Darcey’s Story, Raffles Cockapoos

Puppy: Darcey

Darcey, bought from Raffles Cockapoos, Cheshire, Oct 2017

Purchased Oct 2017, Red Cavapoo from Raffles, Nantwich, Cheshire who died from parvo virus within 11 days.

Why did we buy from Raffles?

We met a cockerpoo pup from Raffles during the summer of 2016 who seemed happy and healthy. The owners had also been impressed with Raffles, in particular the hygiene measures taken to ‘protect’ the dogs from viruses when people visit; looking back now we view this differently (see arrivals section). We had spent some time doing our research as we had heard about the horrors of puppy farming and tried to find a reputable breeder from which to purchase our family dog. 

On Arrival at Raffles

On 23rd October 2017, we purchased our long awaited Cavapoo puppy from Raffles, Nantwich. There were a couple of odd things around the collection of our puppy that, due to falling in love with her immediately – a guaranteed reaction – we both overlooked whilst there but did remark on when we were on our drive home.

  • We were asked to step into a footbath on arrival (filled with disinfectant one assumes) and to sanitise our hands before being allowed to handle the puppy. The message could be that they pride themselves on their hygiene levels but since our experience – and hearing of so many others – I now wonder
  • Darcey was in the breeder’s arms waiting for us as we pulled up on the drive, the mum and remaining litter mates were nowhere to be seen
  • Darcey was never put on the floor, she was handed to us practically as soon as we stepped into the room after the foot tray and gelled our hands
  • She seemed scared when we met her and not socialised or confident, unlike many other puppies we have met
  • There were 3 play pens in the shop/collection room with blankets on the floor. It was clear that puppies do not ‘live’ in that room. There was still no sign of the mum now that we were inside.
  • There were no other puppies in the play pens in the room despite being told there were two more in the litter waiting to be collected. I asked where they were and the owner pointed to a closed door – why weren’t the rest of the litter mates with my puppy?
  • We did meet the mum and dad but it was all rather odd. They were carried across the drive into the room. They were brought to us but never put on the floor. Why would you keep two fully grown dogs in your arms and off the floor?
  • We had no idea if the mum was the mum. We saw no evidence of her having fed her pups and whilst Darcey was wagging her tail, the mum didn’t seem that bothered about her
  • On the way home I noticed that Darcey had sawdust/straw stuck to her paws and between her toes, particularly the back ones. I tried to get it off but couldn’t as some of it was really stuck. I did wonder where this could have come from since we were told the puppies are brought up in the family home with children etc.
  • Everything told us that something was not right, but with a beautiful puppy in your arms and the excitement of our children waiting at home in the back of our minds, our brains were not functioning. Mark performed his sales routine, which was very impersonal and sounded like he was just going through the motions like he had done it hundreds of times before. He reassured of several things we may experience: expect blood in stools due to the stress of moving to a new home, expect the dog to vomit on the way home (first time in a car), expect the dog to not eat etc., etc.

On Arriving Home

When we got home on 23rd October 2017, Darcey had a runny stool and it had blood in it. The breeder had warned this would happen; they had an answer for everything. 

Darcey didn’t eat a huge amount and what she did eat was only from the floor. She didn’t seem to know how to eat kibble from a bowl.  Over the next few days, she seemed to be settling in the house and garden but seemed distressed when we left the house to go for a vet check on 26th October 2017. She seemed fine at the check up, suspected ear mites, but otherwise all appeared to be well. We enjoyed a happy 4 days with her, welcomed her into our family and all fell in love with her; our much awaited puppy.

First signs of sickness 

On the afternoon of 27th October 2017 she started wretching and vomited. A couple of hours later Darcey was sick twice more and started to appear lethargic. She only wanted to be in her bed sleeping, wasn’t interested in food or drink. We didn’t want to risk anything knowing that dehydration can be fatal for puppies so we emailed the breeder for advice at the same time as taking her back to the vets.

She was admitted to the vet hospital that night, with suspected gastroenteritis or parvovirus. We were to await the results of tests. The next day she starting refusing food and we had to give permission for the vet to insert a feeding tube into her nose. Even when we went to visit her she only licked a tiny amount of food from my husband’s hand.

The devastating blow then came. Parvovirus was confirmed and Darcey was put into isolation. I was able to visit her but had to wear scrubs and gloves. It was difficult to cuddle her with the equipment and feeding tube; just broke my heart to see her like that. Such suffering and heartache for her and for us, particularly for our children.

From then on Darcey was up and down – one minute we had hope she’d pull through, the next we thought we would lose her. She got to the point where she was regurgitating all food given to her by the tube and was deteriorating fast. On the Thursday we had the call from the vet we had been dreading…they recommended that we let her go because she was just too poorly.  Such a devastating loss to us. She received amazing care and attention at the vets and I am grateful for all they tried to do to save our girl.

The breeder disagreed with the vet’s diagnosis and told us that he had called round the other families with pups from the same litter and all of them remained fine, including the two that remained with them. A European specialist was on site at the vets at the time Darcey was in and she reviewed the test results.  She reconfirmed the diagnosis of parvovirus.  Even after giving him this update, the breeders continued to suggest it was our fault but there is simply NO WAY that could be the case.  Our vets report confirms that the incubation period is 7-14 days so we know that parvovirus was NOT contracted from us; something I felt the breeder had intimated several times during Darcey’s illness.

It was after I requested a refund and forwarded the report from our vet to Raffles that they started to get aggressive and rude. I couldn’t believe the way they were behaving to one of their customers, especially after what had happened.  I was told our vets report was ‘appalling’ and even threatened with legal action.

We know of several others Raffles puppy owners who have been in a similar situation to us. I would not wish this experience on any other family.  Many people are afraid to speak out due to the threats of legal action that come very early on when things go wrong.

There is nothing here but the truth. Luckily for this breeder and many others there are still more healthy pups leaving to go to their forever homes than sick ones. Thank goodness. This doesn’t mean it isn’t happening but it does mean people need to take a balanced view of any breeder. There will always be bad with good, dark with light: fact. It is the suffering in numbers that needs awareness.

We thought our case was an isolated one but sadly, it quickly became apparent it was not. The puppies don’t have a voice but we do. I am doing this for Darcey and to raise awareness of what can, and sadly does, happen.

All we have left of our beautiful girl.

If you have bought a sick puppy from this breeder, please contact Cheshire East Council to log a complaint:

and also get in touch with us: