Puppy breath. Slightly sour, slightly tangy, a hint of skunky. No kind of smell that a person would normally crave.
At least, not until there’s a puppy in your hands and you suddenly realize how much you’ve missed that very thing.
I’ve always timed my puppies carefully, according to the age and need of the current pack. I stay aware of who’s breeding the sort of dog I like, occasionally reaching out here and there with the intent to wait if there’s something perfect to wait for. (I waited two years for Connery, for instance…)
I most recently started serious puppy-planning about five years ago, but things got…complicated. And a little bit Fate-ish.
The pack itself had been ready for a puppy for a couple of years, but a series of major relocations kicked my precarious health into the basement. So by the time I reached out to an online friend about her small breeding program of accomplished performance dogs, I was a little behind the curve. And still not ready, but one starts solid planning a year or so ahead. Not unlike planning books, if I say so myself. Shortly after that, we made it onto my friend’s puppy list.
Shortly after that, I got a localish nudge.
Dart’s Breeder: Got a pup here who’s perfect for you.
Me: Aurgh. OMG. Temptation. But…too sick for a pup right now. Also, on a list for a ~year from now.
(A couple of months pass. Belle Cardigan retires from performance. Connery is not well.)
Dart’s Breeder: Seriously, this puppy is meant for you.
Me: Temptation! Wah!! Still sick! Wah! Already waiting for a puppy! Wah!
My Online Breeder Friend: I don’t know how to tell you this, but [insert personal tragedy]. There will be no breeding, possibly ever. (We cry together for what she’s going through.)
Me: Deep breath, self. Connery is unwell and I have no idea how that’ll turn out. And while I wanted a puppy for all sorts of reasons, the most of which being how important it is to lay performance groundwork in this highly intelligent, independent breed…it is time to be smart.
Me: Dearest Dart’s Breeder, is that puppy (ten months now) still available? (O humble)
Dart’s Breeder: Why, yes he is, because his needs are so clear to me and he cannot go to non-performance home. What took you so long? Did I not TELL YOU THIS WAS YOUR DOG?
And he was.
(Note: It is official that she can remind me of this on a regular basis. But I can’t truly second-guess myself…I knew I wasn’t well enough for a puppy when he was first available, and on looking back, I know I was right.)
That very weekend, little Cubbie Beagle come home for a month try-out. Three weeks later he earned his CGC certification (Canine Good Citizen) in spite of tremendous transition issues driven by his intelligence and emotional nature. He was renamed D’Artagnan and nicknamed–you know this is coming, right?–Dart.
It turns out that Dart is the kind of scary-smart dog who needs all that groundwork in the most critical way, because by ten months old he considered his world completely defined (and to his own standards!). His potential is off the chart, but we still have a lot to overcome and no certainty that I can do it, though he does continue to tease with incredibly exciting glimmers of what might be.
I did know it would take about three years to fully housebreak him (it did) and until he was five-ish to hope for consistency in performance (he just turned five and I’m seeing those glimmers). And because of those things, I knew we wouldn’t be ready for a puppy in the optimal time frame (when Dart was about four), and we weren’t.
So when we lost Belle last April (‘13) and Connery was still struggling behind his uber-bawhsome cheerfulness, we didn’t consider puppy-hunting in spite of my commitment to a baby “for the next one.” Instead, with perfect timing, we became Rena Beagle’s new home.
Rena was already five years old (Connery was nine, Dart was four), already had some training. And she was a princess. She was perfect. Of course, neither her past mom nor I realized that the trip here would trigger lurking health issues into one crisis after another.
I pushed myself to an emotional limit before an injury a year later turned into Rena’s final vet visit. I was emotionally crushed, physically exhausted, deeply grieving, and full of guilt for failing to meet Dart’s needs along the way. In spite of the hole in our pack, I dove back into supporting the two Beagle boys full time and mentioned to Dart’s breeder that we would love to be considered for a puppy…in a year or so.
You know. This time DETERMINED to get an actual puppy!
Which brings me back to that little whisper in my friend’s ear last spring, and the news that Dart’s sister Tyra was bred in early November, and the weeks of waiting to see if she’d taken, and the more weeks until they were born, healthy and beautiful, and the weeks of visiting as often as possible to meet them and play with them and assess them…
And that brings us to next week, when we bring home the first puppy breath to grace this household since Connery came home.
Now the question is…