I am absurdly, ridiculously, wildly excited about the prospect of a summer puppy. Taking a walk down the frozen, ice-slick memory lane of Phoenix’s arrival explains a lot. He was not a summer puppy. He was a February puppy.
I took a week off from work for puppy bonding after he arrived. I got puppy bonding all right, along with a major ice storm that hit within hours of getting home from the airport with him. It knocked out power in eastern Iowa for the better part of a week. We were off the grid for six days. No lights. No heat. No computer. No TV. That was the week I cooked a pizza on a gas grill. You haven’t lived until you’ve grilled a pizza by lantern light and eaten it with a malinois puppy stuffed inside your coat in a house where you can see your breath in the air. Good times.
During the day, I sat on the living room floor, wearing a parka over insulated Carhartt bib-overalls, a stocking cap and gloves and played with Phoenix. In the evening, I sat in my recliner and read by lantern light with him snuggled under a blanket on my lap while the Farmer listened to Iowa Hawkeye basketball on the radio.
Then we went to bed and crawled under every blanket we owned, topped by my sleeping bag, with Phoenix wedged comfortably (for him) under my arm. If anyone had to pee in the middle of the night, we crawled out of our snug nest, shoved feet into cold boots, made our way through the cold house by flashlight and found the human toilet (I was hauling water from the cattle tanks so we could flush) or went outdoors into the black infinity that is Iowa in February at 2 a.m. The average temp outdoors that week was between 30 and 32 degrees. The average temp in the house that week was about 40 degrees.
I’ve never had a summer puppy before. Never. Ever. Jess came in March (cold, dark, wet, fog, snow), Connor in November (cold, dark, wet, fog, trying to snow), Jamie in late September and Phoenix in February. Jamie was the closest thing I ever had to a summer puppy but his arrival at the end of September coincided with quickly diminishing daylight hours that restricted outdoor activity and dropping temps made middle-of-the-night trips outdoors a goosebumpy affair.
The idea of bringing a puppy home when there are warm temps and long hours of evening sunshine fills my heart with such paroxysms of joy I can barely stand it. Really. You have no idea. Bottom line, I’m looking forward to being able to make outdoor potty runs in the middle of the night in a T-shirt and flip-flops and not get frostbite or get clunked on the head by an ice-coated tree limb crashing down.
No, I don’t know which puppy is coming to Iowa. Yes, it’s driving me crazy. Yes, that’s a short trip. No, I don’t have a problem with it. The breeder is doing all she can to help me decide. I’ve seen the puppies exactly once, for five wonderful hours earlier this month. She has lived with them for nearly 8 weeks, watched them grow and change. Although any given puppy might be “the one” on any given day, I trust her judgement to help me choose the right one based on two months of interacting with them daily. Honestly, the day I visited the litter, I often found it difficult to look beyond the forest to study the individual trees - the presence of nine bouncy, outgoing, fuzzy puppies made it hard to focus on a single one for very long. Sitting on the grass with puppies tumbling in and out of my lap pretty much reduced my brain to oxytocin-saturated mush.
Even worse, after years of Belgian-blinded vision, it was damn near impossible to tell the five blue merle boys apart and think I only identified the four black tri’s correctly about half of the time. Unless the puppy in question was facing me and held still for longer than 2 seconds, I had a really hard time identifying the little beasts (smallest tri girl, wild tri girl, dilute blue boy, full white collar blue boy, solo tri boy, etc., etc.) and remembering what their puppy call names were so the breeder and I could have a sensible conversation about them.
My puppy-picking skills have never been based on scientific approach or strict behavior evaluations. I picked Jess out of his litter when he was five or six weeks old. I chose him because he was the only puppy who did not have a full white collar. Connor picked me. Truly. He was an accident - the puppy I wasn’t looking for and didn’t need but met by chance and suddenly desperately wanted. I picked Jamie - it was a simple choice between him (already showing promise of grace and elegance at 8 weeks) and his brother (who was a short-legged, lumpy sort of pup). Phoenix’s breeder picked him for me.
My current quandary is not which of nine puppies to choose but which of two puppies to choose. Or maybe three. But probably two. One is a boy. One is a girl. When I saw them at 6 weeks, they were both lovely - animated, tuggy, follow-y (is that a word? it is now), kissy and engaging. Social. Bold. Lovely structure. Pretty markings. Over the top stinkin' adorable.
Friends who always have boy dogs tell me to get the boy. Friends who always have girl dogs tell me to get the girl. Friends who have had both tell me to pick the one that I feel is right. I’ve always had boys. I thought I wanted another boy. Now I’m not so sure. But a girl is an unknown quantity. A boy is a known quantity. Sort of. I thought Phoenix was a known quantity. He was only too happy to prove me wrong. I don’t want the boy vs. girl debate to cloud my decision. I need to pick the puppy who is right for me, never mind if it has outdoor plumbing or indoor plumbing.
The Farmer is no help. He rolls his eyes and says, "Get the one that makes you happy." Phoenix is no help. He just fixes me with that Malinois/Jedi stare and I can hear him thinking, "Cat. In the house. You want a cat. In. The. House."
Since I’m already making a drastic switch in appearance, maybe it’s time to really switch it up and bring a girl home. A little estrogen in the house would be a fine thing.