Thursday, May 3, 2007

Puppy Love

Puppies (and dogs) are this week’s obsession.

One year ago, my husband and I decided that we were ready for more commitment and love in our lives, and that meant a dog.

But we didn’t want to rush into it—we were traveling too much last summer and didn’t have time for puppy training, so we decided to research and plan and get one when we were truly ready.

Summer passed; we read up on breeds and breeders, rescue dogs and shelters and decided that as inexperienced (but devoted) pet owners we wanted a docile, well-bred dog that we could train as a pup. We decided on a breed: a Golden Retriever (which is what my family had when I was a teenager). We made arrangements to have a fenced-in area built for the puppy.

In autumn, we traded in our ten-year-old Camry for a more pet-friendly and camping-friendly car: a RAV4, with lots of room in back for dogs and tents and coolers.

Winter passed, and we thought about whether we would be able to give the time we knew a puppy would need. Summer is ideal, since we work at a school and our workload goes way down in that season.

Spring arrived and we started to read about training. We contacted a breeder who contacted her contacts and found a dam in Missouri (863 miles away) who would whelp in a few weeks—which means that we need to wait 10-12 weeks for the puppy.

So I bought a crate (for those aghast, it is what all of my training books recommend; apparently most dogs love their crates as safe, fun places and it is a favored training tool, along with positive reinforcement techniques). I also bought a bed, food and water dishes, a leash, raw hides, soft toys, puppy pads, liver treats, a barrier gate, etc.

And then we settled down to wait.

Yesterday, my great friend Anne, who is an amazing intuitive animal behaviorist and has guided our transformation from non-dog people to dog-people, called to say she'd spotted an ad for Goldens on a farm not far away. Both parents are AKC registered. These pups are WAY less expensive than the breeder in Missouri.

I called the farm and talked to a delightful women: this is their first litter. The puppies are nine weeks old on Sunday—the perfect age to adopt.

Now, I have read all about the risks of buying from inexperienced and local breeders, but I have also talked to people who have purchased dogs from nice homes and had great luck. We are not looking for show quality; we are looking for a healthy, socialized, happy dog. So going out to see this litter seems to be sensible.

So on Saturday, we are taking a drive out to the farm to meet the five remaining puppies and their parents. I'd like to do this with an air of detachment and caution, but if I am honest with myself, if the dogs in this family look happy and healthy, I can’t imagine not coming home with a pup. (!) We are SO ready.

We had thought we wanted a female, since they are smaller and books say females are less aggressive. But this farm has only males left. I googled more information about Goldens and learned that the difference between male and female Goldens is more about size and much less about temperament. In fact, one site said that male Goldens are friendlier than the more independent females.

We have been brainstorming names. When we were set on a female it was easy: Elsa or Clara. (Alan likes the name Elsa because of Born Free). For males, after a few glasses of wine last night, we got down to Darwin, Bingley, and James. Alan also likes Nelson (after Mandela). Many of my suggestions (Jack, Charlie, Moses, Harry, Ezra, Waldo) were rejected as not being dignified enough. Alan has a rather grand vision of our pup.


Ms. Theologian said...

We used a crate for Mia for many years, and she always loved it. It was her den. However, from the reactions of other New Mexicans, you would have thought we were fattening her up to eat her, or something equally abusive.

Ann said...

Oh what fun!!!!Can't wait to hear how it turns out.

When I was 6, we got our 1st dog: a male Irish Setter that my father named King George Himself (had to be regal because he had papers). George grew to be a huge dog...his father was massive, one of the biggest Irish setters ever bred, I guess. He was dumb as all get out! He lived for 13 years. After him, my parents had one english setter (mistake, again dumb as dirt) and then the most amazing male golden retriever named Morgan. Smart, loyal, funny...when we came home from the hospital when my father had his first heart attack, Morgan ran to greet us, stopped dead in his tracks, and then ran up the stairs. As we all collapsed in the kitchen, he re-appeared with my father's slipper in his mouth and proceeded to do his prancing horse routine, something that had always made us laugh. He pranced until we laughed and then he sat by my mom with that slipper in his mouth. Unbelievable. My dad cried when he had to be put down after he got hit by a car. That dog is a legend in our family.

Sorry for the ramble...just think you could not ask for a better breed.

anne said...

I really just have to say it... in my experience, castrated males - at least of the canine, equine and feline variety - are so adoring of their female caregivers. I guess it's too dangerous a subject since no-one seems to write about it.

Bridget said...

This is so exciting! I hope all goes well, and you do come home with a sweet puppy.

There is a Golden who lives down the street from us, and his name is Wallace. Which I at first thought was a weird name, but now he just *seems* like a Wallace!

I can't wait to see puppy pictures. :-)

Femminista said...

Wow ! Thanks for all of your support. How am I going to get to Saturday? I am so exicted!

Anonymous said...

good luck!!! I was more than a little overwhelmed the first few weeks. If I get a vote, I'd go with Nelson...seems like a great golden name.

Femminista said...

Yes--and there is also Admiral Nelson (of Trafalgar). But doesn't Nelson sound a bit...dweeby? (Yikes--with this I offend all Nelsons everywhere. Sorry.) Or am I just associating with one Nelson I happen to know who is...dweeby?

As for the puppy experience, I too would be more than a little overwhelemed if, like you, I had a puppy as well as four young children and a spouse who commutes to the City. Having none of that, I will probably be overwhelmed anyway!

sognatrice said...

Ooh, a puppy! How exciting! But Moses isn't dignified enough?! I had a friend in college named Trajan, after the Roman emperor, and I always thought that was cool :)

Mom said...

I'll be a grandma again! Another boy! I am very excited for you. I think we'll have to come meet him. Your travel days are over for a little while.

As for names, he will look like whatever you call him. Unless you call him Joe.

Femminista said...

Actually, we DID consider Joe as well... Yes, please come visit! Do you and Dad still camp? I want you to see White Sands. If oyu came in May we oculd go beofre it gets too hot...

Linera Lucas said...

Oh, puppy! Hooray!
I've always crate-trained my dogs. It's kind, and comforting for them. And makes it really makes house-training easier. Do you know about The Whole Dog Journal?

I'm hoping you come home with a puppy.

Ceri said...

Elizabeth, I spend HOURS and HOURS every day with a male golden retriever who belongs to my photo teacher, and I cannot recommend them enough. This dog is seriously intelligent, fun loving, and adventurous. In fact as i type he's dashing around outside in the sunshine. His name is Ben after the mountain Ben Nevis in Scotland! Good luck finding the perfect puppy--i'm sure you will!

Femminista said...

Thanks for all the support, everybody!

Linera, I'm going to that web page now. Thanks for the link.

sognatrice said...

Just read the Vein of Gold entry--how strange that I'm following the path, and I didn't even know it!

Actually when I first read your plan, I wanted to join and go along with the book but being in Italy, who knows when the book would arrive? A friend sent me a book from Sicily (i.e., across the Straits of Messina) months ago and it still hasn't made it!

I promise I'll eventually follow the Vein though--looks fabulous!

Anonymous said...

ok, We're waiting for an update! How were the puppies?! Do you have a new member of the family?
Let us know!!!