Apparently yesterday was National Puppy Day. It must be true because I saw scads of puppy pictures on Facebook.
But I think everyone was off by a day. Today is the true puppy day.
Because it was five years ago today that Honey came to live with us.
What If You Do Everything Right
My life with Honey began with a question.
After adopting two litter mates and doing everything wrong and one senior, reactive dog, I asked myself: what if you adopt a dog and do everything right? What kind of dog would you have?
I know no one is perfect. But would adopting a dog from a careful and responsible breeder give me a dog who would be my partner in volunteer work, like service dog puppy raising or fostering?
The Search Begins
First I had to decide what breed of dog I wanted to adopt.
I have always loved German shepherds. But I wanted a dog whose primary instincts were to be friendly to all. Although I wanted my dog to be as smart and responsive as any German shepherd.
After narrowing the choice to three breeds (King Charles Cavalier spaniel, Labrador retriever, and golden retriever) my gut instincts led me to goldens.
Now I had the harder job of finding that perfect breeder.
I contacted the area golden retriever rescue and spoke to a volunteer whose job was to tell me horror stories about goldens to be sure I knew what I was getting into and hadn’t just fallen in love with a puppy I saw on a dog food commercial. When she became convinced I wasn’t a psychopathic puppy killer, she gave me the names of two area breeders with new litters.
What Is A Responsible Breeder
A responsible breeder is not just a nice person who breeds two dogs and raises the litter in her home.
If you’re really curious about what a responsible hobby breeder is, read my post about selling puppies on eBay.
But I can tell you that Honey’s good start began generations before she was born. And was the result of many health tests and genetic reviews.
Honey’s breeder’s care with her parents and grandparents has given me a dog who is embarrassingly healthy, with no allergies, sensitivities, limps, bumps, or dinguses to worry about.
But more importantly, Honey was exposed to children, car rides, vacuum cleaners, senior citizens, medical equipment, and all kinds of other scary people and objects.
Socialization begins at birth. And a good start with an unstressed mama and caring humans results in a secure and happy puppy and adult dog.
5 Years Out – What I’ve Learned
I don’t see myself ever adopting another dog from a breeder. There are so many dogs who need good homes and I’m happy to adopt from a shelter.
But I’m thankful for my life with my nearly perfect puppy and I’ve learned a lot:
- Personality will always trump socialization and training. Despite everyone’s best efforts Honey is a bit timid. It’s just who she is. While training and socialization are important, you can’t make a dog (or human) someone they’re not. And it’s unfair to try.
- Every dog deserves the best start in life. Seeing first hand the benefits of a proper breeding and upbringing, nothing makes me sadder than to think of how much a puppy born carelessly is missing out on.
- Knowing what “work” we wanted Honey to do with us from the start did help us raise a proper companion. Honey has been an excellent foster-sister.
- Even perfect puppies with the best start in life are a pain in the butt. Yes, it’s a good thing they’re so cute.
- Whether our dogs had the best start or the worst or something in between, we love each one more than we could ever expect.
The Next Five Years
Honey is starting to get white hairs on her back and the base of her tail although not on her muzzle yet.
As we move closer to life together aboard a sailboat, I look forward to spending even more time with my sweet puppy.
I recently read a book by a woman who sailed with her dog (about Honey’s size) past the dog’s 18th birthday. Wouldn’t it be great to think I might be telling the same story of Honey someday?
Your Turn: Do you look back on your dog’s first days with you, whether as an adult or a puppy? Do you celebrate?