Thanks, everybody, for your great input. I must be on the right path, because I found Diesel's profile online this weekend and have visited HALO online (thanks, StarrLhasa), and I am definitely looking outside my area along the east coast (thanks, andra). Actually, some folks I've spoken to are in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Delaware. I'd prefer not to have one shipped to me and would willingly drive to go get him.
The puppy I mentioned for $500 is, by the looks of it, the result of a home-bred pair of parents -- though I have no idea OR guarantee that both parents are Havanese (no photos provided). I'm sure they come with no guarantee of any sort (though no matter what, I would NEVER buy a pet from a breeder without at LEAST a written guarantee to return a dog that doesn't vet check). I've seen videos of the puppies (assuming she's on the up-and-up) and they APPEAR to be raised in her home and part of the family.
That said, I'm no sucker. Her price is SO cheap, and once I started looking out there, that cheap price does alarm me a bit more than it entices me. WHY is she so cheap? The other thing I didn't like was giving her a deposit to reserve one of the puppies and then going to claim it. Unless she was a well-known and respected breeder, I would be concerned about doing that. How do I know that is the right puppy for me? Many of the "professional" breeders seem to help you find the right dog for your family -- so even though you will pay a deposit for A puppy, many help you in selecting the right fit, even if you're placing a deposit sight unseen. Though I have never bought a living being for my home without meeting it first, if that was the route I would HAVE to go, I would trust a real breeder over some woman mating dogs.
I certainly am very open to adopting since the two I had were true blessings, and the girl I lost in September (some type of golden retriever mix) never forgot what we did for her (she was a throwaway left to die in the woods). The male I have (a papered, full-blood Maltese) was also a basketcase when we got him -- by 16 months, we were his fourth home. By all accounts, he had been with two women who worked all day and kept him crated to the point that he had no bottom incisors as he ground them down trying to get out of his confines. His third home was his foster mom. He, too, has come a long way -- and to see that really makes me love them more. There's that part of me that feels that (for me personally) to buy a dog is a slap in their faces. I always said I didn't think I could do it any other way.
Anyway, I will take some time to research this further and see what my best options are. I'm glad to know that all my hair-pulling research the last week or two had me on the right path. Thanks again, everyone. I really appreciate your time and input.
And for what it's worth, the thought of getting one and really showing it is rather intriguing, though that's an idea for another time.