We're puppy parents, once again
I have been trying to amuse you readers with columns on dog shows, popular and unpopular breeds, dog food, even cats. I think I’m now ready to tell what’s really been going on in my dog-related life, some of which is hard and, more recently, much of which is joyful.
Let’s get the hard part out of the way. Blarney, our beloved Cardigan Corgi, died on Thanksgiving Day. It was sudden, awful and inexplicable. She was a perfectly healthy 3-year-old dog who suddenly suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died within a few hours. We were devastated.
But as banal as it is to say it, life goes on. I gradually got used to not having her sitting next to me on the couch, not curling up next to me at night, not bouncing ahead of me at the end of the leash, greeting everyone coming down the sidewalk, her tail twirling like a helicopter’s propeller. She was the corgi girl I was going to grow old with, but she was gone.
Some people find the pain of losing a dog to be too much, something they are not willing to endure again. I understand that. In truth, losing your dog is almost inevitable. Even dogs who live to old age are with us only a fraction of the time we are alive. We outlive them, which means we suffer the loss. And it hurts — a lot.
But the only way to avoid that pain is to not have a dog. And for me and the way I look at life, that would be a glass half empty.
So my husband and I, when we were able to get up in the morning and not be flooded by the sadness of a no-Blarney home, decided to get another corgi puppy to help fill the emptiness. She came home to us this month, and I suspect that more than a few Happy Tails columns will extoll her cuteness and brightness, and probably relate not just a little about her mischief.
I would love to introduce her to you, but we haven’t quite decided on a name yet. I almost always name my pups long before I lay eyes on them. I read “A Christmas Carol” and knew my next corgi (who would have to be a male on account of the name) would be Mr. Fezziwig. I knew a dog named Higgly Piggly was in my future when I heard someone use the term to describe the road system in Ireland.
And was there ever a better name for a basset hound than Snuffleupagus? I think not. But, as I mentioned, I didn’t foresee getting this puppy, or any puppy, until recently, and I had to suddenly throw the naming part of my imagination into full throttle. So far Pumpernickel, Fiddlesticks and Cattywampus are the top three picks. Although someone reminded me that the day she came home to us — March 2 —is also Dr. Seuss’ birthday. I may spend some time in the library in case there’s a character somewhere in Seuss-land after whom I should name my puppy. In some ways, I envy those of you whose dogs answer to Queenie or Duke.
So I can’t introduce you by name to our puppy, but I can tell you many other things about her. She is a Cardigan Welsh corgi — the short, stubby little guys who have the tail (as opposed to the short, stubby Pembroke Welsh corgis who do not). If you watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television, you saw a Cardigan win for the herding group.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis essentially come in three colors — sable, red, and tricolor — and, to the untrained eye, they all look a lot alike. Cardigans come in brindle, black with brindle points, black with brown points, merle (aka blue, aka gray), red and black and white, so their markings are very distinguishable. They also can have brown eyes, blue eyes or one of each. And although I know you should not pick a dog based on the color of its coat, it was darn hard not to with our puppy, because they are all so unique.
I realize I’m writing as though the choice of which puppy to bring home was ours alone, but when you buy from a responsible breeder, it’s a bit more complicated than that. So let me back up a bit.
I started my search by e-mailing every member of our regional Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club (every purebred dog recognized by the AKC has a breed club, and thanks to the Internet they are all linked to www.akc.org). Good breeders breed good pups, but they do not breed a lot of pups
However, if you let them know you are a person who takes dog ownership seriously and that you would treat a puppy well, someone will guide you toward a breeder who does have pups or who will have some in the near future. In this, the adage of “Good things come to those who wait” holds true. Most breeders have a waiting list of people who want one of their puppies, and waiting months is not uncommon.
However, if you can convince the breeder that you will really treat their puppy well, you may mysteriously rise to the top of the list. These people want their puppies to be as shamelessly spoiled by their forever owners as they were when the breeder was raising them.
The other thing about responsible breeders is that they breed to improve the health, beauty and temperament of their dogs — not for money. So in any litter, the breeder is going to want to keep a certain number of pups who look like they could be show quality, meaning they may be worthy of being bred to produce even more healthy, beautiful and temperamentally outstanding pups.
Fortunately for the likes of me, every breeder has a limited amount of space/time/energy/resources, so even though each and every puppy looks absolutely gorgeous to me, they don’t all make the cut. One might be too big. One might be too small. One might not have the right markings, gait, bone structure, whatever. So a few pups from most litters are designated “pet quality” by the breeder. Fine with me!
But we’re not there yet.
Even pet quality puppies have distinctive personalities. A good breeder keeps her pups long enough and watches them closely enough to make a pretty educated guess about what kind of pooch each pup will become.
Some are sweet and others feisty. Some want to be the leaders, others the followers. Some are calm, and others are anything but. So a responsible breeder is going to ask you a lot about what kind of dog you want, and just saying what color it should be is not a good answer.
Will you give this dog a “job”? Will you run marathons with him or watch television? Do you have kids, cats, other dogs? If you have kids, how many and how old are they? If you have other dogs, what kind, what ages, and what are their personalities like? Will the pup fit in with your pack? It is not inconceivable that at the end of the day, the breeder may say she is very sorry but she doesn’t have the right pup for you. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. No responsible breeder wants to have regrets about selling a puppy.
Happily, in our case, there is a perfect pup for us. Little Nameless is playful but not pushy. She is sweet, calm (at least for a puppy) and not at all opposed to the occasional nap. Although I am sure our other dogs will at times look at us with that “Who signed me up for this?” expression when she is chewing on them instead of the toys I bought for her.
But she is bright enough to know when they’ve had enough of her, and resourceful enough to find other things to do (like chew on my shoes, remote control, furniture, etc.) instead. Our lives are changing drastically. Less time, more mess, more chaos, certainly less sleep. But we have our puppy!
Nancy Carlson can be reached at email@example.com.