Dan Smith: Puppies have a great life at Sexton’s farm
Who doesn’t adore a cuddly puppy that licks your face, with a cold nose thrown in, one that gives you a “take me home with you” look? Not many, I can assure you.
So where do you go to get the exact breed you want in a small dog and know exactly who its parents are? How about My Puppy Place, a business owned and operated by Julia Sexton from The Sexton Family Farm in Seymour.
I was given a tour of the 96-acre farm where she also raises livestock like llamas, Scottish cattle, pigmy goats, miniature pigs and horses. From what I could see, the puppies are well taken care of with good homes and with the best medical care.
The facility is the second in the state to get a breeding license. These licenses are not inexpensive, like any other state licenses. The farm is open to inspectors from the State Department of Health and Animal Welfare from 8-5 every day.
Julia hails from Illinois, Texas and attended high school in Memphis. She is also a licensed general contractor and can build homes if the market ever gets back on its feet. Breeding dogs though, is her main concern right now, which she has been doing for the past 15 years.
She has around 100 dogs in 14 different breeds and specializes in dogs under 20 pounds. There are a few breeds she doesn’t do, like Beagles or Miniature Pinchers. She is considering French Bulldogs in the future.
She basically breeds small dogs that are affordable to the general public.
If you are interested in buying a dog, you will have to come to the kennel to acquire one. She does not ship them or meet people away from the facility. Dogs are sold directly to the customer and never to pet stores or that type of business.
She obtains a lot of business referrals from veterinarians, groomers, and customers who have dealt with her in the past. Repeat customers are always very important.
Another thing I noticed while touring is that the dogs are made into social pets. They are played with and handled, not just locked away in a cage. They are provided with human interaction which is what these puppies will have once they are purchased.
Julia tries to match the puppy with the right owner too. She interviews the buyer to make sure the dog will be a good fit. Some people may have an allergic condition that may not suit a certain dog with a particular customer.
Julia listens to the customer to make the perfect match. Pairing dogs with the right owner is a part of bringing the two together. While the customer is touring the facility, they will be able to meet the parents of the dog they are buying.
One place a dog is always welcome is a nursing home. Some homes will purchase a dog as a resident dog for the people living there, which brings tremendous pleasure to those that are shut in. When I had my dog several years ago, I took her to a nursing home in Sevierville, where my neighbor had been confined after she no longer could care for herself. Believe me, the residents and the nurses were thrilled for the visit my dog gave them that day.
Julia puts in long hours sometimes with unexpected emergencies that crop up at all hours of the night. You just can’t ignore live animals and wait till the morning, you have to attend to the ones that might need care right now. It’s a 365-day job which at times will throw a sick or struggling puppy at you that you must take care of now; just like a child in you home.
This makes it tough to take a vacation or have a lot of time to yourself. You have to love what you do though, and throw yourself into it.
There are always cages to wash down as well as laundry for the animals bedding to do. Can you imagine 75 heating pads for these precious pets? I did say these animals are well cared for. They also have all of their shots with a warranty. Go get a dog; might make a great Christmas present.
For more visit thesextonfamilyfarm.com.
— Dan M. Smith is a Cincinnati native and Gatlinburg resident. He is the author of two novels. His son is serving in the Air Force. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.