Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Family Members

When you're looking for to add a 4 legged family member, particularly of the canine variety, most people think they can walk into a litter of puppies and pick the one that stands out to them. If this is you, toss this idea right out of your head.

While this can work, more often than not you end up with a dog who is not what you were envisioning as your perfect companion. I have one family in mind who's dog, although he's very nice, and he's friendly, is NOT the cuddly "ever present buddy" that they long for. Instead he prefers to keep to himself, getting pet when he feels he needs it, then going back to doing his own thing. For some people he would be the perfect dog, but for this family he leaves them hungry for more attention from him. Now, it could be he's like this because he's old and wants to be left alone, but I think he's always been this way to some extent. They occasionally babysit a dog or 2 of mine, and have been known to say, "So THIS is what a dog is supposed to be like?"

So how do you pick a dog for your family? First of all, you find a breeder who KNOWS dogs. Don't be fooled though. Just because someone has a lot of dogs does NOT mean they have any clue about understanding dog dispositions and what THEY need in a family!

Take our current litter for examply. For the past 6 weeks we have watched this litter of puppies. We were there for the very first breath (in fact, assisted with each of them.) We've watched every step of their development. I've also come to know our puppy families, some better than others, and what they desire in their new family member. This goes beyond "how many kids do you have and will the dog be home alone." type of questions from many breeders.

And so we watch. And we listen to our hearts with each puppy.

But just for fun, earlier this week I had a canine behaviorist come in. An outside party who has never met any of my puppies, doing assessments in a room the puppies have never seen before. Man, this is fascinating to watch. What was really interesting is watching how each puppy acted AWAY FROM THE PACK and with someone brand new, who had toys they'd never seen before, on a slippery floor and a rug their feet have never touched. (just like human babies, dogs need to experience new textures, sights and sounds.) While this is going on, I'm taking notes about how the puppies react to the various tests.

My next task is to take that information and mesh it with what I already know about each puppy, and all information I have from each family, and match them to the best of my ability. Now you may think this is all a bit overboard, but there's a reason for all of it, the most important one being happiness. I want my puppy families to be happy with the puppy they bring home, and I want my puppies to be happy in the home they go to. So far, we've done pretty well. Two and three years later I have families call me who say, "Our dog is EXACTLY as you described him on your website at 6 weeks old!" But the most rewarding part of all is the pictures we get back as the puppies get older. Smiling kids, smiling parents, smiling dogs.

A couple months ago, one of our dogs, Addie, came back to us at 2 years old. Her family decided she just wasn't getting enough attention from them. I worried about where I was going to send her. She'd just lost the family and kids she was attached to. Now what? I posted her on my website, then remembered that one of my other puppy families had contacted me and gave the impression they were shopping for another dog. (though they didn't come right out and say it.) They have a one year old male named "Sparky" who is a fully sibling to Addie, but a full year younger. I emailed the mom, asking if they would by chance be interested in Addie. She discussed it with her husband, and that weekend Addie went for a trial visit. That was three months ago and I haven't seen her since! They absolutely fell in love with her, and Sparky, who'd become kind of lonely, now had a playmate who he adores. Addie, who'd gotten overweight due to inactivity is now in beautiful shape. A couple weeks ago the family called me and said, "We can't imagine life without these two dogs! Two doodles are definitely better than one, and we couldn't love our two doodles more!"

That is why I love doing what I do!
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