Waiting is the hardest part.
Choosing is the second hardest part.
But I’ve been really, really lucky. I’ve had that opportunity to choose. That’s a whole ‘nother blog and one I’ve got half written, but for now, just trust me. It is an honor and a rarity to have a choice—never mind first choice—in a show-bred litter.
Not that I’m just waltzing in, grabbing a pup, and going. I’ve been a regular visit to the puppy pen since they were born in early November, and I’ve had pictures along the way. Right from the start, I’ve had a pick.
But things change. It’s a sad truth that not every puppy lives. And it’s tough to assess personality and conformation when they’re wee bitty blobs who can’t see or hear or truly even interact with their world!
On my side, I had years of being whelper helper and auntie to litters of Cheysuli Cardigan Welsh Corgi pups. Conformationally, of course, the breeds are nothing alike…but still, one absorbs a certain sense of how Pup X grows to be Adult X.
On my breeder’s side, all that plus doing it with the actual breed in question, plus watching her friends’ litters grow up, too!
For both of us? A background in horses, where conformation vs use and soundness is highly scrutinized, and carries higher penalties when ignored.
So when the three boy puppies were born, I received cell phone pictures and of course I quickly saw a favorite. The smallest of the bunch at that time, but to my eye the most balanced. All of a piece.
But the others were also beautiful puppies. Quite beautiful, in fact. And one does not pick a puppy from a single blurry photo at birth!
The first visit, I got to kiss and handle and schmoozle them. They were between 2-3 weeks and all still beautiful. “My” pup was still all of a piece, if less visibly so.
Then I held them for nail clipping. That can tell you a lot! One pup was easy, one squalled fiercely, and one squalled even louder to start with but then said, “Oh well, whatever.”
That one was “mine.” And I liked that he had an opinion, but that he could think through it.
Still, it was not only way too early to choose, but…
I have a severe jinx about this sort of thing. I don’t, I won’t, say some things out loud until the moment is truly, actually official. It’s a learned jinx and you can’t talk me out of it, so don’t even try.
At the next visit, their little puppy eyes were open but not really able to focus. The pups were quite fat, the three of them thriving on mom’s milk. There hadn’t been much opportunity for additional growth either in body or personality. BUT.
One of the pups, as I held them, looked me directly in the eye. And you know those cliché little zings of electricity that occur in fiction when two characters lock eyes? Yes. It happens. It is real.
It was “my” pup again.
At this point, I started second-guessing myself. Surely I was just inclined to see the best in my early favorite. I mean, seriously!
After that, I brought my tracking/training friend along. Her eye is tuned to Border Collies, but with a quick Beagle primer AND her extensive background in horses (notice a theme here…), she was in grand position to weigh in with a fresh eye. All of the pups were lively, interactive, toy-oriented, and responsive to voice.
One pup was fancy, fancy handsome—which actually translates to a little short in the back for handiness on an agility course. And while amiable with humans, he had already taken to kicking turf after pottying. At five and a half weeks. o.O
The second pup was lankier with tremendous reaching movement for his age (he reminds me utterly of Dart)—and he was clearly a sharply intelligent pup who was actively exploring options to Get What He Wanted, discarding what didn’t work, and moving on to the next effort. Hmmm. That can be awesome in a performance dog! Or…it can be a constant battle.
The third pup had smooth, floaty movement without quite as much reach but so, so lovely. His angles were balanced, his back a good length but a touch longer than the fancy puppy’s, his drive was forward and not up. He had opinions but didn’t cling to them. He fell asleep in my lap.
Yeah, you know who it was.
Last weekend we found them blossoming into incredibly active little people. They all played tug and chase and responded to puppy calls. The first pup looked even fancier, and had an anti-gravity front end—there’s the effect of that short (for Beagles, utterly beautiful) back, but it’s not really the best for agility (weaves are hard, tight turns are hard, driving forward is hard. Connery faces this to some extent). This one’s gait is fancy, his head is fancy, and he’s going to have attitude up the wazoo in the show ring.
The second pup still has his amazing reach of stride. He’s going to be a wonderful athlete! And, once he’s decided to bond, a wonderfully loyal friend. He’s also still a tough-headed little dog, already knows what he wants and isn’t going to hold back when it comes to getting it. The pack troublemaker!
The third was…
All of a piece. Beautiful floaty movement (chills again), opinionated without fighting about it. The pup who avoids the quarrels of the others but doesn’t back down when bullied. Not the fancy of the first and not the athletic reach of the second, but to my eye, the balance of everything in a litter of unrelentingly outstanding puppies.
So finally, Saturday arrived. Official assessment day. They’re quite nearly eight weeks old—that magical time when it’s possible to see into their physical future. (Half a week later and it’s all about the puppy uglies!) Three breeders and me, all taking a good close look. Because while I had my favorite, in truth it’s been a joint venture. But in the end, we all settled on the same little guy as being the best prospect for a combination of show and performance.
So Saturday was the day I brought home the pup who caught my eye in the very first picture—no matter how I admired the others in an effort to keep myself from being “kennel blind.”
I guess sometimes we really do know!
Welcome home, Albedo’s Song of Self! Your call name is Tristan, and we already love you!