I just posted my review in the wrong discussion area--am now posting it here where it belongs.
Last April we got an adorable puppy that was 4 months old from Nevena Havanese, in Fallbrook. We did extensive research on Havanese breeders and decided to go with a breeder who did all the genetic tests and assured us that our puppy had impeccable pedigree. Nevena said that this dog—the only older puppy she had at the time—was her “pick of the litter”, the one she was keeping for herself to breed her, but an illness in the family made her decide to sell the dog.
When we got her, the toes on her left leg were slightly turned out but it didn’t seem to be an issue so we ignored it for some time. In the following months, the paw kept turning out and her leg grew increasingly bowed. We thought this might not be a big deal till we took her to the vet to be sure, and the vet was very alarmed and recommended an x-ray. It turned out that our dog had severe valgus deformity of the carpus, a well-understood and serious condition. We began an odyssey of research and gathering opinions and learned a lot about this condition.
After taking our dog to our local excellent pet hospital, PetCare, we got a second opinion from one of the most experienced and respected orthopedic vets, Dr. Gary Brown in Fremont, and it became clear that surgery was our only option. If left untreated, this condition will progress and mean a life of misery and awful complications for the dog. Two vets suggested it was likely the breeder likely about the deformity.
During this trying time, I reached out to Nevena to let her know, and her reply was a one line email telling me to send the dog back for a refund and insisted that the surgery was not needed. I, my husband, and our 8 year old daughter love our dog and it was not an option to send her back 6 months after we got her! In the next reply, Nevena arrogantly and brazenly contradicted some of the most respected experts in the field and told us that if we went forward with the surgery she would "never talk to us again”. She refused any responsibility or role, and refused any support. She insisted that our dog was “normal” but then contradicted herself saying she had had "bowlegged" dogs in the past, suggesting that she obviously knew this problem existed and was familiar with it at least to some extent. In her correspondence, she even suggested that our dog’s condition was our fault, she accused us of “over-exercising” her because I had told her earlier that we took her for a "nice long walk". Both surgeons dismissed this out of hand as a possible cause. You can imagine how painful the accusation was under these challenging circumstances!
We went ahead with the surgery. Our dog has come through months of recovery pretty well and we hope that she will lead a normal life. It has taken months for us to adjust to her limitations, the enormous time and energy that this has taken and the cost which has exceeded $5,000. It is hard to think of the life our dog would have been forced to lead if we had returned her to Navena; she would have never gotten the necessary treatment and who knows what her fate would have been.
In retrospect, other warning signs about the quality of this breeder were present. When we got our dog at 4 months old she had not been even the least bit housebroken, even though Navena had been planning to keep her. While picking up the dog, I asked several times to see where the dog had been living but I kept getting deflected and did not want to be rude by insisting (I should have). Attempts to find out about her daily routine in the early weeks of having her were also dismissed with “whatever habits she had here, she’s forgotten about them.” The breeder would not talk to me by phone either before getting the dog or after we returned home with her, citing concerns about facts getting twisted and wanting to have everything in writing from the beginning. Finally, I am no breeder, but I have concerns about the frequency of her litters—3 breeding dogs but at least 4 litters a year—seems like too many. My concern was confirmed by the Havanese Forum article that lists as warning signs having more than a couple of litters a year and not having the pups live in the home (Nevena has her pups in a separate building outside—she wouldn’t show it to me).
Recently I learned that one of her litters was delivered prematurely under emergency c-section; I doubt prospective owners were notified of this, and I noticed this fact was not listed on her website with the litter, which was being advertised as being for sale some weeks later. The whole experience makes me wonder where the line is between breeder and puppy mill.
Painful as it is, we feel it is our responsibility to tell our story. We would be happy to give more details including x-rays and our correspondence with Nevena to anyone who might be considering getting a dog from her. It is always best to have as much information as possible when making such an important decision. All we have is our story and our opinion and will offer you that and nothing more.