WHO You Are Is What Matters Most

WHO You Are Is What Matters Most

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Going to the mall can be quite an experience, especially when my wife, Alia, is in the mood to do some shopping.  The peak of our annual shopping experience is during Thanksgiving break.  Its three days of continuous shopping as we work to purchase the majority of our Christmas gifts during this time.

My parents take the kids for the weekend, while Alia and I shop until we drop!  We visit many stores and scour what seems like every retail establishment in Bloomington.  I’m usually exhausted by the end of it and my wallet is definitely a lot lighter by the time we’re finished.

Whenever we hit the Bloomington Mall, Alia always insists that we stop by Anthony’s Pet Store, so we can look at the puppies.  I try to avoid this stop because Alia usually tries to coax me into handling a few puppies with her.  Most of the time, I successfully avoid her trap, but this time, she convinced me to come and look at a Yellow Labrador Retriever puppy.  I’m particularly fond of Labs, especially since we’ve had our wonderful Chocolate Lab, Cheyenne, for the past thirteen years.

When I first laid eyes on this little Lab, I knew I liked her.  Her floppy ears and golden eyes sparkled when the store attendant handed her over to Alia.  I refused to hold her or to get in the play area with her, because I didn’t want to get attached.  I watched the Lab puppy frolic with Alia and cuddle in her arms when she picked her up.  I could tell Alia was hooked, but I would not allow it.  I kept my distance and made the decision that I would remain firm and deflect any talk of purchasing that puppy during the height of Christmas season, after I just spent a ton of money on gifts for friends and family.  Most of all, I vowed to never buy a puppy from a pet store.

I’ve heard the stories and read the materials.  From what I researched, pet stores are horrible places to purchase puppies.  I read stories of malnutritioned puppies that were not properly bred.  They usually came from “puppy mills” that overbreed their dogs, which would most likely lead to long term problems.  Finally, most store owners were hard to deal with and were merely profit driven with no interest in the wellbeing of the animals they peddled, or so I heard.

Alia had a plan and I’ve learned to never underestimate her when she has a plan.  She deployed the heavy guns, she brought the kids along one Sunday afternoon to Anthony’s Pets Store to take a look at the little Yellow Labrador puppy.  I was hoping that the puppy would be sold and gone when we arrived, but she sat waiting for someone to love on her, her neck careened up against the glass kennel.

Alia won, I never had a chance.  The kids fell in love with this puppy as she licked their faces and nestled her head under their chins and accepted their love.  Again, I kept my distance as I watched my family bonding with this little Yellow Lab that quickly stole their hearts.  I excused myself from the Pet Store and ventured off to the bathroom while contemplating my options.  By the time I came back to the store, I made up my mind that I would purchase the Lab and bring her home.

My instincts told me to walk away, but my heart convinced me to bring her home, and so we did.  Stella, as Alia and the kids quickly named her before we even left the store, became the newest member of the Rheam Family.  However, I would soon discover that maybe my instincts were right, I should have walked away.

A few days after bringing Stella home, I noticed a red fleshy substance emerging from her left canine tooth.  My heart sank, something was wrong.  By the time I took her to the veterinarian, the mass in her mouth had doubled in size and was growing fast.  The vet was surprised that a puppy would develop something like this and notified me that it needed to be removed immediately and sent away for testing.  I feared the worst and went through with the procedure and paid the hefty sum of money it required to complete the surgery and get the removed substance tested.

I was not looking forward to contacting Anthony’s Pets to discuss this issue with the store owner.  My fear of purchasing a puppy from a pet store was realized and I expected the worst when I reached Tony, the owner of Anthony’s Pets, on the phone.  I was surprised, he sounded concerned for Stella and admitted that he was not sure how to proceed, since this never happened before.  He requested the medical analysis on Stella from our vet and we started a correspondence that lasted for several weeks.

In the end, the results on Stella’s mass came back negative, she would be fine.  All that was left was the awkward situation of having to spend nearly $500 to fix a problem discovered less than a week after we brought her home from Anthony’s Pets.

I reviewed the warranty that came with the purchase of Stella.  It was clear on this type of situation, the expense would not be covered.  It was an unfortunate incident, but legally, Anthony’s Pets was not at fault.  However, this was not the way Tony approached it.

“I try to put myself in the shoes of the customer and how I would feel if this happened to me.” He stated over the phone as we discussed what to do next.

“Legally, everyone is cleared, it’s just you and me and what we think is fair.” He said in a polite tone.  He then asked me what I thought was fair and allowed me to propose the solution, which I did.  “Let me think about it and get back to you.”  A couple days later, Tony called me back and agreed to my terms.

Throughout the process, Tony was quick to respond, very polite, and emphatic with my situation.  I was impressed by the way he approached the situation and by the way he treated me with respect and remained professional throughout the process.  I wanted to meet him personally, since we only talked over the phone.

I stopped by the pet store and asked if Tony was available.  He was not.  He was in a business meeting, but when he was told that I stopped by to meet him, he put his meeting on hold and took the time to come out and greet me.  He smiled warmly as he shook my hand.  I thanked him for rectifying our situation and that I appreciated his time and attention.  I confessed that I was leery of pet stores, but was very surprised with my pleasant experience.

Tony smiled, “Whether it’s a pet store, a breeder, or just someone selling puppies out of their backyard is irrelevant.  In the end, it just matters who you are as a person.”  He looked down at the floor and shook his head.  “You can be a good person and own a pet store and provide great service.  On the other hand, you can be a breeder, but be a bad person and provide horrible service.  I find it best to focus on the person and stay away from generalizations altogether.”  He reached his hand out to me.  I accepted it. “I just stick to the golden rule and find that it usually serves me well.  It was nice to finally meet you, Erick.”  I thanked him again for his time.  Tony excused himself and went back to his business meeting in his office and l left with four bags of dog food to take home to a strong, healthy, and growing puppy.

If you are looking for a great addition to your family, then don’t hesitate to swing by Anthony’s Pets Store at the Bloomington Mall.  I can assure you, they provide a wonderful service and will always treat you the way you should and deserve to be treated and will help you find a cuddly and adorable new friend like our Stella!

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  1. That is a wonderful experience – what a wonderful businessman he is, Erick! Congratulatios to your newest addition to your family….Stella!

    1. Thanks for your comment Aunt Joyce!

  2. What an excellent article about your pet store experience, Erick. So many people pass on the “bad store owners/bad breeders” stories without actually checking them out. Of course, there are the bad ones, but you’ve found a good one! Glad to see something positive written about it!

    1. I changed my paradigm about a few things for sure. Thanks, Christi!


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