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Tony McMahon | 5th May 2013

Val Dew and Desma Jones cuddle up to Lola at
Benevolent Aged Care in Rockhampton.
Allan Reinikka

CURIOUS business name I thought - Bellissimo Labradoodles but then again I had never set eyes on a labradoodle.

When I did, the name was a natural - Bellissimo (lovely) Labradoodles as it is so fitting for these alluring "love me'' dogs.

Little wonder Rockhampton's Penny Valigura, the proprietor of the breeding business is so smitten with the breed that she admits to being a "little obsessed". The labradoodle as the name suggests is a cross bred dog from the mating of a labrador with a standard or miniature poodle.

There are three categories of labradoodles - mini - medium- and standard.

Nine-week-old labradoodle puppy Marshmellow.
Allan Reinik
"They became popular as low allergy guide dogs in the seventies and are ideally companion dogs. The labradoodle has minimal health issues and non-shedding coats. These can be a combination of a fleece, like a shaggy dog look or a wool coat. They are very family orientated - gentle loving dogs and are popular therapy dogs for young and old," Penny said.

To say that Penny is a dog lover is an understatement.

Along with whom she describes as her "long suffering" husband Paul, the couple are the proprietors of a Rockhampton electrical business.

"I told Paul it's a case of love me - love my dogs" which he does along as do sons Brock 11 and Clay eight.

Penny, the daughter of Rockhampton real estate identity Bob Heath said that throughout her life she cannot remember being without a dog.

Mind you these days she has quite a few on the books and not just labradoodles that are part of her breeding program.

The labradoodle breeding bitches include the guardian family program dogs Raspberry, Strawberry, Blueberry and Marshmellow along with Lola who is on duty at Rockhampton's Benevolent Aged Care facility -not to mention the adorable pups that are coming and going.

I almost forgot to add Izzy the Maremma Pink the Bull Arab as well as retired stud bitch Harper.

"Then there is Big and Bang," Penny added.

"Now I know, Big is the stud labradoodle and Bang a breeding bitch", I confidentially suggest. "No they are my pet cats", she said doggedly.

After lengthy research, Penny acquired her first labradoodle, a male named Murphy who was to be a family pet.

Soon to join the Valigura household was a sassy little mini-miss named Harper and it all became too much for Murphy.

So much so, within minutes after coming home from being desexed, Harper defied the odds by breaking free and busting his stitches while servicing Mandy who was on heat.

When things cooled down about two months later, Penny was drooling over three labradoodle pups.

"I didn't have the heart to sell them so they were given away to family and friends," Penny said.

That unsolicited mating led to Penny establishing Bellissimo Labradoodles and these days she no longer has to give pups away as they are sold for $2200 throughout Australia.

Clay Valigura with nine week old labradoodle puppy Marshmellow
Allan Reinikka Rokalabrado

Running a free range breeding program, none of Penny's labradoodles are kennelled as she believes they are essentially companion dogs.

"It is much better for them to be living with families rather than being kennelled. The guardian program is designed to give the dogs (girls if you don't mind) the best of both worlds to be totally pampered as a family member as well as being part of our breeding program.

"A guardian family purchase the dog at half-price ($1100) and Bellissimo retain the breeding rights and will cover all costs associated with the breeding program.

"We usually breed our girls three or four times.

"The mother comes back to us at Bellissimo usually a week before the pups are born and stays there until they are whelped.

"During this time the guardian family can visit and be part of the experience.

"The original purchase price ($1100) is refunded to the guardian family after the first litter is born," Penny said.

Bellissimo have strict criteria and contracts for would-be guardian families to meet, but dog-fancier Penny said it is a win-win situation.

Penny's puppies are sold with a health guarantee. "I'm not in breeding the dogs for the money. I just love the breed," Penny said.

So for Penny it is not a matter of the labradoodles suiting the family or the purchaser, but them suiting the labradoodles.

In today's dog-eat-dog world it is an admirable principle to project.



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