Bringing Home a New Puppy
In the last six months I have lost two beloved dogs: Thunderbear and Kemosabe. I will forever miss them. No dog can replace them. Yet, I found myself looking for healing in the eyes of a new puppy.
The breeder of my Australian Shepherd dogs had a litter that arrived two weeks after Kemosabe’s passing. I took only moderate interest, because I just wasn’t ready. But when the pups were six weeks old, she sent me some photos of them.
The puppy I was drawn to from photos is a black tri boy (black with white and copper markings). This litter is related to two of my dogs, Buckaroo and Keen, so I’m familiar with those particular blood lines. The sire of the litter is Keen’s full brother and litter mate.
Of course, the mental gyrations started.
Do I or don’t I? Am I nuts? Aussie puppyhood can be daunting…they can go from darling to I don’t hear you in a nanosecond. Their sheer intelligence and ability to out-think a human is legendary. Am I up for the challenge? What will my adult dogs think of bringing in a new member of the pack? What stresses will that create?
Have I lost my mind?
Talking to the breeder
For me, one of the most important aspects of choosing a puppy is temperament and drive. These are characteristics that the breeder can assess. At my age, I don’t need a high-drive dog or one from working-stock lines whose deep desire is to herd anything that moves, including me.
I’m drawn to a confident puppy, but not necessarily an alpha. I like the goofballs (Kemosabe, Keen and Buckaroo are all goofballs to some degree).
I also have my, shall we say, shallow preferences: a nice head with a good stop, symmetrical markings, well set-on ears, and expressive eyes. Structurally, I like a dog with a good topline, enough angulation without being overly exaggerated, freedom of the shoulder, and moderate bone.
The breeder told me this pup is not high-drive, is happy-go-lucky, and wants to be with people. She sent me a confirmation photo. In structure and looks, he is just my type. She sent me a short video of him playing with a toy: pouncing on it, then scampering away. I burst out laughing.
The logistics of getting a puppy
My breeder is in Florida. I live in Virginia. Do I drive? Do I fly? Both options come with pros and cons. I have flown with puppies out of Florida before, including a trip with Wookie the day before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017. The Orlando airport was sheer bedlam — like a scene out of a Hollywood disaster movie.
If I drive, it’s 11 to 12 hours, depending on traffic. I can’t do it in one day, so I will need to stop, spend the night, and continue to Ocala the next day. Same for the return trip to Virginia; essentially, it’s four days total of being on the road. The thing is, I don’t mind driving. I like the freedom of it rather than being confined by an airline’s schedule.
I decided to drive … but a week later, I changed my mind, and booked my airline tickets on Delta.
Okay, this is getting real.
Buy new toys
Find my Kongs, Lickimats, puppy bowls, and a crate.
Find my soft-sided pet carrier, slip lead puppy leash, and clicker.
I discovered that my soft-sided carrier for the airplane had a busted zipper. Ordered a new one. Looked for my slip lead puppy leash but couldn’t find it, despite having other slip leads of every color and length in the dog cabinet. Couldn’t find my clicker either. Bought a new clicker and a new slip lead. Ordered doggie paw wipes for the trip and soft puppy treats.
Peter says, “Is all this really necessary?”
Having the talk with the pack
It’s only fair that I talk to the pack about this possible new addition. The older dogs give me the “whatever” look – except for Eden, who has been a momma dog herself and turns into a wiggle-worm when I tell her about the puppy.
I have a different conversation with the younger dogs, Wookie and Keen. Wookie was Keen’s nanny and I want to make sure she’s up for the task again. Keen has been the baby of the pack, mentored by none other than Kemosabe. Keen crawls into my lap and I ask him, do you want to be Uncle Keen? He lifts his left lip and gives me a sly grin.
It turns out Peter has absconded with our portable wire x-pen (exercise pen) for use in the garden to protect seedlings from our raptor colony (free-range chickens). Time to order another.
The new puppy will sleep in a crate next to my bed and then move to my bed once we have potty training under control. All my dogs run a little hot, so they prefer sleeping on the floor. They only like their dog beds in winter. Wookie, though, is the resident couch hog no matter what the season. Queens will be queens.
The breeder sent new photos of the puppy at age seven weeks. He has big paws. Hope he fits in the soft-sided carry-on crate. Delta has very specific in-cabin crate dimensions. Too soon to panic.
The veterinary conundrum
My vet of five years closed his practice in May due to staffing issues. One day he was open for business, the next, out of the blue, he closed up shop leaving hundreds of owners like me scrambling to find new veterinarians. I called four different veterinary practices that all said they were not taking new clients. I do have a back-up veterinary practice that I have used when my vet couldn’t fit me in, but they aren’t my first choice as a primary vet.
I could write an entire article on the reality of stresses on veterinarians, vet techs and vet clinics. The frightening rise of burnout and even suicides in the profession is truly cause for alarm. The crisis in veterinary practices is compounded by the corporate purchases of clinics with the emphasis on corporate structure and profitability. (See video by LA Times)
Luckily, the fifth vet practice I called was able to take me as a client. They have a good reputation according to Yelp and NextDoor, but of course the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. At least I have an appointment for the puppy, but the first available appointment is eight weeks after I get him home.
I did make an appointment with a backup veterinarian I have used before, to have the next series of puppy shots when he’s 12 weeks old.
The name game
Names are powerful. Older civilizations have various naming ceremonies for babies. A Christening is a form of naming ceremony as well as a religious welcoming by baptism. Names have certain attributes and meanings to endow the child with those qualities.
I don’t give my dogs, cats, or horses human names. It’s just a weird quirk of mine. Yet I do seek out names that will provide certain qualities and resonances.
Sometimes dog names come to me in dreams. Both Kemosabe and Thunderbear were names from dreams.
I named Keen after one of my favorite places on earth: the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. I named Wookie after one of my favorite Star Wars characters. Buckaroo and Crockett were names that came to me while listening to country music on the radio. Eden had her name as an adult dog, and I didn’t change it.
Buckaroo is the only dog of the Aussie tribe that I named after meeting him. All the others I named before I brought them home.
The name for this puppy came as Keen was bouncing around in his BEST DAY EVER (every day) routine and I thought, it would be nice if this puppy had more zen qualities. I didn’t want to call him Buddha, or Lama, or Dalai Lama or Siddhartha, and then it hit me: Kenobi, the Jedi Master. And his call-name: Obi Wan.
The food paradigm
I start my puppies on the food the breeder feeds for about 30 days. During this time, I will introduce small amounts of goat’s milk yogurt, canned pumpkin, and cooked chicken or beef with veggies to get the puppy’s gut microbiome adjusted to new foods.
I use the kibble as a base, adding more cooked food over time before starting the transition to raw.
Ready for adventure
This time, heading to Ocala to pick up a new puppy, I will not be alone. BioStar’s Canine Specialist Lizzy Meyer is flying into Orlando to join me on this 30-hour turnaround adventure. There is a red tri-pup in this litter that she feels a connection with.
So, we will meet at the airport in Orlando, pick up the rental car, drive to Ocala, spend time with the breeder, pick up the puppies, drive back to Orlando, drop off the rental car, check into the airport hotel (with adjoining rooms), probably get two hours of sleep, and fly out the next morning. Lizzy will fly to Texas and I will fly to Virginia.
Could this be Tigger and Lizzy’s Excellent Adventure?….or Thelma and Louise Get Their Puppies?….stay tuned!