Every year, countless puppies are bred and sold by illegal and unscrupulous dealers, leaving owners to deal with emotional and financial fallout. We spoke with Christine about her West Highland White Terrier (more commonly known as a Westie in the UK), Poppy.
In June 2021, Christine responded to an advert on a UK classified ad site and arranged to meet a litter of Westie puppies. Christine was told that the mother had been separated from them as they were “not getting on too well”, although the seller’s story often appeared inconsistent. After visiting and discussing vaccinations, microchips, insurance and health checks, Christine was satisfied with the answers that the seller provided and paid her deposit for Poppy, arranging to pick her up four days later.
However, after collecting Poppy, the little pup became immediately unwell – she suffered from bloody diarrhea during the car journey home which continued throughout the night. Christine rushed her to the vets and incurred the first of many vet bills.
Poppy’s diagnosis was Giardia – an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite, which is also transmissible to humans. Christine also found out that Poppy had a heart murmur and that she was full of worms. Weeks followed of medication and vet visits for Poppy, and eventually Christine herself also caught Giardia, becoming unwell and needing antibiotics. Poppy’s vet bills became out of control, as did the stress and constant pressure that Christine was under while dealing with the situation.
Four months later, when Poppy was very much a part of the family, Christine noticed she had developed a “head wobble”, which slowly worsened until Poppy could no longer balance or walk without falling. After a visit to the Royal Veterinary College, Poppy was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called Cerebellar Abiotrophy, likely to have been inherited from a parent. Christine was told Poppy would probably not make it to her first birthday.
“I was absolutely heartbroken…. I’d only recently had one of my other Westies put to sleep due to ill health and now I was about to lose Poppy, when I should have been secure in the knowledge of having a happy, healthy dog for many years to come.”
Poppy’s final months were agonising for Christine – she had to purchase nappies for Poppy’s incontinence, carry her up and down stairs, hire a dog-sitter to look after her while Christine worked and even acquire a dog wheelchair so that Poppy could still enjoy her walks.
Sadly, at the age of 8 months, Poppy lost her fight and was put to sleep. Christine and Poppy should never have had to experience the pain and stress of those 8 months.
Christine is now sharing Poppy’s story to help end the illegal puppy trade. She is also pursuing compensation in court and has reported the seller to the appropriate authorities in the hope that no one else has to suffer like she and Poppy have.
If you are planning to buy a puppy, know the potential risks. Learn more!