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!
What a wonderful story you just told… We were always in agreement. You got the one I would have taken myself, but you taking him is pretty much the same as keeping him, and you will do more and go further with this puppy, “our pick” than I ever could. Thanks for being Tristan’s new mom. I know he will thrive beyond belief with you.
He had his first antelope bone today… (nice soft scapula)
What a lovely, lovely story — and a lovely, lovely boy! Now Connery just has to teach his “nephew” the joy of Being and Doing!
Connery has indicated an interest in this role! 8)
(Dart, as ever, isn’t quite sure what he thinks about it all. He either wants to claim the puppy as his own (ie, start fights with Connery with the pup in the middle, not good!), totally ignores the puppy with the kind of fervent behavior that tells me he’s doing it to be good, or gently wags his tail around the edges of the xpen. As ever, he thinks too much!)
Dart is such a PROFOUND thinker! He’d make a terrible chess player, always thinking, “If I do this, then the other will do that, then I do this, then he does that…” and then when the other doesn’t do “that” as expected, he has to totally rethink everything! And since puppies seem to specialize in confounding their elders…!
What does Connery think?
Connery is lovely. He’s soft and even his corrections are entirely appropriate, both in nature and in escalation. He will be a good uncle!
Dart, yeah. He gets tangled in his own thoughts a lot. It’s one of the reason things can be hard for him and why we teeter on the edge of his potential…
Tristan is SO cute. I grew up with a Beagle / Border Collie cross (yeah, how’s THAT for high energy and intelligence?) My First Dog had the same facial markings as Tristan — I admit that when you posted pix of the three of them, I homed in on him right away. And tried very hard not to say anything, lest I inadvertently invoke your jinx long distance!
Great story. Beautiful puppies. Tristan is the best, of course!
Well, he’s the best for ME. 8)
Welcome home Tristan!
Tristan has a cute little tail wag in return!
He’s beautiful!! I loved the story. Welcome to your home, Tristan!!!
Tristan would thank you but he’s busy wailing because his world changed so abruptly from “playing with the hoofie” to “inside the pen without the hoofie” after he piddled on the rug (only moments after emptying in the litter box!). Oh, the hard, hard lessons of life…
Such a lovely boy! May you have many long, happy years together.
How wonderful! I remember going down to pick out my first dog (first one that was mine)–a collie pup. I was ignorant of everything at that age, and my mother guided me, after I had tried to make friends with the pup I thought I wanted (looking at color…SIGH!) by pointing out that “my” dog had already picked me–the other color pup who kept climbing into my lap and nuzzling my hand was the right dog for me. And he was a loyal, lovable, wonderful companion his entire life. (I wasn’t looking for a show dog or a performance dog, but a companion–that he turned out to be trainable was a bonus.)
He sounds like the perfect companion! It’s wonderful when one gets that early connection. 8)