DEAR DR. FOX: I wanted to let your readers know that there are numerous internet scammers out there who are looking to victimize you.
My dog, who meant the world to me, died in my arms a few months ago. Eventually, we decided we were ready to add to our family with a puppy. I found a website that looked promising, with a gorgeous puppy who appeared to be exactly what I wanted, so I made an inquiry. We were in contact via email and text, but I noticed that every time I called, I went straight to voicemail.
The people running the website were to ship the puppy to us today, but they kept stalling in telling us the time, airline, flight number, etc. They finally told me that the puppy had been taken to the airport by the breeder's wife, as he was out of state on business. Naively, we wired payment on Saturday. The breed of puppy I wanted usually costs anywhere from $1,800 to $5,000. However, this scammer showed the most beautiful puppies, including one with the exact markings I wanted! And the price they gave me was $700, plus shipping, which was $185, which included the airline-approved crate, air shipping fees in an air-conditioned area, rather than in cargo, and transportation to my front door.
We never heard back from the "breeder," but I did get an email from an alleged "pet delivery service" that kept calling us, telling us we needed to hit the "confirm" button on its email and send it back. The company called us four times, but by then, we had found it and the breeder on various scam websites. Also, the caller had what seemed to be a thick accent. Thus, we are out nearly a thousand bucks, with no puppy, which we had been so excited to receive.
I am sick that we were scammed out of this money, and that the puppy we fell in love with was fake. I have learned the hard way to not let your heart take over in these cases. Check your breeder, ask for references, go to their kennel if at all possible and see the parents and puppies. Be sure to get a puppy health guarantee, and hopefully, you will not be scammed like we were! -- L.L., Branson, Missouri
DEAR L.L.: You have my sympathy. I wonder how many other people were duped as you were. Your last paragraph echoes what I have written repeatedly: Never buy a pup sight-unseen, and ideally adopt a pup or adult dog from your local shelter.
BOOK REVIEW: "What Is a Dog?" by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger
I am dismayed that this reputable publisher, The University of Chicago Press (which published my doctoral dissertation, "Integrative Development of Brain and Behavior in the Dog"), has put this one out. The title is a giveaway, using "what" rather than "who" about indigenous, natural, aboriginal and landrace dogs. The authors' observations of free-roaming village and developing world garbage dump-foraging dogs, and the plethora of tangential reference citations that provide no deeper understanding or appreciation of the nature of these dogs, diminishes them. I find this objectionable, having studied and lived with these landraces from Africa and India. This book is an affront to the species and a waste of trees.
There is nothing documenting the symbiotic benefits of aboriginal dogs to indigenous peoples; no details about the nature and spirit of these dogs or of their sensibilities, protectiveness and intelligence -- traits that benefit the human community. Rather, the observations, cast in a Darwinian perspective, give a false impression of scientific authority, but to what end? They regard the hard life of village dogs as their "paradise" and state that fights over a bitch in heat rarely cause injuries. Yet even a small bite can mean a slow death from flesh-eating maggot fly infestation. They assert that these dogs -- unlike wild canids, who range far to hunt and bring food in their stomachs, which is regurgitated for their cubs -- are lacking this aspect of maternal care. But they have little need to do so, since the pups around weaning time are close to food sources, and indeed, their mothers do regurgitate food for them on occasion.
The Coppingers confuse symbiosis with commensalism (eating off the same table), which was a catch question for my students of animal behavior in my classes at Washington University in St. Louis. I hope all veterinary students are taught the same.
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