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One look was all it took for Tracey Johnson and her family to fall for a handsome, sweet Beagle puppy. Ironwood Beagle breeder Edy Ballard of Morristown, Indiana, is credited for bringing together “Jasper” and the Johnsons of St. Louis.

Tracey and her husband, Jack, were seeking a pet for their 11-year-old daughter, Taylor, and 9-year-old son, Aiden. When Tracey, a Purina employee, met “Uno,” the 2008 Westminster Best in Show winner, she was smitten with the dog’s merry disposition. Years later, when the family decided they were ready for the responsibility of owning a dog and that they wanted a Beagle, a breeder referral led them to Edy.

An AKC Breeder of Merit, Edy takes seriously matching the right puppy with potential owners. She breeds one or two litters a year, though not every year. Referrals have resulted in a waiting list for an Ironwood puppy.

“I’m meticulous about determining the best dog for a family,” Edy says. “I spend a lot of time exchanging emails with puppy buyers to learn about their life­style, where they live, whether they have other pets, and what they are seeking in a dog. The more I know about a family, the better job I will do in placing a puppy.”

Originally, the Johnsons wanted a tricolored male with a loving temperament that could easily adapt to their active life­style. Edy thought the docile nature of a male called “Donnie” would be a suitable match, and the Johnsons agreed.

“Not long after we decided on Donnie, Edy was concerned that as he developed, his personality wasn’t as good a fit for our family as she initially thought,” Tracey recalls.

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Although Edy tries to match a puppy’s coat color and sex with what her clients want, temperament often is a better guide. Reevaluating the litter, Edy sent Tracey a couple of photos of puppies she thought would be more appropriate for them.

Jasper, a blue tricolor male, immediately captivated the family with his striking looks and warm personality radiating through the computer screen. Upon first glance, daughter Taylor burst into tears, exclaiming, “That’s our dog!”

To help prepare puppies for their new homes, socialization begins early for Ironwood Beagles. Edy takes young puppies on car rides and familiarizes them with walking on surfaces such as wood, carpeting, concrete, and tile. They are introduced to household sounds such as crinkling plastic grocery bags and a running vacuum cleaner.

“Puppies also need to have boundaries,” she explains. “I encourage owners to use a crate for housetraining and to enroll in puppy classes and obedience training.”

This past July, the Johnsons drove to Edy’s house to pick up 8-week-old Jasper. Like other new owners, they were given a packet that included Edy’s articles about puppy care, information about Beagles, medical records, feeding instructions, a copy of “Puppies for Dummies,” and a Purina Puppy Starter Kit with a sample of Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Puppy Formula. A soft, fleece blanket with the dam’s scent and favorite toy with the littermates’ scents also helped to ease Jasper’s transition to his new home.


Now 6 months old, Jasper has blended seamlessly into his new life. Daily rituals include a belly rub from Tracey before his morning walk and hugs from Taylor and Aiden followed by a brief play session before school.

The family continues to turn to Edy with questions or concerns about Jasper to ensure they make careful, responsible decisions. “Buying an Ironwood Beagle was the start of a new relationship,” Tracey says. “Edy is an extension of our family, too.”

“Success is placing a puppy in a permanent home with a happy, loving family,” Edy says.

Tips for Successful Puppy Placements

  1. Take It Slow: Don’t rush into placing a puppy in a home if you’re not 100 percent sure it is a suitable fit. When you take the time to actively listen to what people want in a dog, you’re more likely to make a compatible match.
  2. Trust Your Gut: If you notice red flags indicating a potential buyer and puppy aren’t the best match, trust your instinct. Your sales agreements, contracts, and guarantees are only as good as the people signing them.
  3. Customization Is Key: Matching puppies with buyers isn’t an exact science. Ask potential clients questions about their lifestyle and help them to understand temperament is often a better match than color or sex.
  4. There Are No Bad Questions: Although questions from new owners may seem basic, remember that you were once a novice, too. Take time to educate clients throughout the buying process and continue to support them after the sale as the puppy transitions to his or her new life.

About Purina Pro Plan 

Purina Pro Plan is a leader in the advanced nutrition category, with more than 140 targeted formulas to help your pet thrive throughout every stage of life. For more information, visit or follow @ProPlan on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
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