|BY MARILYN KRATZ|
| You may think you're
seeing a typical rural residence as you drive up to Jeanne and Darrel
Mogck's home a few miles east of Yankton. Their tree-shaded yard is
surrounded by a neat white three-rail fence. Flower beds add islands
of color, and the outbuildings are carefully maintained.
But it's what you don't see that makes this farm different.
You don't see the hard work and love that has gone into making Fairview Kennels a successful, family-run business. And unless you're invited into the outbuildings, or happen to stroll past the kennels, you may not see the frisky, friendly puppies they sell to customers all over this country and even in Canada.
Jeanne and Darrel, both of whom drive buses daily for the local school district, had a pair of Australian Shepherds at first. They raised and sold a few of the pups, but they were more involved with training horses at the time. They had been toying with the idea of raising pups on a larger scale when they bought a Miniature Pinscher they named Nicki. The pup endeared herself to the entire family, including Jeanne's grandmother, Amanda McElroy. As she sat with Nicki on her lap, Amanda said to Jeanne, "You should be raising these dogs so more people could have and enjoy them.
The Mogck's agreed, and started the process which has made them successful breeders of purebred dogs for over thirty years. They continued raising Australian Shepherds, added Miniature Pinschers, which they no longer raise, and have gone on to raise Italian Greyhounds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
"The Australian Shepherds are sometimes used as therapy or helper dogs for people with handicaps," Jeanne says. Although that is a source of pride for the Mogck's, their main goal is to raise dogs that give joy and companionship to all their customers. "Our dogs become such a part of our lives that they almost seem human to us."
One of their goals in starting the business was to provide a place where other members of their family could work with them, Jeanne says. Their daughter, Julie Christensen, works full time at the farm, and brings her two-year old daughter Emma to work every day. Emma has had the good fortune to spend her days with her mother and devoted grandparents since she was 2 weeks old while surrounded with puppies that are always ready to play.
Emma's nine-year old brother Jordan helps with the chores each day after school. He's also interested in training some of the dogs on a special set of agility equipment - obstacles, tunnels, and poles around which the dogs must maneuver. He and Emma are both happy they were "raised in a dog kennel," as Jeanne likes to joke.
Another daughter, Laura Haase, teaches school and helps during the summer. Her husband John installed the kennels' heating and air-conditioning units, and Julie's husband Darin pitches in when needed and does and any concrete work that needs to be done. Jeanne is sure Laura and John's daughter Addie will enjoy being a "socializer" with the pups as soon as she can walk and talk.
There's never a dull moment at Fairview Kennels. Over the years, each member of the family has developed a unique expertise for dealing with different aspects of the business. Whelping, or birthing the puppies, is usually Jeanne and Julie's domain. About one week before the females are ready to give birth, each is brought to the nursery and placed in a whelping kennel beside the farm's business office. If the births are expected to take place at night, Jeanne puts the expectant mother in a whelping kennel in their family home. She tries to get some sleep as she waits, but says it's not unusual for her to be up all night while she assists with the process. Two to three litters are born each month.
Mother and pups are housed in a kennel away from the other dogs for about seven weeks, or until the pups are weaned. Julie gives each pup a name, all beginning with the same letter as the mother to help her keep track of the pups. The lists of litters, which usually consist of four or five pups, are displayed in the office so they can tell immediately which puppies are available.
After the pups are weaned, they go to another area where they await shipment to their new homes. During their time at the farm, they are "socialized" with much love and care. "Pups are a lot like human babies," says Jeanne. "They aren't born knowing how to interact with people. they have to be taught, just as you teach a human baby."
Since the motto of the business is "Puppies with Personality Plus" the socializing is an important aspect of raising the pups, and as Jeanne admits, it's one they all enjoy. But when they found they needed extra help with that job the Mogck's hired Bailey Gullikson, a seventh grader from Gayville, to come twice a week after school. Working with two or three at a time, she takes the dogs out to run, handles them, and teaches Emma how to play gently. The pups are especially responsive to Emma, Jeanne says. Emma "smooches" with the pups, and once crawled into a whelping kennel to play with the irresistible new-born pups. The mother dog watched calmly as if knowing Emma meant no harm.
Everything is done to make sure the pups start life in the best of health. They are fed a special diet, and their kennels, including the outdoor running areas spread with pea gravel, are cleaned daily. Immediately after their births, Julie sets up a schedule for the puppies to get their shots. Their first set of shots is completed before they are sold.
Sometimes a customer will come to the farm to pick up a puppy. The pup is then brought into a room beside the office. Jeanne calls it the "family room," where they can play with the pup and begin the process a adopting it into their family.
Most buyers of these breeds want a dog whose forebears have been show champions, so their pedigrees are very important. Dogs with many forebears who have been champions also bring higher prices. The cost depends on a dog's sex, quality, color, age and breed, and can range from $400.00 to $900.00.
About 30 percent of their customers come back to buy another dog eventually. One woman who has bought about seven IG's - each one in a different color - says dogs are better than having a husband, Jeanne reports with a laugh. Some of their customers have been famous people, such as Jason Kidd, point guard for the New Jersey Nets in the NBA, and Jeff Cavins, from the "Life on the Rocks" television show.
Betty Haffner helps out with some of the paper work involved. She makes sure each pup is properly registered with the American Kennel Club. Julie also does all the computer work, mainly arranging sales and keeping the website current. Details of every dog's purchase must be maintained so the business can pass yearly inspections by the American Kennel Club and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The AKC also does DNA tests on the pups about once a year to make sure they actually are the offspring of the dogs the Mogck's claim for them.
The Mogck's keep scrapbooks of pictures and letters delighted owners have sent them over the years; some owners even set up web sites featuring photographs and information about their dogs. Their own website, www.fairviewkennels.com, features pictures of people with the pups they have purchased, as well as all the puppies available for purchase at any given time. All of the Fairview dogs have a microchip imbedded beneath the skin, just above their shoulder. The puppies all have a microchip implanted before they go to their new home. Each chip, about the size of a grain of rice, records the dog's identification number, which can be shown on a hand-held scanner and used to find lost or stolen dogs.
"A trucker bought one of our dogs recently," Jeanne says. "He took it with him on his route. One very hot day, he let the dog out for a run at a truck stop in Utah. He didn't realize he hadn't closed the door tightly when he put the dog back into the cab, and the dog got out. He didn't miss it until he was a few miles down the road. Luckily, the dog was found immediately by some tourists at the truck stop, and turned in to authorities who knew to check for a microchip. It didn't take long for the lucky trucker to be reunited with his pet.
Julie also transports the puppies to the airport in Sioux Falls where they need to be flown to their new homes. "The day before the airport gets pretty hectic sometimes," Julie says. "There is a lot of paperwork involved and then to get their bath and microchip." Darrel and Jeanne all help in the process, freezing water in the dish so the puppy can lick it as it melts, and getting the kennels put together and ready to fly. Julie has become accustomed to only getting about 4 hours of sleep on the night before the airport since she is usually on the road around 3:45 a.m.
One time when Darrel and Jeanne were taking a van full of frisky, barking puppies to the airport, they were stopped by a Highway Patrolman because they were driving a bit too fast. The patrolman and the Mogcks had to shout in an effort to be heard over the din of excited pups. Since then, they decided the pups would be quieter and more comfortable in groups rather than in separate kennels during the ride, so that is how they usually do it now. They usually cuddle and fall asleep, making for a much quieter trip.
When Julie gets to the airport, each dog must be put back in its own kennel for shipment. The kennels are placed in a special pressurized, temperature controlled compartment near the front of the plane, just below the cockpit and in front of the luggage hold.
Raising Dogs requires daily attention, so family trips are not possible for the entire group. However, one or two of them will sometimes take a select few of the dogs to show. Julie especially enjoys showing the Italian Greyhounds. The family has shown dogs at events in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa. "We've had several dogs win Best of Breed." says Jeanne. "That's always exciting."
The Mogcks have spent much time and money keeping their breeding lines strong and healthy. Their aim is to produce dogs that are excellent examples of their breed; they keep some of their best pups for breeding and showing. To show the confidence they have in their dogs, they give new owners a five-year genetic health guarantee.
Many puppy farms now use technology to make the job of raising pups faster and easier, Jeanne says, but she and Darrel prefer raising their dogs with a personal, loving touch. Both feel the ultimate reward for their efforts is the difference they make in the lives of people when they are able to give them a healthy, happy puppy - a "Puppy with Personality Plus."
Jeanne and Darrel might some day have a large sign made for the entrance to their farm so people will know exactly what they raise there. But that won't be able to show the story of the love and effort they have put into their unique farm. For that, one must see the joy in their eyes and the pride in their voices as they talk about their animals.
As Darrel says, "It's all about making people happy!"
|Marilyn Kratz is a lifelong resident of Yankton|
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