Dog breeding business brings joy, helps pay hefty college expenses
By Natalie Korniak
Leah Hefty believes there is nothing quite like the good feeling puppies bring. The feel of those furry bellies, cold noses, and wet kisses; the sound of excited barks; the sight of wagging tails and never-ending smiles. Hefty loves them and can’t wait to share the joy with others.
Hefty, a sophomore agricultural education major from Auburn, Indiana, owns a dog breeding business called Not So Hefty Puppies. The best part about her work is finding loving homes for the dogs.
“It is nice to see them with the families,” Hefty said. “Typically, the families that I sell them to are head-over-heels in love with the dogs before they even take them home.”
Placing dogs with families isn’t just something Hefty talks about — it’s built into her business. Hefty raises Yorkshire terrier and Maltese puppies. The pups are purebred, but Hefty does not register them. Registering a purebred dog through the American Kennel Club could bring a premium price for the puppies because of their potential to become show dogs.
Hefty focuses on providing good families with lovable pets. Her puppies are well-known as healthy and friendly canines. Her reputation even brings repeat business.
“Some of the families will come back to me when they want a second dog, because they liked the first one so well,” Hefty said. “It is just rewarding for me to hear that they love their dog and that the vet says it is one of the healthiest puppies they have seen. It makes me feel like I am doing something right.”
Making sure the puppies have good homes requires a lot of work, Hefty said. Having the right conditions for the puppies is important. She makes sure they have plenty of space to run, good food to eat, comfortable places to rest, and that they spend plenty of time around people. All these conditions ensure happy and healthy animals.
“My favorite thing about the puppies is just being able to play with them,” Hefty said. “I get to see all of their personalities shine through. It’s just like getting to know a new person.”
Forming a bond with the animals is natural, but Hefty actually started the business for other reasons. She started it in competition with her younger brother who sold potbellied pigs. Being the oldest, she didn’t want to let her brother make more money. They grew up in a country home with big dogs, and she said she always wanted a small one — so that’s how she chose the smaller Yorkshire terrier and Maltese breeds. While still in middle school, Hefty developed her own business plan and took action.
“It was cool to be able to combine actually making money with my desire to have small dogs,” Hefty said. “My dad couldn’t say, ‘No,’ because it was an actual business plan.”
Although Hefty still owns the business, coming to Purdue has changed her role. Luckily, Hefty has full support from her family. The motto on her business website — “Family owned, family loved” — rings true.
“I still manage my business as far as making sure the website is up to date,” Hefty said. “I have employed my brother as a hired hand. He makes sure they are fed and watered every day and get played with when I am not home. If I am not home when it comes time to sell the puppies, my dad takes care of it.”
This fun business that Hefty started ended up funding her education. She has saved all the proceeds from puppy sales to go toward her tuition, which funded her first two years at Purdue.
“Oh my, it was a lifesaver,” Hefty said. “I am very determined to be a teacher after graduation, which does not really support having a lot of student loans. With the money I saved from raising my puppies, I will be able to graduate without debt.”