Hectic days: Nathan’s in grueling, dawn-to-dusk training to become a home inspector, I’m working long (but enjoyable) hours and ‘way behind on holiday gift-making with a jillion end-of-year things that need doing. I’m prepping for what might be the job interview of my life on Monday, but so far my Christmas prep consists of (1) Asking Nathan to turn on the outdoor lights we never took down last year and (2) Buying a couple of wreaths for the front door.
What better time to bring home a puppy?
He’s a little German Shepherd with a long, plushy coat and–judging from the soup plate-sized paws–liable to be enormous. We promised ourselves that we wouldn’t name him for a few days, to see where his personality settles, but we keep calling him Grizz.
That would be short for “grizzly bear,” and I suspect it will be eerily accurate when this beast grows up. And up. And up.
Grizzly Bear is one name; Bear might be another. In homage to his ancestry, we’re looking at German names, but undecided. Rolf, maybe, or Wolfram.
We’d been noodling around the idea of getting a dog since Monty’s death last spring. Monty was a bichon, but Nathan agreed–in deference to me–to find a BIG dog (I like small, yippy-type dogs once I get to know them, but prefer dogs I can ride). By the end of summer, the search had begun in earnest, and we happened upon a little kennelful of German Shepherds on the Oregon coast.
The owner, Dave the Dog Guy, is a real sweetie, full of advice about how to raise a puppy. “If you wouldn’t let a 2 year old child do it, don’t let your puppy do it, either.”
Good to know, especially since my experience is mostly with grown-up dogs, not puppies. The Resident Carpenter-Blacksmith assures me that he is a vastly experienced puppyman and will take on the 2:00AM feedings and bathroom breaks (the way he did with Willow the Squirrel), so I’m cautiously optimistic.
We chose to adopt a puppy because German Shepherds have a high prey drive, apparently (well, rumor has it they have a high EVERYthing), and we have (a) Lola and Nikki, and I swear the FIRST time one of my cats ends up in that dog’s mouth is the last time he’ll draw breath and (b) our house is a veritable Grand Central Station for squirrels.
Willow and her brood, Douglas and the interlopers; all of them expect to run into Nathan’s office through the squirrel door for a quick bite to eat. They do NOT expect a sharp-fanged wolf waiting inside, so we need to make sure this dog understands not to eat family.
We figure a puppy raised with small, scampering critters as part of his “pack” is much less likely to consume them, so we went puppy-seeking and found Dave. “My dog Mika just had puppies,” he explained around Halloween, “So they’ll be ready to go home around Christmas.”
We went to Dave’s house to inspect the newborns. What we saw wasn’t all that impressive; week-old German Shepherd puppies are pretty much black, furry blobs huddled around mamma. We peered in at them from outside their heated box (to prevent disease transmission, a peephole in the box was as far as we were going to get).
We talked awhile about what we planned to do with the puppy, met his other dogs, and eventually put down a deposit. Then we waited, watching the puppies grow online, through Dave’s puppycam.
Dave promised us pick of the litter when the pups were old enough. He recommended choosing a boy, because they’d be a bit better to get along with than females, and we made plans to select one of three boy puppies on December 14. Since we both had busy workweeks, we wouldn’t actually take the puppy home until December 21.
That was the plan, anyway.
Last Monday Nathan came home jubilant. “I’ve cleared my calendar so I can be home with the puppy the week of the 14th,” he announced, “Let’s just bring him home on the 14th instead of waiting for the 21st.”
“No,” I said, standing firm, ‘I’ve got everything arranged so my vacation runs from the 21st until after New Years, I’ve scheduled a vet visit on the 23rd, we need another week to puppy-proof the house, and I’ll be gone on the 15th and 16th for that job interview. So we stick to the plan and bring him home the following week. Period.”
“I understand the points you’re making,” he conceded, “But I don’t think you’re taking into account…”
We took the puppy home on the 14th.
At the appointed time, Dave led us to a small room where Mama Mika and her pups were hanging out, and introduced us. 8 week-old pups are greatly GREATLY changed from small black furry blobs; these guys were all over the place.
One grabbed my purse and tried to make off with it. Another quickly joined him. (it was a gift; I’m going to have to explain a shredded leather handle to Pooja)
What we wanted was a calm, collected dog with great manners, high intelligence, outstanding trainability, and a love of befriending (not chomping) small prey-like animals. Did destroying a purse equal all that?
“Temperament-wise, they’re all pretty much the same,” promised Dave, “Which one do you like best?”
I have difficulty selecting ONE ice cream flavor when buying a cone, and this guy asks me to pick out ONE unbearably cute puppy? Damn near impossible.
“Any ideas, Nathan?” I asked, and he gave me a look of sheer torment.
“Well, Cynthia, it’s your dog too. Which one do YOU want?”
“Uhm…..well…I kinda like the big one.” I pointed to the pup that almost dwarfed his brothers. I didn’t know if he was really that big or if he was just fuzzier than his brothers, but he definitely had a hefty, bear-like look that the other two didn’t.
“But I like that smaller one with the light-colored face, too.” The little one cocked his head, watching me, and gave lots of doggy kisses. Awwwwwwww…
“I kind of like the big one too,” Nathan interjected, “And that’s the one you’ve been watching on the puppy cam for the last two months.”
“Yes,” said Dave, “That’s the one that made us suspicious.”
Turns out the puppy paternity is in doubt. Dave’s German Shepherd Sokrates was SUPPOSED to be the puppydaddy, but when Mika went into heat and was locked away, another dog named Zorro got busy.
“That pup looked a lot like Zorro, so we went back through the security camera footage and checked. Sure enough, one night Zorro unlocked HIS kennel, then unlocked Mika’s and went inside. Sometime later, he emerged, closed her door, then went inside his own kennel and closed that door, too.”
So it’s likely that Zorro would be the named correspondent in a paternity suit. Zorro seems an appropriate name, although Casanova or Lothario might be even more appropriate.
Now, a dog litter–did you know this?–can have more than one father. Each pup only has one father, but if mama has a wandering eye, every one of her puppies could theoretically have different daddies.
Zorro is a long-haired German Shepherd with smaller ears and a lot more black on his face than Sokrates. He’s also a bigger, beefier dog. The pup doesn’t show much of Zorro’s gorgeous chestnut coloring–which may come along later–but aside from that, the resemblance really is striking.
I could care less about paternity, although the notion that this pup might be the son of a very clever philanderer is encouraging. He’ll need all the smarts he can get; Lola and Nikki are no slouches in the brain department, and Willow is probably a genius among squirrels.
Choosing a pup
In the end, I think that story was as interesting as the dog, and we wound up taking Zorro’s probable son home with us. It’s entirely likely that Zorro and Nathan, who’s been around the ladytrack a time or five, are kindred spirits. The pup can’t be “papered” without a DNA test to prove paternity, but we don’t care.
We’d brought one of the cats’ carriers to transport him home, which Dave immediately nixed. “Bring him home in a blanket on your lap,” he ordered, “This is going to be very scary for him so you want to hold and comfort him all the way home.”
The poor little guy cried a bit on the way home, but after avidly watching out the window for awhile, mostly settled onto the center console of the car and went to sleep. Occasionally he’d trek across to Nathan’s lap or mine for petting, but overall was a pretty calm puppy.
Cats, squirrels: Dog. Dog: Cats & squirrels…
First thing home, we let him explore the yard, a new thing for a little puppy who’s so far been raised in a warm enclosed space filled with cedar chips, blankets, and mom.
Immediately, we’re noticing that he heels naturally (or he may just be herding us). He follows close on our heels and when we stop, he stops too, for a second, then circle around in front of us and sits.
I’m hoping that means that he’ll be easy to train. That would be a GOOD thing, because the first thing he needs to learn is not to pee on the floor. He appears to have no concept of the usual “excuse me, human, but I would like to go OUT. NOW!” but instead simply loves the floor he’s with.
I’m told that potty-training a puppy is a lengthy process requiring patience and a lot of paper towels. Sigh.
Fortunately, I have a Resident Carpenter-Blacksmith-Dog Expert. I plan to give him many, many paper towels.
Lola saw the new pup first and I can’t say it went well, but at least there was no bloodshed. She gave me a stricken, “Are you KIDDING me?” look and bolted up the stairs. I haven’t been able to pet her since.
Nikki was more forthright; she hissed and the pup backed away, looking uncertain. She hissed again and he backed up a bit more, looking doubtfully at Nathan.
I suspect that friendly, all-inclusive pack relations are gonna take awhile.
Willow, on the other hand, is incredibly curious about the pup. She ran up and touched noses with him while the pup stood still, watching. Then he moved, and she skedaddled. She returned a bit later, after the pup fell asleep on his new bed, and inspected him.
More on this later. I have a pup to pet.