this would elicit a quick response).  She promptly called leaving me a voicemail stating that my contract stipulates that I must return the dog to her and could I come on Sunday.  Sunday didn’t work for me so I showed up a day earlier on Saturday during the busy “adoption day”.  Arriving for the third time I noticed four cars with the occupants waiting inside eagerly anticipating the adoption process.  I got out of the car and ran into Tracy’s husband Burt who thought I was someone else.  After letting him know that I was there to give back our dog he quickly got Tracy on the phone and she soon came bustling out of the house.  She was very defensive from the outset, trying to blame my family for the aggressiveness of the dog.  That we must have done “something” to the dog to make it that way.  After having read most of the stories here, I know now that this is her M.O.  It’s never the dogs, it’s always the fault of the owner which conveniently hides all the lies she tells her prospective adopters.

Hmmm let’s count all the lies:
• She lied about the dogs medical condition at the time of adoption
• She lied about the breed of the dog
• She lied that she knew the dog’s history
• She lied about faxing us the medical records  

Unfortunately I found this website too late.  I would have never returned the dog to her and would instead have found a reputable shelter to give the dog to.  My family has been in perpetual tears for days over this and now after finding all these similar stories my heart aches for marshmallow and what his fate will be.  My only hope is that Tracy can quickly sell the dog again for another $850 (I would hate to think that he has to stay with her for too long) to someone that can deal with his unpredictability and aggressiveness.   Sadly she will most likely sell the dog to another hopeful family and they too will find out the hard way that the Gentle Giants Rescue is not out to help dogs or the people who come to adopt them, but only their ignorant greed.

A.J. Johnson
Los Angeles

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