What am I thinking?
I can't do this!
Those were the predominant thoughts racing through my mind as I pulled away from the farm. Pulled away from the experts and the woman who knows so much about dogs and puppies that it should be illegal. Pulled away from litter mates and a mama with a new little babe of my own to take care of . . . and no idea of how to do it.
Sure we had dogs growing up. Four, to be exact.
The first was an old man when I entered the world. A wise old Golden Retriever who let me crawl all over and under him. A dog who could be trusted to watch every member of his family with care and concern. A dog who I spent all evening with on the floor of our family room before he had to be put to sleep at the age of nineteen.
Then came our puppy, Maggie, another Golden Retriever. But my memory of her early days are foggy and I'm sure I had little to do with her "training". She was a spunky and fun girl who gave us a litter of 11 puppies after she, well, got friendly with a neighborhood dog. She lived a long and good life and was always looking for adventure.
Our other dog, Maggie's sidekick, was Benson. He was a surprise that my Mom found at the pound one day. He was polite and such a sweetheart, always aiming to please. The vet claimed that he was a kind of "cockapoo" but we really had no idea of his actual breeding. He and Maggie once disappeared in the Alaskan wilderness for about 2 weeks! We thought they were bear bait for sure, but then they came back, 2 weeks later and dirtier than they'd ever been. They were quite a pair, the big red dog and her little black companion.
Our fourth dog was really my brother's. I was 16 when my brother got Sam, but that doesn't mean I didn't get a chance to love her. She was a fluffy puffball of white as a pup and sassy as all get out. Her unpredictable nature never really disappeared and although she tolerated my children in her old age, she couldn't be trusted not to nip at them if they were annoying her. But she was a loyal friend, and very giving as long as she was supervised.
I never imagined having a family of my own without a dog right there in the picture. Never. When Brett and I were teenagers we would jokingly say that when we got married, our gifts to each other would be dogs. One for him, one for me. Well, the babies came first.
When McRae was about 16 months old and I was pregnant with Wyatt, we briefly tried out a gorgeous puppy given to us by Brett's brother, but it wasn't the right match. Just like with people, when you know it isn't to be, you just know. So with a heavy heart we returned him after 3 days.
I've been begging for a dog ever since.
Occasionally I'd lure the family to the animal shelter, only to leave empty handed. I'd read about puppies for sale in the newspaper and drool over the high-priced ones at the local pet store. After many, many long talks with my husband about it, I'd even started exploring breeds I'd thought would definitely not be ideal (I'm a little partial to Golden Retrievers for obvious reasons) and did a lot of online and real life research.
My kids picked up on this begging technique really well. Not a Christmas has passed that they haven't asked Santa for a puppy. Not a school year has gone by that they haven't composed some sort of plea about how their lives were perfect, except for the fact that they didn't have a dog to call their own. People were starting to look at me like I didn't feed them or allow them to bathe - because not having a dog was just so . . . cruel.
Having a daughter gave me hope. I thought she would be my secret weapon. When Katie began to talk, I think one of her first sentences to her Dad was, "Daddy can I have a puppy?". And his answer, "No". Oh, the willpower of that man!
You see, I was still paying for the 3 days of agony with the first puppy.
But this weekend the tides shifted.
To what I owe this glorious miracle, I'll never know, but I am so grateful.
When I picked up the newspaper and saw the ad for the "non-hyper Australian Shepherd puppies", I repeated the information to him, expecting the usual response.
"Why don't you call and see where they are?"
And the journey began.
The next few hours were spent driving to the farm where the puppies were, meeting the breeders (and their 17 horses, donkeys and mules who roam free on their property- I am now completely versed on the differences between a donkey and a mule, thankyouverymuch!), then trying to keep my mouth shut the entire ride home . . . which was really quite hard.
Then, we called vets, and pet stores, and family members.
Then we called the breeder back and told her our pick and inquired as to his availability.
It was all set up, I'd go pick him up at 1 o'clock the next day.
At about midnight, the panic started to set in. How do you housebreak a puppy? What do I feed him? Where will he sleep? Will he sleep? Will he miss his mama? Will I sleep? What kind of vaccinations will he need? How old does he need to be until we can neuter him?
I knew far more about my babies and how to care for them before they were born than I did for this dog.
But this dog.
This dog with the cutest face I have ever seen on an animal of the canine persuasion . . .
This dog who merely sat there looking up at me while all his brothers clamored for our attention.
This adorable face that melts my heart.
This dog - I am his human much more than he is my dog.
We're working it out. We're crate training and giving treats (but mot too many). We're keeping him close and bonding with him. We're teaching him how to climb stairs, sit, come and what music is too. We're loving him - oh, we are loving him.