Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Labradoodles by Leanne Dehler
Like many young girls, five year-old Leanne Risbara dreamed of working with animals. When her father surprised the family with an adorable black english lab puppy, she was smitten and her career path was set. Today Leanne, now Leanne Dehler, is one of the original breeders of Labradoodles in the United States and is the practice manger for her husband’s veterinary practice, the Dehler Animal Clinic in Westbrook, Maine.
Like a bloodhound on a scent, Leanne stayed on course in following her dream. “As a teenager I begged the local pet store for a job. As soon as I turned 15, they hired me and I worked there until I was 22,” she recalled fondly.
“One of the best things about the job was that I got to bring puppies, kittens, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds to different area nursing homes. I especially loved to see the happiness in the old folks’ eyes when the animals came to visit.”
So it’s no surprise that when Leanne decided to start breeding dogs in 1998, she chose a breed that originated as a service dog: the Labradoodle. Photo by Corrie Zacharias
Labradoodles were developed in Australia in the 1980s as assistance dogs for people with allergies. A cross of two breeds ranked highly for intelligence, Labradoodles have the natural qualities essential in a service or therapy dog, and of course, a family companion.
Leanne began her Labradoodle breeding program slowly, looking for just the right breeding dogs who could pass rigorous health testing. It took about six years for the breed to catch on in the U.S., but there are now generations of Leanne’s Labradoodles from coast to coast.
While her veterinarian husband, Bob, tends to the health and medical needs of her dogs, Leanne’s children, ranging in age from 4 to 15, also help out. “My kids have a bunch of duties, including socializing, cleaning, and simply loving the pups. I often find puppies under blankets with the kids watching TV.”
In addition to her family’s’ help, she credits the her website, www.labradoodlesbyleanne.com and email for helping her balance continuous dog duty with the demands of being a mother.
“Sometimes the demand is high, and the cleaning and caring for the dogs takes a lot of time. When I sell my pups, it’s important to keep in contact with their potential owners. The internet helps me multitask, which frees up time to spend with my family.” Even after 11 years of whelping puppies, Leanne still enjoys the excitement that comes with each new litter.
“It's always a surprise to see how many puppies and what colors will be born. I love to produce dogs that are easy to adjust and train and make families happy!”
The opportunity for surprise and happy families will come again soon, as Leanne awaits her next Labradoodle litter coming in October. Maybe somewhere there is a five year old girl who will be equally inspired by the surprise.