Expat Magazine

Our Experience With Rutland Manor Labradoodles

By Floridagirlinsydney
In December 2002 we moved from Florida to Dallas and were considering adopting a puppy.  In our search for an allergy friendly dog we found a website in Australia called Rutland Manor, they were a "research centre" developing a new breed of dogs called "Australian Labradoodles"; the purpose of this new breed was to work as assistance and/or therapy dogs for people with allergies.
We were so excited, and just as we were about ready to fill out an application for a puppy I found out I was pregnant... our puppy plans were put on an indefinite hold.
But life is unpredictable... and who could have imagined that we'd actually move to Australia?
When we accepted the position in Sydney, my husband and I agreed that if it didn't work out-- at least we'd finally get our Australian Labradoodle from Rutland Manor. And in June of 2009 I hopped back on the Rutland Manor website and a few days later we were officially on the "puppy waitlist".
Seven months later an email arrived... we had "exciting news", our Labradoodle puppy had been born and we were allotted a black female with a white diamond on her chest.   Her name was to be "Andie".
One day during our wait for the Andie's arrival, we received a strange voicemail that sounded something like this:
"Hi, um, I wanted to speak to you, um, regarding the temperament testing of the puppy we've allocated for you. She's... well, um, if you can call me back, I just want to make sure her personality, um, is going to work for your family. Ok, thanks."
The message was full of angst, it was bizarre.  She had also sent a similar email.
When we called her back she was nonsensical. I put her on the phone with my husband to see if he could decipher what exactly she was trying to get across to us.
At this point our comfort level was being severely challenged. Our priority was to adopt an easy-going dog and we were getting concerned maybe the puppy's personality was going to be an issue.
Then I came up with the brilliant idea that perhaps the breeder, Beverley Manners, would consider coming to Sydney and doing some puppy training with us and our small children. When she sounded keen to do it we were shocked, but relieved. We agreed to buy her airfare and pay her $400 to spend a few hours at our house showing us the ropes.
I'll pause now to interject that... I know, I know, I know... that I should have known better-- on all of this. It's just further proof that you must pay attention to the signs-- the signs are our friends.
So our puppy Andie finally arrived! She ate well that evening and slept through the night without crying or any drama whatsoever.  Hooray! We must be incredible puppy parents, yay!
The next morning Beverley arrived and greeted Andie.  Andie seemed completely indifferent to her, as though she hadn't a clue who Beverley was.
Beverley kept saying Andie seemed so calm, we needed to get her riled up so she could demonstrate how to work with her.  She had no actual plan for our training session, she was basically winging it... and not well I might add.  In the two hours she spent with us, she basically demonstrated how to use a slip-collar (aka choke chain), by tethering Andie to our swingset, which was accompanied by a warning from her that it is never safe to tether a dog on a choke chain to anything, but she was going to do it to get the puppy to try and pull on it-- um, huh, wtf??? After a couple minutes of watching our little puppy getting strangled I took Andie off the chain and explained that we would not be using a slip collar in her future, so best to move on.
When her lovely friend came to pick her up for a lunch break, I had had enough, it was not the professional training we had expected her to come do with us and our two young boys.  And only because I'm so freaking nice, I told her that there was no need for her to come back after lunch. Thanks, but no thanks... we're good... um yeah, we're all set... bye bye.
The next two mornings Andie vomitted when she woke up and there was a little pebble in the spit up both days.  The next night Andie was up during the night vomiting a couple times, I assumed this must be pebble-related but could not figure out where or why she was eating pebbles, so I emailed Beverley for advice.
In the meantime, we called the after-hours vet and took her in to make sure all was okay. The vet said he'd probably need do an x-ray to see if we had a pebble-in-stomach situation.
Within a minute of examining Andie, he indicated that that she had a very distinct heart murmur which was not normal (as puppies commonly have small heart murmurs); we needed her to be seen by a cardiology specialist.
They proceeded with an x-ray that same day and found two small pebbles, fortunately they were not a problem as they were small and would be "naturally eliminated".
Later that day, not having mentioned the heart murmur they had found to Beverley, we received this bizarre email from her:
How is Andie? What did the vet say and what have they done for her? Is she going to be all right? I am so worried about her.Laura, I’d like to offer you a full refund and take her back if that is okay with you. Your thoughts?
My husband and I were in shock, we hadn't even told her yet that they believed something was seriously wrong with Andie's heart.
The next morning a veterinary cardiologist did the heart scan. The veterinary cardiologist found that Andie had a serious congenital birth defect called PDA, requiring open-heart surgery as soon as possible.  *(Update May 2010:  It is widely known that dogs which produce puppies with PDA should not be bred, but yet Knossos and Ava continue to be listed on Rutland Manor's website as "breeding dogs".   Since posting this other people with sick Knossos puppies have found my blog and are searching for answers about the health of Knossos).
And there's something else, Andie, was kind of a bitch (pun intended).  She was food aggressive, and very rough with us and our little boys.  I am an experienced enough dog person to know she was certainly not the easy-going personality we had stressed was important to us, and not the kind of gentle, easy-going dog Labradoodles were known as.  And I believe Beverley must have thought so too when left us that initial bizarre voicemail about her temperament. 
So Andie's been gone almost three weeks.  Rutland Manor's response to the whole situation has been beyond inappropriate.  We have numerous bizarre emails from Beverley (none of which we've ever responded to at the advice of our attorney), which included accusing us of neglecting the puppy and even suggesting we sent her back a different dog.   We still have no refund and are out tons of money in vet bills and all things required to properly pamper a new pet.
Do you know how sad it is to walk around a house filled with puppy stuff?  Beverley claims Andie is alive and well, playing with all the other dogs there. Our vet thinks otherwise.
And you can all judge me right now for not adopting from a shelter, or for supporting breeders, or for returning the puppy to get a refund. Trust me, I've already judged myself, so thank you very much.
*Update July 2010:  We did ultimately receive our refund by working directly with American Express and Paypal to reverse the charges on our credit card.   Since this blog post was written she has also sent an email threatening to sue me for "defamation"; perhaps she is unaware-- it's not defamation if it's the truth.

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