Promise To My Dogs

I wrote this last year, when Mozzie was a puppy and just before we adopted Oliver. Now, Mozzie is 18 1/2 months old, and Oliver is 16 1/2 months, and these words are truer than ever.

First Friend Mozziver
I will teach you all you need to know to be able to enjoy the world around you but still allow you to be a dog. We will work on the specifics of obedience, but you will always have fun.
I will never touch you in anger. If I ever handle you harshly, it will only be to keep you from harm.
I will never allow anyone, human or animal, to cause you physical or emotional discomfort.
You will never be cold, hungry, or lonely a day in your life if it is within my power. I will always have time for you.
I will maintain your grooming so you are always comfortable and presentable.
I will make sure you have the veterinary care you need, but I will educate myself and not blindly follow protocols. I won’t over-vaccinate or over-medicate you, ever.
I will feed you natural, species-appropriate food in the appropriate amount, and safe, healthy treats.
You are my love, my life, my heart. You are not an accessory or a notion. You are a vital part of my family and my world, and I will make sure you know that every day of your life.

Dogs And Books And Yarn

I haven’t missed a day of posting since I started Furwood Forest a little over a month ago, but I was stumped what to write about today. I have over 500 posts archived from the old Fermented Fur blog, but nothing was catching my attention as something I wanted to post.

Mozzie and Oliver, AKA The Direwolves, weren’t cooperating, which was downright inconsiderate. They’re made of cuteness and shenanigans, and the least they can do is provide blog fodder. I’m their mama, nurse, activity director, chef, concierge, stylist, entertainment committee, teacher, referee, jungle gym, therapist, and maid. All I ask is for them to pull their weight.

Fine. I guess their snuggles are payment enough.

In desperation, I went outside and captured some video of them playing with their Romp-N-Roll Jolly Ball. Luckily for all of us, they’re adorable no matter what they’re doing.

 

While many of you are enjoying something I’m told is called a “weekend,” Tom is at work, and I am about to do the same. If you weren’t aware, I’m the managing editor for Limitless Publishing–and our new imprint, Crave–so I work at home with my Direwolf assistants.

I’ve already conquered Mount Email, and will continue to do so, but aside from managing the editing and proofreading staff, working with designers to assign our book covers, overseeing the creation of cover blurbs, overseeing all stages of production of our horror and romance anthologies, and a bunch of other publishing-related chainsaw juggling, I also edit, both for Limitless and select independent (indie) authors, and that’s what’s on the agenda today. I need to finish a first round of an edit and get it to the author for revisions.

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True story.

Once I achieve the day’s work goals, it’s on to the reward portion of the day, doing what I want. Currently, this means watching Doctor Who–which I’ve never watched before–and working on my knitting.

I’ve crocheted since I was a kid, but knitting is a new challenge. I’ve only been at it about two weeks, and have only worked on swatches of different stitch combinations so far. This is the most recent swatch, a “seersucker” diamond pattern, which came out fairly well.

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I still have a hell of a time casting off at the end of a piece, which makes no sense, because it’s insanely easy. Do two stitches, pull the first loop over the second and off the needle. Yet I can’t get that first loop off in one piece without losing the second one. I resorted to just sliding both stitches off the needle and using a crochet hook to pull the second stitch through the first, then putting it back on the needle. I’ve concluded I knit too tightly, and am trying to adjust my technique.

Last night, I started what might be my first “real” project, though it’s still just practice of basic skills before I move on to more complex stitches. Technically, it will be a dishcloth with a dog on it, though I am still befuddled why anyone would spend time making something pretty and then use it to scrub barbecue sauce off a plate. I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but washing dishes isn’t on the list of options.

It should look something like this:

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And this is what I have so far:

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See? The bottoms of the little puppy paws are beginning to appear.

Thrilling day? Maybe not, but I like quiet and peaceful creativity. Yes, I have some household chores to do, and puppy interaction, dinner to make, and tonight I’ll have my customary bedtime adult beverages because the brain-train has to be derailed at least a little or I’ll never get to sleep.

Some people pack their (for me, theoretical) weekends with activities, but that’s not my life. I like it calm and tranquil and quietly satisfying.

Having said that, The Direwolves will probably stage an insurrection this afternoon or commit some other act of chaos. But until then, I have a steamy mafia princess story to edit.

And probably a snack.

Don’t Call Me Scarecrow

The people who surrendered Oliver to the humane society a year ago called him Scarecrow because they claimed he was afraid of everything.

He was 3 1/2 months old and in his third home, after the people who were supposed to buy him failed to pick him up from his breeder. The breeder gave him to a friend, whose resident dog didn’t like him, so he was passed on to a relative. That person also declined to keep him and contacted Colonial Capital Humane Society to find him a home.

Which turned out to be with us.

There are a couple of things wrong with calling him Scarecrow, the first being it was derogatory, implying it was his fault he was frightened.

Second, scarecrows aren’t afraid of things; they scare things away.

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Let me tell you, after the first fifteen minutes trembling on our kitchen floor the evening we brought him home, Oliver hasn’t been afraid of a single thing for one second.

Mozzie, our golden, is the timid one, like the Cowardly Lion. That, along with his perpetual puppy energy, was why we wanted him to have a canine companion, so Oliver joined us when Mozzie was six months old.

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Is that scary plastic bag gone?

Not only was the Scarecrow not the ‘fraidy-cat in The Wizard of Oz, he turned out to be the brains of the bunch, and that’s how it’s been with Oliver. He is a standard poodle, which rank second only to border collies on the breed intelligence charts, and one step above golden retrievers.

Seriously, with both a poodle and a golden, I’m outmatched in the intelligence department. If they ever decide to stage a coup, I’m in deep trouble.

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Meet your future Canine Overlords

Goldens are brilliant and can cheerfully learn to do anything you care to teach them. So can poodles, but they’re going to think it over for a while first, deciding if they agree with your strategy and technique, before complying. And if they’ve devised a better way, be prepared, because that’s what they’ll do.

When you talk to a golden, you can see the bright spark of understanding in their eyes, along with plenty of joyful adoration. When you talk to a standard poodle, you see that understanding and intelligence, but you can also see intense concentration, as he analyzes your words, inflection, body language, and intention. Poodles are always watching and evaluating, weighing and measuring, processing everything they see.

Poodles are always watching.

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One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty–Oliver isn’t afraid of a single thing.

And he’s with us now, so he’ll never have to be.

Puppy Milestones

This isn’t a real post, exactly. But today mark my boys’ birth-month-dates, or something like that.

Oliver was born October 18, 2016, so today he is 16 months old…

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As a standard poodle, he’ll probably grow a bit more, until he’s about two years old. Right now, he’s 57 pounds of precious poodly fluff.

Mozzie was born August 18, 2016, so today he is 18 months old. A year and a half. And as you can see, if he gets any more adorable, his cuteness will take over the world.

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After having goldens who ranged from 75-120 pounds (the 120-pounder was a “singleton” puppy, a one-puppy litter, hence the enormousness), he seems tiny to me at 62 pounds, but he packs extra truckloads of charm into every pound. Also a good bit of neurosis.

These boys are the lights of my life, and I don’t know what I’d do without them! Happy anniversary-month-day-of-your-birth-thing, puppernutters!

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Lazy-Mom Dog Treats

I’m extremely picky about what I feed my dogs. I worked in vet clinics for many years, and managed a holistic practice the last five years of my career. One of my specialties was canine nutrition. I keep Mozzie and Oliver–and every other dog I’ve had for the past dozen-plus years–on a diet of half grain-free kibble and half raw food.

But finding good grain-free treats is tough. They’re also very expensive. Dog-parents have to balance budget versus the time it takes to make your own treats, and recipes are also an issue. Most have whole wheat flour or other grains in them, and others might be grain-free but are messy, smelly, and a huge hassle.

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Did you say TREATS?

I try to be a conscientious dog-mom, but I’m also extraordinarily lazy. If it involves a lot of ingredients and prep and clean-up, forget it. But I’ve found the perfect solution. Two ingredients, and totally healthy!

Here you go…

  • One pound RAW ground turkey
  • One RAW sweet potato

That’s it.

Chop the sweet potato into chunks. Toss it in the food processor and chop it to smithereens while the twitchy Mozzie flees the room. Add the ground turkey and process until combined. If you need Mozzie, he’s hiding in the back hall.

Make into patties an inch or two in diameter in the dehydrator, ignoring the poodle at your feet hoping you forget he’s there, trip over him, and drop the raw treat mixture. I dehydrate on 145 degrees for 5-6 hours until they’re crispy and break easily, with maybe a bit of chewiness in the middle.

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Turkey and sweet potato treats

I store in the fridge and keep a few on the counter and break a bit off to give the boys when they come in from outside.

You can switch it up a little also. I tried ground beef, but it dries too oily, so I stick with turkey, but today I made a batch with green beans and blueberries instead of sweet potato. It was a lot more moist and squishy than the sweet potato, but they came out well. They took a half hour or so longer in the dehydrator.

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Turkey, green bean, and blueberry treats

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you could also do in the oven, on the lowest setting. I’ve never done this, but you probably better keep an eye on them and check them. Maybe turn them after a couple of hours.

And that’s all there is to it! A whole bag of treats lasts me 7-10 days and costs only a few dollars, as opposed to a small bag from the store costing $8-12, depending on brand and size.

You can also simply cut chicken breast or tenderloins into strips and dry them, or beef liver. These make great training treats.

Do you have favorite, easy, low-hassle dog treat recipes? Please share!

Canine Co-Dependency

It takes a lot to get me out of the house, and very little to convince me to stay home. The last time I was out for more than a couple of minutes was January 11 when we took Oliver to the groomer, over a month ago. I’m totally okay with that.

Now, more than ever, it’s leaning toward “can’t” leave the house rather than “don’t want to.” Because…

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These two.

The last dogs to join our pack prior to Oliver and Mozzie were Brody (2006) and Darwin (2007), and I still worked outside the home at least a few days a week until 2010, so they were used to me being gone from time to time. But since Mozzie arrived in November 2016 and Oliver in February 2017, I have literally not spent one night away from home.

My sister and her husband weren’t both out of the house simultaneously for years, because their dog had health issues, and they didn’t want to stress her or have her get into trouble while she was alone. I’m not sure I fully grasped the reality of this until now.

Our son gave us a camera so we could check in on the dogs on the rare occasions we’re out, and it does help a little. At least I can be sure they haven’t decided to eat the couch or engage in a doggie death match. But I also now know Mozzie paces much of the time, climbing up to my spot on the couch and looking around forlornly, and Oliver howls. A lot. “Mamaaaaaaaaaa, where are yooooooooooouuuuuuu?”

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A still from the camera footage. Note Mozzie on the left, in my spot on the couch. Oliver, by the sliding door, is in mid-howl, nose up and sending his cry to the heavens.

I can always come up with reasons not to go out. It’s raining. It might rain. It just rained so it would be splashy and muddy. Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. It’s hot, cold, windy, or buggy. The tide is wrong. There’s an event downtown and it would be crowded. I haven’t washed my hair since Tuesday (and it’s currently Friday). It’s Saturday night and the wait for a table would be too long. The dogs are due for grooming, and if we take them to the park, people will think we don’t take care of them.

You see where I’m going with this. It doesn’t take much.

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Besides, Mozzie says I can’t get off the couch. Don’t argue with him. Cute wins every time, and he’s even bigger and cuter now.

While I generally dislike excursions into the Out, I do like vacations, though, and a combination of “what to do with the dogs” and “all our money seems to be missing” has resulted in no away-from-home time for me since we went to Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta in October 2016.

If you love The Walking Dead and have a chance to go to a Walker Stalker event…DOOOOOO IT!

Even if we nailed down funding for a trip, how would that work? Mozzie is a twitchy, anxious dog, and a strange kennel would stress him out way more than would be good for him, and probably the kennel staff.

We have a reliable petsitter who was great with Darwin and Brody, and has stopped to check in on these two once when we had to be gone all day for a family event, but that’s the extent of it so far. I’m not sure Mozzie and Oliver would be okay with only three daily check-ins like the older two were. And leaving them alone overnight…? That’s a wildcard.

One solution would be someone to stay at the house while we were gone. Sort of a rent-a-mama. The key is for someone to be here a good bit of the day, and overnight. But how to find such a person? I dislike having people in my house. Oddly, though, I find it slightly less objectionable if I’m not here and required to interact.

The other, possibly better idea is to simply take the dogs with us, but again, there are some factors to consider. If we were going on an overnight trip to attend an event, that would mean leaving them alone in a hotel room for a minimum of several hours. If Oliver howls in hotels like he does at home, we’d quickly wear out our welcome.

But if we were, for example, on a beach vacation, they’d be with us all the time, other than when we went out to dinner, and a beach house offers more privacy and a better howl-buffer than a hotel room. We frequently vacation with dog-loving friends, though, and managing stranger-dog interactions elevates the stress levels and sucks the fun right out of things. I need to be able to relax and enjoy myself, not spend all my time as a dog referee, so we don’t typically take our dogs. Except…

We took Brody with us in September 2016, because he was rapidly declining, and it was either try taking him with us or skip the trip. He had issues with our friends’ dog, and she had to hide out in the bedroom the whole time to prevent Brody barking us all deaf and traumatizing the poor dog for life. We gave up and came home after only a couple of days.

This probably boils down to taking them with us, provided they are the only dogs present in a shared house, or finding our own separate accommodations.

Or simply staying home.  Aside from the lack of beachy-ness, it’s where I usually prefer to be, anyway.

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Congratulations, It’s A Poodle!

Surprise poodles are the best poodles.

One year ago today, I woke up as the mom of one six-month-old golden retriever puppy. The plan was already in progress to find him a nice young adult golden or Labrador retriever brother.

Within eight hours, previous plans were tossed right out the window and we welcomed an almost four-month-old standard poodle puppy into the family.

Colonial Capital Humane Society posted this photo and a description, stating he required immediate rescue.

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I texted Tom to ask how we felt about standard poodles. I knew I loved them, but figured I should at least have the courtesy to ask before informing him we now had one. He responded positively, and the wheels were in motion.

The fabulous Lisa Lee of CCHS left work to go take possession of the puppy. She even stopped by Tom’s store and told him she was there with his “son.” Now, Tom had never met Lisa before, and our son and his wife were currently on a plane back to Minnesota from a cruise vacation, so he was a bit perplexed. It was sheer brilliance on Lisa’s part, though, because if any part of Tom was having second thoughts about adopting the poodle-puppy, the point was now moot. He was immediately a poodle-dad.

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We met Lisa after Tom got off work, and this is when I met the puppy we would name Oliver

The poor pup had had a very traumatic few days, and was a bit overwhelmed. Within a day, though, he and Mozzie were playing and bonding, and adopting Oliver was probably the best pack-building decision we’ve ever made.

 

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Oliver will be 16 months old next week, and Mozzie will be 18 months on the same day. We’re looking forward to many years of fun and frolic with our two boys.

Happy gotcha day, Oliver! We love you!

 

The Universe Is a Jerk

Yesterday, I shared this Classic Fermented Fur post about when I cut the quick on one of Ozark’s front toenails and it didn’t want to stop bleeding. I found a non-stick pad and some Vet-Wrap to solve the problem.

I hadn’t even thought of Vet-Wrap in years, but I found myself needing to order some today. The only explanation is that the Universe noticed yesterday’s post and has a twisted sense of humor.

The last day or so, Oliver has been licking his left front paw. Mozzie, being a golden and by definition a caring, sympathetic dog, has been helping. Which is really the opposite of helpful. They sometimes do this if Oliver has just been to the groomer and has some clipper burn on his toes, but he hasn’t been to the groomer in almost a month. (Note to self, schedule that for in a few weeks.)

I thought maybe he stepped in something interesting in the yard and it would pass as soon as all the lickable goodness was gone. But a while ago, he was on the couch with me and I noticed his left dew claw was at an odd angle.

Standard poodles normally have their dew claws removed when they’re a few days old. They also customarily (in the US) have their tails docked by 1/3 to 1/2 so the remaining tail is straight. I’m very firmly against cosmetic alterations such as tail docking and ear cropping, so I was fine with Oliver having a natural tail. Dew claws can be a problem if they’re loose or floppy because they tend to catch on things, but Oliver’s are nice and tight, so I wasn’t worried.

But I probably should’ve been because at some point recently, he must have caught it on something. Now it’s loose-ish, and sticking out enough I noticed it through his long leg-hair.

What to do? I’d really like to avoid a trip to the vet. The first thing they’d do is suggest I have the dew claw removed, likely both of them, and at his age this is a pretty big deal. For three-day-old puppies, the cartilage is still developing, so it’s a simple snip and a dab of surgical glue, though I would still rather not do this unless I had a reason, like the puppy was going to be a field dog and likely to injure it. But at over a year old, this would be amputation, involve general anesthesia, stitches, bandages, and probably the Cone of Shame.

I think the first step is to see if I can manage this. It doesn’t appear to be painful, since he’s not limping or holding his paw up, and he’s still tearing up the yard running around with Mozzie. Other than some licking, and giving me dirty looks when I try to examine it, it doesn’t seem to be bothering him a lot.

I ordered some Vet-Wrap and medical tape, but even with Amazon Prime it will take two days to arrive. So I checked the “medical supplies and owie-repairer” basket in my bathroom and found a roll of gauze and some waterproof tape. Oliver was surprisingly cooperative as I wrapped it. My theory is that holding the dew claw tight to his leg for a couple of days should give it a chance to heal and tighten back in place.

I hope he’ll leave the bandage alone. I have a large Comfy Cone, but I have a feeling this would introduce more chaos into the household dynamics than any of us would like. He’s currently in his crate with a bully stick, my theory being this will keep him from paying attention to the bandage-wrapped appendage until he gets a bit used to having it on there.

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The Poodle Is Not Amused

I guess we’ll see. If he won’t leave it alone, or if this doesn’t work and he keeps messing with it after I take off the bandage, we’ll have to visit the vet. Since by then I’ll have tried the “wrap the area and cross my fingers and hope for the best” option, the next step might end up being amputation.

He’s a poodle, and therefore brilliant, so maybe I can explain it to him. If he gives it some thought, I’m sure he’ll recognize the benefits of keeping all his original parts where they belong.

Nothing to do now but wait and see.

Rescuing the Rescued Poodle

Oliver the Wonder Poodle has been with us almost a year. On his gotcha-versary, expect a lengthy post about everything he’s taught me about poodles in that time. But one very amusing thing happened around six weeks after he arrived and opened my eyes to the ingenuity, curiosity, and unflappable nature of the breed. He was five and a half months old and a bit over thirty pounds at the time, and too smart and intrepid for his own good.

My mornings follow a very structured routine, because I am Not A Morning Person, and varying from the expected process results in chaos and throws me off for the rest of the day. Things must not happen out of order, and nothing requiring independent thought can take place until I’ve been up at least an hour. If I ever experience an early morning house fire, I’m doomed.

Having two puppies made this a challenge, but we were doing pretty well. They wake me up every morning–really heckkin’ early–all happy and wiggly and adorable, they get breakfast, I get coffee, and everybody is set.

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I know this is dim and grainy, but I did warn you they wake me up early. This is what I see every morning when I open my eyes. Not a bad way to start the day.

One particular morning in early April, I took the dogs out then popped back inside to unload the dishwasher and let them run off some puppy mania. A few minutes later, I noticed Mozzie at the sliding door. He had on his “worried ears,” and his eyebrows clearly communicated “you’re not going to like this, but I swear I had nothing to do with it.”

I looked for Oliver, but no Oliver was to be found. I put my shoes back on and clomped down the deck steps into the yard, but still didn’t see a poodle puppy. Mozzie decided to be helpful–because he’s a golden and that’s what they do–and pointed out a hole under the lattice surrounding the deck.

Aha.

Investigation quickly revealed the wayward poodle under the enclosed deck. For reasons known only to him, Oliver had dug under the lattice, wriggled under the deck, and now couldn’t get out because the angle of the hole was wrong.

Thankfully, he wasn’t upset about it. If he’d been freaking out, I’d have had to go all mama-dog and rip off the lattice and probably die of splinter poisoning. But Oliver knew he wasn’t in immediate danger, and I had everything under control. Poodles have a lot of incredible abilities, but mind-reading isn’t one of them. This was fortunate, because if he knew what I was thinking just then, he’d have been a lot more concerned.

He sat there looking at me, confident and unperturbed. I, however, was fairly perturbed. I hadn’t had coffee yet, and I avoid physical exertion at all times, but it was evident I would have to dig the little monster out of there before my coffee-drinking could resume.

I located the garden rake, which would have to do, because while I was sure we owned a shovel, it was probably in the shed, which was padlocked. I had a key to this, of course, but figuring out which one it was would require more mental dexterity than I have before coffee.

Rake in hand, I set about deepening the hole and extending the angle back under the deck so Oliver could crawl out.

Dig, dig, dig. Scoop, scoop, scoop. Pause to catch my breath and look at the unrepentant poodle sitting there smiling at me through the lattice-holes.

Oliver occasionally attempted to help, but didn’t seem to be very effective. I was calling bullshit on the whole thing, because he got under there in the first place, and those paws looked pretty capable, but all he could do was scratch around, occasionally nibble at the dirt, and stick his naughty-but-adorable head out.

Mozzie mostly paced nervously and wandered over from time to time to assess my progress and make sure nobody was in trouble. He’d done his “come quick, Timmy fell down the well” part, which was apparently as involved as he planned to be in the whole matter.

Finally, I was sweaty and my back was cramping, I had dirt embedded in my knees and under my nails, and I probably had spiders in my hair, but Oliver managed to squirm out under the lattice. I immediately dropped a log in the hole to prevent further incidents. Mozzie was ecstatic, because his buddy was available for chasing again and I had stopped scowling and muttering.

Having puppies was not on my to-do list before I got these two. I’d been declaring emphatically for the past ten years that my puppy-wrangling days were behind me. I could not have been more wrong. Despite the house training and crazy antics, these two goobers have brightened my world and made my life a lot more interesting.

I just prefer it if they save the interesting stuff for after I’ve had coffee.

Rescues and Purebreds and Breeders…Oh, My!

I love dogs–all dogs. From the tiniest, yappiest, nippiest fluff-nuggets to the behemoths who weigh well into triple digits, poop like Clydesdales, and need their own couch. Or your couch. You can sit on the floor, puny human.

Tom and I got our first dog, a buff cocker spaniel we named Porsche, in 1988. She was followed in 1989 by Flash, a buff and white cocker, and Cricket, a black cocker, in 1991. Mozzie and Oliver are dogs number 13 and 14, respectively. Of those 14 dogs, twelve were purebred.

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Wait…what? How can I support rescue and still have purebred dogs, you ask?

I can, and I do, and I don’t have to justify myself to anyone about it. But I will explain.

All those years ago, I’d never heard of a puppy mill. Those cocker spaniels all came from Petland stores in the Indianapolis area. Hey, they had “papers!” The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of the dog world, right? Nope. That’s a big ol’ nopeasaurus. My poor cockerpack was a grab-bag of genetic issues, and thus my education began.

In 1994, I got my first golden retriever and the canine love of my life, Ripley. From a backyard breeder. I’d learned not to buy from pet stores, but hadn’t quite figured things out completely. Ripley had bilateral hip surgery at six months old, because his dysplasia was so bad he could already barely walk. Lesson learned.

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My poor puppy! But we had 12 wonderful, active, happy years after this.

From then on, dogs #5-12 (and #14) were all rescues, through  rescue groups and one private adoption. At times, we had as many as seven dogs, which sounds slightly less clinically insane when you remember I worked in veterinary clinics, was on the board of the regional golden retriever rescue group, was active in the county kennel club and Pyr rescue, and founded a chapter of Therapy Dogs International. Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t have twenty-seven, so you should really be congratulating me on my superhuman restraint.

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Sprocket, our first RAGOM rescue boy

But all but two of those dogs were still purebred.  Undocumented, unregistered, but they were all golden retrievers, one Great Pyrenees, and now one standard poodle, with two exceptions.

As I said, I love all dogs, from their boopable snoots to their long-waggy or stubby-wiggly tails and the bottoms of their so-cute paws. I’m aware anyone can walk into any shelter in any community and walk out with a wonderful canine companion the same day. I get it, and I encourage people to do so. But you also have to do some homework so you  have some idea what you’re getting. For example, if you live in a community where you can’t have a fence, and houses are close together, you should probably stay away from scent hounds, because they will follow their noses into the next county and sing the song of their people at ear-shattering volume whenever the spirit moves them.

The thing is, with mixes, you don’t always know what you’re getting, and there’s no reliable way to tell. I have very specific things I need in a dog for him to fit into my life and my pack with minimal conflict for all involved, and I have a much better chance of achieving this if I select breeds whose primary temperament and behaviors match these criteria. I’m sometimes criticized for this, but believe me, purebred dogs need rescue too.

You can’t look at the puppy in the shelter and be sure what he’s made of. He could be a mix of any number of breeds, and you can’t know–unless you have a crystal ball, and if you do, can I please borrow it?–which traits of any of those breeds will manifest. He might look 90% like one of his primary breeds, but his temperament might be 90% like another part of his genetic makeup, and they might be wildly different from what you’d expect.

Let’s look at my two mix-boys as examples.

One day, Tom called me and said, “You’ll never guess what I’m looking at.” Well, no, given that vague non-question, I couldn’t. Turned out the answer was “a golden retriever/Great Pyrenees mix.” Who, coincidentally, needed a new home. And that’s when we adopted Gulliver.

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Now, the mistake people might make is thinking a golden/Pyr mix is essentially a gorgeous, extra-fluffy golden retriever. No doubt about it, Gulliver was breathtaking. Just look at this face.

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But Gulliver’s personality was 100% Pyr. He was sweet and loving, but reserved. We thought he needed a Pyrish friend, and soon Ozark joined the family.

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Ozark was a Lab/Pyr mix, and his temperament was 75% retriever and 25% Pyr, while he looked like an extra-fluffy Lab or golden.

If you take retrievers (Lab or golden) and Pyrs, you have four possible options, in varying degrees.

  • Looks like Pyr, acts like retriever
  • Looks like Pyr, acts like Pyr
  • Looks like retriever, acts like Pyr
  • Looks like retriever, acts like retriever

Gully looked like a Pyr-shaped golden and acted like a Pyr. He guarded and patrolled the yard and barked at perceived threats, real or imagined. He could lie in the snow for hours, but wouldn’t dampen one puppy-tootsie in our pool. If you threw a ball, he looked at you like “what the hell is wrong with you, throwing that thing when I’m busy monitoring the perimeter?”

Ozark had a very Lab-like appearance, though fluffier, and his outgoing, interactive personality was retriever through and through. He loved all people, like a Lab. He also adored puppies and kitties, which he would take care of, play with gently, and guard, like a Pyr. Unlike a Lab, he did not fetch and would sooner die than get in the pool.

At least Pyrs and retrievers aren’t terribly incompatible when you smush all that DNA into one dog. Gully and Ozark were fabulous dogs, and fit in well with our pack.

Dogpack

Nope, I did’t have a problem! Seven dogs. On the couch are Seko, Sprocket, Flash, Me, Cricket (she’s black, look for the tongue) and Ripley. On the floor are Gulliver and Ozark. I think this was January 2002.

I worry about less-compatible mixes. In golden rescue, for example, we saw a lot of golden/chow mixes, and it’s hard to imagine two breeds with more different temperaments and personalities. (Side note…why do we refer to dogs as having a “personality?” Does that imply they’re persons? If it does, we should apologize and find a new word immediately, because most people suck, while dogs are made of awesome. Doggonality? Puppernality? I’m open to suggestions.)

If you get that cute little golden-chow mix puppy, who looks like a super-plushy golden, thinking this will be your new “play fetch at the beach” buddy, you might both be very frustrated and disappointed if he ends up having the chow personality. (Puppernatility? I’m still working on this part…) He will not fetch that Frisbee, and if you try to make him go in the water, he will explain to you–possibly with his teeth–why that is not happening.

If he looks like a chow but has the golden “I love all humans, and I know they all love me, so I must bound up to them to facilitate the exchange of our mutual love” outlook on life, you might have a lot of people whose lives flash before their eyes when they think they’re about to be attacked by a breed of dog that typically doesn’t come running at you unless he means business and has decided he does not like you.

It’s all really confusing for everyone involved.

That’s why I tend to stick with breeds I know. I understand how Pyrs and goldens work, and now I also know how standard poodles work. (Hint: They Are Always Watching. He will let you know what he thinks of things later, as soon as he develops a foolproof strategy. Don’t argue. He’s probably right.)

Mozzie (#13) came from a breeder, and Oliver (#14) is a true urgent-case rescue through a humane society, though both are purebred. I have Mozzie’s limited AKC registration, met his parents and two of his littermates, and I am comfortable with the environment in which he was bred and raised. I know who Oliver’s parents are, though I never bothered to track down his papers because a) he’d been through several homes prior to our finding him, and b) papers don’t mean anything unless you want to compete in AKC events such as conformation or obedience, or breed them, and those things are not happening.

Oliver’s parents, Earnest and Lady Girl

When we got Mozzie, I actually got some thin-lipped, silent disapproval because he wasn’t a rescue. Know what? I’ve spent the last 20+ years as a dedicated rescue volunteer and supporter, and if I find myself dogless for the first time in 30 years and come across a puppy and decide he’s what I need, I can certainly buy a damned puppy, regardless of what anyone thinks. Do I need to say that again, louder, for those in the back? No? Good.

There’s no one “right” way to find your perfect dog. He might be waiting in a shelter or a rescue group, or there might be a breeder with a dog who is meant to be yours. The only caveat is I’ll never consider buying from a pet store, or from what I call greed-breeders. They churn out puppies as fast as the poor mama-dog’s uterus will allow, or they produce some trendy designer mixed breed and try to convince you it’s so special you should pay $1000-$2500 or more for the privilege of owning one…and in some cases both. Yeah, stay away from those assholes.

Other than that, do your own thing. Go to a shelter. Apply through an all-breed or breed-specific rescue group. Find a breeder whose head isn’t packed full of straw and illusions of fat bags with dollar signs on them. Know what you want, know what you need, know what you can handle, know what characteristics you can expect from the breed(s) involved, and find your new canine friend.

All that matters is love, and dogs are overflowing with the stuff and more than happy to share.