Cold noses, warm hearts for 2nd career
James and Cindy Griffittses’ average day now looks slightly different than it did a couple of years ago.
Aside from an occasional shift that Cindy works in the lab at St. Luke Hospital, the couple is retired.
Trading in stethoscopes and scrubs for belly rubs and ear scratches, the Griffittses operate C and J Ranch in a renovated church building on Yarrow Rd. northeast of Marion.
While the ranch has typical trappings, such as six horses and barn cats, there are no cattle.
What they lack in cows they make up for in dogs, 28 in all, that call the ranch home now. Including a litter of 12 Irish doodles that were born June 1.
James and Cindy began breeding dogs 10 years ago and eventually moved from bluehealers to golden doodles and Irish doodles - - hybrid breeds between a golden retriever and poodle, and Irish setter and poodle.
James has enjoyed focusing on breeding since retiring 1 ½ years ago.
“I miss the people I worked with, but I don’t miss all the paperwork,” he said. “We were looking to supplement income in retirement, and it’s helped a lot. What better way to retire then to play with puppies all day? Of course, it’s a lot more than that, but I love it.”
The couple’s background in medicine has helped them with the ins and outs of creating designer dogs.
“There are advantages to having been a nurse in a field with all the health aspects,” James said. “Like worming, rabies, vaccinations--that’s all really important.”
The duo work together, especially when it’s show time for a new litter.
“One of us is always here,” James said. “If she’s at work, then I’m baby-sitting, but she’ll stay up with them all night long if they start having puppies.”
An average price for puppies born on C and J Ranch starts around $1,200, but the Griffittses say the business isn’t as lucrative as one might think.
“People see all the money you’re bringing in but really, as much as you’re putting out for each puppy, the profit isn’t as much as you’d think,” James said.
The Griffittses go through forty- 50-pound bags of dog food a month to keep tails wagging.
Even so, the Griffittses have gifted puppies to new owners for free on occasion.
“There have been people that we’ve given discounts to because the kids they’ve bought them for are autistic,” Cindy said. “We have given a couple away.”
Out of the over 200 dogs they have sold, half a dozen have gone to be comfort dogs or service dogs,” James said
One particular puppy from a litter of golden-doodles born March 28 probably had no idea how much of an impact it would make on one little boy.
“It went to a boy over by Andover that has cancer,” James said. “I spent a lot of time talking with his mom, and she said he just needed something that would lift his spirits.”
The mother was right.
“She said that puppy has smiles on their face every day,” he said. “They send us videos and pictures now.”
The dogs often lift Cindy’s spirits too.
“Especially when the momma comes up and puts her face right by your face and wants to be petted,” she said.
“I mean, have you ever seen an ugly puppy?”
Variations of colorings and litter sizes stands out as a favorite aspect of breeding dogs for James.
“It’s a surprise every time,” he said. “How many you’ll get, and when we had a different male poodle that we retired last year, it was a surprise what color you were going to get because he was a brindle.”
After puppies are freshly groomed, the couple takes them to St. Luke or area nursing homes to spread their positive effect on people, puppy breath and all.
For people who might love puppies but can’t imagine all the work that goes in behind the scenes with these cuddly fluff balls, Cindy has an answer.
“We’re just crazy,” she said.