A tale of puppy love

As I have mentioned a few times before, my fiance, Stefan, and I are getting a puppy. We will be taking him home on March 17. As I am writing this, it will be just about 2 weeks, 2 days, 0 hours, 32 minutes, and 10 seconds until we step off the plane with our new puppy. We’re going to name him “Princeton” after my alma mater, Stefan’s first real employer, and the place that brought us together. His registered name is going to be “Rainshadow’s Old Nassau”, a suitable name for a Dutch breed.

Right now he’s 6 and a half weeks old and as cute as a button. Here’s a picture of one of the three males from the litter. We don’t know which of the three we’re going to get, but I can assure you, they’re all equally gorgeous.

How can you resist that face!

It’s not so much the fact that we’re getting the puppy that is so important to us. Stefan and I are not ready to start having children and we won’t be ready any time soon, but after caring for Daphne together for so long, we wanted to start some semblance of a family on our own. So, in many ways, this puppy won’t just be some random animal we’re giving food and shelter to, he’s the beginning of our family.

So, I wanted to write a summary of the journey we’ve been on. It’s a little story of what happens when you fall into “puppy love”.

The first thing that happens is you research

I got the puppy bug a long time ago. I don’t really know what started it. It may have started once I realized we had saved up enough money for a modest down payment on a home once Stefan got a tenure-track job somewhere. Still, once I was bitten, I had the bug. I think I started with labrador breeders, because I love my labrador. After a few run-ins with breeders that looked perfect on the surface but a little too shady for comfort once I delved a little deeper, I decided that maybe I was in over my head. It seems that there are just so many disreputable lab breeders out there, it would be hard for me to find someone I trusted. Labs are unfortunately being overbred and I was finding problem breeder after problem breeder. Maybe I don’t know where to look, but I haven’t been a dog person that long. I need a nice, close-knit breed club to lead the way instead of a sea of mostly-sketchy faces.

...not really.

…not really.

After that, I looked into Dobermans. I have quite a few friends in the service dog world who have excellent doberman service dogs. They seem like they’d be awesome dogs to own. I might actually own one in the future. I even put my name on a litter list for one. What scared me away was the numerous health problems that seem to plague dobermans. After I spoke to someone who had gotten her doberman from a very reputable breeder, but who had been struggling with a vast amount of skin problems and ear problems and teeth problems from the very start, I decided I needed to look elsewhere.

I actually stumbled upon the Drentsche Patrijshond while just looking through the AKC website one day. I downloaded the breed standard and my curiosity got the best of me. My research quickly branched out from there. Drents are beautiful, healthy, even-tempered (for the most part), soulful and loving, large enough to potentially do service work, good with kids, easy to care for, and relatively healthy as far as larger breeds go. I was impressed with their breed club (very nicely fleshed out for a rare breed). I contacted a few breeders, but knew my breeder right away by the time she took to answer my questions on the phone, the care and love she had for her dogs, and her glowing references.

The second thing that happens is you commit

“Stefan and I are thinking about maybe getting a puppy” felt strange to say to family and friends. Although I had a ring on my finger and we spent hours talking about buying a home in another state, our future children, and our future in general, the thought of suddenly having something in common–something that we couldn’t just split in two–felt odd at first. Finally, I started telling people, posting pictures of the breed on facebook, and talking more with the breeder and things started falling into place. Perhaps the most important thing that happened was that Stefan became excited about it.¬† He was maybe a bit more excited than I was.

Finally, the time came and the puppies wiggled their way into the world. We sent off our puppy deposit soon after. Very soon after that, we bought our plane tickets. It would be 2 short months until we’d fly across the country to get our puppy and take him home. We had committed. It all felt very sudden, and each week, as the breeder posted pictures of the puppies growing at an alarming rate, the reality of the commitment hit home.

The third thing that happens is you doubt

The apartment started to feel smaller as we moved Daphne’s larger crate into the bedroom (the puppy will have her crate). Amazon packages were arriving every day. Frequent trips to PetSmart made the apartment look like an explosion of dog toys and bully sticks. There were (and still are) days when I wake up with migraines and Stefan has to come back from work and pick up the slack getting Daphne out of the house. I wonder if I’ll be able to handle another one.

I have too many friends who are expert dog trainers. I’ve heard “If your puppy has one toileting accident it sets a precedent for the entire relationship,” and “it’s cruel to have two large dogs if you’re not going to be working them and training them constantly,” and “your dog needs to meet 100 people in the first month or he’ll be fearful for the rest of his life.” When I heard it, I knew a lot of it was bullshit, but the doubt, it clings to you. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like to be a parent. You get so caught up in all the worry that you’ll do the wrong thing, you don’t even notice what you’re doing right. I wonder what I’m doing right with Daphne, if anything. I wonder if anyone else has ever felt this way.

And then I think, “by the time my puppy is geriatric I will be well into my 40s,” and, well, that’s just enough to send shivers down my spine. I guess the scary part isn’t “the dog will live¬†that long,” but rather, “I’m that old.”

The fourth thing that happens is you start nesting

There’s nothing you can do about doubt but put it to the side and move forward with your life. Doubt and worry are very similar emotions and if there’s anything I’ve learned from therapy it’s that worry is the only useless emotion.

So, I moved on and started getting into my puppy preparations. We got a little, miniature bed, a friend gave us a tiny harness, we got a little collar, a playpen, toys that look mini next to Daphne’s stuffed animals and squeakies, plenty of carpet cleaner, a 15′ leash so we could play ball with him, a carrier to bring him home in, and even a little pillow that says “puppy luv”.

Nesting? Who? Me?

Nesting? Who? Me?

I went to the vet (much to Daphne’s dismay) and chatted her up with a ton of stupid questions, I booked a puppy class and a puppy play group, I even signed him up for Pet Assure (a pet health-insurance-like-discount-program).

If a non-pregnant woman ever nested, I am nesting the heck out of the place right now. This place is nothing but puppy as far as the eye can see. I’m surprised Daphne hasn’t caught on (she’s surprisingly been her usual blase self).

The fifth thing that happens is you get excited

Finally, after all that, here I am, sitting up late on the couch, with only 2 weeks, 1 day, 23 hours, 34 minutes, and 50 seconds (about) until Princeton comes to Princeton. Looking at pictures of the puppy, trying to guess which is going to be ours, giggling like a little girl, and hugging my partner.

Yes, I still have my fears and my worries and my doubts under the surface. Most of my worries, I realize, are about things that are a whole lot bigger than simply the arrival of a puppy. However, I really believe that anything worth being really, really excited about in life is going to be a little scary. We’re ready for you Princeton! We can’t wait for you to come home.