Thursday, August 16, 2012

The One about the Dog

In just two days, we are going to bring home a sweet little puppy and make her part of our family.

She is an "English cream" golden retriever, and she was born on June 25, so she is coming to us at just about the 8 week mark.

I'd planned to write a post or two or four about how the work I put into researching and deciding what kind of dog and all of the hows and wherefores about training and diet and the myriad other considerations. . . but here we are, about to get her, and I haven't written at all what I thought I would.

Those of you who know us--or more specifically, Morgan--understand that this puppy has been a long time coming! She has been interested in dogs since before she was two years old, and anyone who has ever met her knows this. (Amirite?)

I've never counted myself as a "dog person" but I am, because of Morgan, really excited about our new puppy and Brendan and I are happy to be able to give her this experience, which I think will nourish her soul in a significant way. There's just no other way I can think of to describe it.

Mind you, this is not an altruistic decision--we are not getting this dog only for Morgan (this is a family dog), nor are we putting aside the considerations of ourselves and the others in our family, and considering only one person. While some of us are not quite as excited as Morgan (but who could be, really?), Brendan and I are doing this because we want this, too. I truly am excited about this puppy--perhaps because she will be in some ways the baby I will always have, since my own babies insist upon growing up, sigh. I'm looking forward to training her (I plan to put a lot of work into this dog) and having her be a fun companion for the kids and for Brendan and me. I want to have lots of fun with her.

Early in my breed research (I started this process a couple of years ago), I narrowed the breeds down to retrievers (or mixes) and/or poodles (or mixes), based on their general intelligence and family-friendliness (an essential with young children and older children who are skittish around dogs). I also did not want a small dog, because I know it's hard for children to restrain themselves in their eagerness to give love, and Sean is the kind of guy who doesn't know his own strength.

We decided to adopt a puppy instead of an older dog partly because I think it will be easier for all of us to bond with a young dog, especially Ryan, who has had a long time fear of dogs (which predates Morgan's arrival in our family, actually), though he has come a LONG LONG way and is no longer terrified of all dogs of any shape or size. I think it will also be easier for ME to bond with a puppy, since I know I will be her primary caregiver and leader. And, not being a dog person, I was wary of adopting a (probably well-deserving perfectly nice) older dog because I know that sometimes those dogs need a lot of loving work to help them settle in to a new family--and because I know I am not up to that task at this particular point in my dog career.

The timing of this decision is important, too. I needed to wait until Sean was thoroughly potty trained and out of babyhood. I know that realistically I only have it in me to potty train one thing at a time (though I suppose if I'd had twins I could have managed). Aside from the potty thing, I wanted Sean to be at a more independent stage of his existence in all areas, because I think that will be easier on both of us. And I didn't want to wait too much longer, because I wanted to get the dog while everyone was still young enough to be here with her and enjoy her for many years. So now seems like the right time--none of the kids are too old or too young. And neither am I too old! :D

I researched various breeders and shelters, and finally settled on the breeder (and breed) we chose after speaking with them and getting references. They are a homeschooling family with children about the same ages as my own kids, and the puppies would be getting used to children from the beginning. A very important consideration. VERY. I can talk more about how I settled on this family later, but I did do a lot of research. I don't know much about the difference (if any) between regular goldens and "English" goldens other than that the English goldens tend to be stockier and blockier in shape. I know some people like them because they tend to have lighter coats, but honestly, appearance of the dog is way down my list of priorities--temperament is my primary concern.

After we sent in our deposit, we learned that we were got the first pick of the females in the litter. The litter, 3 females and 4 males, was born on June 25 and we've been following the puppies' progress ever since via pictures and videos from the breeder.

Last Thursday we went there and met the sire and dam (both really sweet dogs, and gorgeous, too), and the three female puppies. They'd done temperament testing that day and the day before, and all three females pretty much scored in the mid-range on the dominance and responsive tests. It was difficult to choose, but we settled on Miss Purple because one of her sisters scored a lot lower in the adaptability stuff and the breeder's experience with that pup affirmed this tendency to be a bit slower to adapt to changes than her siblings. The other sister was extremely active (again, based on the breeders' experience with her) and while we want an active dog and I know goldens are certainly active, we thought Miss Purple might be a better fit for us than her more active sister, who was also jumping up a lot on Ryan and was maybe a little more dominant than Miss Purple.

So we didn't really choose Miss Purple as much as we eliminated her sisters from the competition. Each sister was really close in all of the temperament categories, and equally cute (though Miss Purple was by far the softest!) and friendly. Apparently there was more temperamental variance among the males of the litter--there was one really dominant puppy and a really shy one. Not so with the females. Anyway, you have to choose somehow, and I think Miss Purple is going to be a good fit for our family. :D

And her name isn't going to be Miss Purple--that's her code name given to her by the breeder. Her real name is going to be Penny Lane! We'll end up calling her Penny and I'm sure a ton of goofy nicknames that we'll happen upon as the years go by, but I think Penny Lane is the cutest name for a cute little pup ever. (If we'd gone with a male, he'd have been Sergeant Pepper.)

So we are knee-deep in puppy-proofing and puppy-planning and puppy-related-purchasing, and have been for several weeks. We've been preparing in other ways, too, besides deciding on which kind of puppy to get and which breeder and which puppy in the litter. We've been reading books (some especially for kids) and watching videos and talking about how our lives will change after Penny joins our family. We have a plan for Rhombus (our 16 year old grumpity kitty) and the things we'll do to show her we still love her and how to watch her around Penny. We have a diet plan (raw! I'll write more about that later). We have a basic general discipline/training plan. We have a potty training plan. We have toys and a crate and are dusting off the old baby gates we kept around for this puppy eventuality.

And if this goes like the other times in my life small creatures (aka "Ryan," "Morgan," and "Sean") came into my home, I'm sure all of my lovely plans will have to change to a certain extent. :D

So. Saturday morning, we'll go and bring Penny Lane home and a new adventure begins! Stay tuned for pics (most of them will be on Facebook--hint hint to those of you related to me who are not on FB) and stories. And more light blogging--it seems as if puppies are not unlike toddlers and I'm going to be busy not sitting down here for a while.

In the meantime, enjoy another picture of Penny and (most of) her new family!


Earl3d said...

Yay!!! I'm so excited for all of you! Love the name, too.

Lynne said...

Izzy, our Pug was the Miss Purple of her litter, too.

Congratulations to you all --especially to Morgan on her coup ;)-- and to Penny Lane for adopting such a great family!