AVONDALE, Pennsylvania -- They're furry, four-legged, and a rising favorite among dog-lovers. But French Bulldogs mean so much more to a local, family-owned breeding business.
"These are like our kids, y'know," joked Sean Bennett, who co-owns Franceschi Frenchies with his wife, Raquel.
For these empty nesters, the sounds of barking have replaced the chatter of their five children. But nothing can replace the memory of their youngest, Sean Bennett Jr., who died by suicide at the age of 15.
"He loved our dogs," said Sean Sr. "They made him happy. They put him in his happy place."
Sean Jr. loved animals and would always be the first in line to help his parents find homes for their new litters.
"He would get a little teary-eyed," said Sean Sr.
After their son's passing, the couple decided to embrace their hobby in his honor. Since then, Franceschi Frenchies has seen six generations of award-winning French Bulldogs that found the perfect companions.
"I think this just represents him," said Sean Sr., referring to his son.
Now, with every smile cracked in the presence of a playful puppy, the parents think of precious memories of their son.
"If he was here, he would be right here with us, playing with the dogs," said Raquel. "He'd be wanting to share them with people to make people happy."
Judging by their recent sales, it seems Franceschi Frenchies has made quite a few families happy.
"Some folks that were waiting for a puppy, they're in a situation now where they can have a puppy now," said Sean in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Out of their last two litters, each puppy available for purchase found the perfect home.
Their business' success also comes with recent news that the American Kennel Club ranked French Bulldogs the second-most popular breed in the country, jumping two spaces from its previous position.
"It's kind of cool but it's kind of scary," said Sean about the new ranking. "But we want to make sure our clients know that popularity doesn't change our breed ethics and our standards."
The couple hopes to continue breeding dogs with the goal of placing them in compatible homes, knowing that Sean is smiling down.
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