Malcolm and I like to not just have a plan, but also a backup plan. When we started seeing the fertility specialist this summer, we knew that we might end up with it not working out. We have discussed pets many times, and since Malcolm is a dog person and I have been a cat person we simply agreed that we wouldn’t have pets, but with recent good experiences with dogs I began opening up the the idea of getting a dog. Our backup plan for if fertility treatments didn’t work out began to include the word puppy.
I have had some bad experiences with dogs in the past that had left me maybe fearful, and definitely distrusting, but with most of my family members getting dogs in the recent history, I had started warming to the idea. The dynamic with a dog is different than a cat. Dogs bond with their people more than cats do and through training as they mature they can be “raised”. If we can’t have kids, maybe a dog could fill our home with a bit of the love and chaos we have been longing for. I started researching breeds and finding out about temperament, intelligence, adaptability, and trying to find the right fit for Malcolm and me. He has had dogs pretty much his whole life and he really would have been happy with any medium to large sized dog and wanted to find a dog that I could connect with. It was September when we decided that our future dog would not be a pure bred, but would have either some Newfoundlander or Bernese in it for the calmness, sensitivity and loyalty that those breeds provide. It was also in September that we found out about my atypical endometerial hyperplasia.
Looking at puppy ads and imagining our life with a puppy, researching how to care for a dog, how to train them, what to feed them were welcome distractions from my fear and worry over my uterine health and all of the unpleasantness around hormone therapy. By the start of October we were set on a bernedoodle – half bernese, half poodle. They have a gentle, happy, goofy demeanour, they love their people, and they are quite intelligent and take well to training. Plus, they look like muppets! The problem with getting a “designer dog”, as intentional cross breeds are now called and marketed, is that they can come with a hefty price tag and are not always bred ethically. I did a lot of research into different breeders in Ontario and some I got good vibes off of and some I didn’t If anything raised a red flag, I scratched them off the list. One breeder named her momma dogs things like Bimbo, Tramp, and Hussy. That just seemed wrong to me and I didn’t even contact her for information.
Before reading week, I was doing my daily kijiji search and found an ad for a breeder we hadn’t seen before and they had pictures of tiny bernedoodles. There was no wait list. I showed Malcolm the ad, and asked if he wanted to maybe contact them for more info, and maybe even see the puppies. He was reluctant and I asked him what was wrong and he said he was concerned he was going to fall in love and that I’d say no because the timing isn’t right. Our plan was to wait until I had done a few rounds of fertility treatments and they didn’t work or until the doctor told us that the hyperplasia wasn’t gone and I opted for a hysterectomy before getting a dog. We were concerned that if I get pregnant I will probably have to live at the hospital for up to six months so what would we do with a puppy at that point? I had been thinking about that a lot, and I really felt tired of putting things on hold for “if”. At this point it seems like there are so many potential futures where we don’t bring home a healthy baby and only one where we do. Maybe it’s time to actively work towards adding more joy and love and chaos to our lives and if a baby comes later, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Malcolm contacted the breeder and set up a visit for us for the Tuesday of reading week. We drove over two hours away from where we were staying with my family and went to go see the puppies. We went to the wrong place first and ended up at a “doggy hotel” there was some chaos when we walked into the building as some dogs were getting dropped off and others were being picked up and the German shepherd was jumping and barking and the lab was jumping and barking and this huge bernedoodle boy came lumbering through and cuddled up to my legs and gently put himself between me and the other dogs. I didn’t even need to bend over to pet him, he was so big. But he was also so gentle and so calm and I fell in love a little bit. They sent us next door to where the puppies were.
It was raining and cold and they had converted the garage of the house into their office and puppy storage place. It was warm, and dry, and the puppies were in what I’m going to call cubicles. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. They didn’t ask us any questions about ourselves, Malcolm had conversed with them about us through messages before they set the appointment. They really weren’t talkative while we were there. They took the puppies that were still available out of the cubicle and we were allowed to pet them and hold them. The people really just kind of left us on our own with them and didn’t really interact with the dogs much. We asked to see the parents and the lady pointed out the window. There was a fenced yard and a shelter for the dogs at the far end of the yard. She said that mom had just finished feeding and needed some alone time and pointed her out to us and dad was wandering over near the shelter. They didn’t offer to let us interact with them, that was it. We walked outside to discuss, and I told Malcolm that I wasn’t feeling it. The two little puppies that we held seemed sweet, but they didn’t feel like my puppies and while I couldn’t articulate it at the time, it didn’t feel like the place I wanted to get a dog from.
I cried as we drove away. I felt like I was letting Malcolm down and like I was letting those puppies down. I’d had it in my head that we were going to find our puppy that day, and leaving without felt like another loss.
Malcolm worked pretty hard when we got back to my sister’s house. He contacted another woman with a litter of bernedoodle puppies and sent me a picture. He did all the research and sorted out setting up a meeting with her. We took a very scenic rout back to Kingston that Friday with a stop to check out this puppy and her littermates. When we got there we were met by a beautiful male Bernese mountain dog, and the lady Malcolm had been in contact with from the ad. The Bernese, named Oscar, was a little timid but he was willing to smell my hand. The lady had him show us some of his tricks and he was a happy puppy after that.
We went into the lady’s house (I can’t remember her name) and she had the puppies in like a playpen in the middle of the rec room. They have a bedroom on the lower level of the house and she and her mother take care of the pups. The puppies are around people all day long and are used to the sounds of a household. The lady sat on the floor with me and eight puppies, the pups all cuddled up to her at one point or another. Malcolm and I held and interacted with each of the puppies, but I kept my eye on Girl 2 as there was something special about her. Girl 2 eventually curled up in my lap to fall asleep (I think at that point I knew that she was mine).
She has a brother who looks almost exactly like her and he really wanted to chew through my foot! I tried giving him a bone, and another toy, but my shoe must have been the best tasting thing in the world! One of the other girls was laser focused on escape as soon as the playpen was opened, she tried to sneak around one way and then the other, she was a very curious little girl. I really enjoyed seeing the different personalities emerging at even five weeks old.The lady told us about the different pups personalities and about mom and dad. She told us about her vet and about the health profiles of her dogs. Once we had narrowed down our choice to Girl 2 and another girl that was not trying to escape or eat people, the lady took the rest of the pups to their bedroom and brought out mom.
Mom is a phantom grey poodle and she immediately wanted to be best friends with Malcolm and me, she wasn’t barking or jumping she was cuddling in for pats and licks. I got such a good feeling off of the experience meeting these pups that it started making sense to me why I had such a hard time at the other place. We got to spend some quiet time with just mom and the two girls, and getting to see their interactions was good. Girl 2 settled down right at my feet after a quick feeding with mom, and mom was fine with that. So was I! The other girl was sweet too. She was mostly black with very faint brown markings that will most likely fade to a cream colour as she ages. She had cuddled on me too, but Malcolm and I were both drawn to Girl 2. I even caught myself calling her Luna a couple of times.
I commented on taking both pups, and the lady said that wasn’t such a great idea because since they’re litter mates they would bond to each other before us and it would make training hard. If we wanted a second puppy it would be better to wait at least a year and then the older puppy would set the example for the younger one and they would both be bonded to us and see us as the pack leaders. It made me feel good that she wasn’t just trying to get rid of the pups she was actually considering what was best for everyone. She also gave us little nuggets of advice for helping our transition to our home. She suggested crate training which we were already planning on doing, and she said to not give the pup the blanket from her litter until night two or three when she is having a hard time settling. she also suggested discouraging jumping by not bringing our puppy up to our faces, and instead patting her on our laps or the floor so that she doesn’t associate being in our faces with happiness.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but after meeting all the puppies, and spending time with them I really felt like Girl 2 was our puppy. Malcolm was pretty stoked that I picked her to be our Luna because she was his favourite too. We got to take some pictures with her and spend time with just her while Malcolm and the lady worked on the business side of things. We spent over two hours at the breeder’s house interacting with her and the dogs and picking Luna and falling in love with her. And then we had to leave her there. Luna won’t be ready to leave her litter until she is 8 weeks old, which will be mid-November. In the meantime we have pictures. The lady takes weekly photos of the pups and sends them to their new families.
Two days after choosing Luna we got our first set of pictures. I can’t wait to get more, and I can’t wait until Luna gets to come home to her forever home.