On October 13, we spent 10 hours driving 600 miles to West Lafayette, Indiana (300 miles of which seemed to be only cornfields). The pretense was to visit my best friend Kelsey Trumpp. But really, we were there to see Kelsey and get our brand new puppy.
My heart had been fixed on a puppy for over a year. I wanted a companion for Cash and a puppy to train for therapy work in nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. After begging Spencer for a golden retriever, he said that we could get a second dog if it was a collie. I was on the phone that day calling all the breeders I knew.
Choosing a Puppy
Cash came from a friend’s “oops litter.” Still, I got the breeder information for his sire, Jeeter, who most resembled Cash in personality and looks. But they weren’t having puppies for at least a year – so he recommended his nephew, Reuben, in Indiana. The puppies were already six weeks old. Plus, they were only 35 minutes from where Kelsey was going to veterinarian school. Sold.
I called Reuben, and he had quite a number of sable puppies available. I wanted a male, since female collies tended to be more independent in my experience. But I told him that whichever puppy, male or female, was the calmest was the puppy that I wanted.
A week later, he sent me this picture of this male sable. I fell in love instantly.
Preparing for a Puppy
I ordered my puppy arsenal from Chewy: Hill’s puppy food, KONG stuffers, a leash, a collar, a water bowl, and plenty of toys. I prepared the laundry room to be his puppy “playpen” and ordered sod from Fresh Patch to make sure he had a potty indoors while we were gone.
Then of course we had to choose a name. Before, my plan was to get a female Golden Retriever and name her Belle. But now we were back to males and collies. There were a few names on my list – Stark, Buck, Han Solo. But none of them fit the country music theme we’d started with Johnny Cash.
Of course, some easy choices were Folsom and Jackson, but Jackson was too common and Folsom didn’t roll off the tongue (or translate well into a nickname). So I thought about some other country stars, and Garth Brooks instantly came to mind. Spencer couldn’t get enough of his concerts (we’ve gone twice already and he’s always sending me dates for a third), and just like Johnny Cash, he’s an indisputable icon in country music.
So that was that. We’d call him Brooks.
The two weeks flew before we left flew by. But some part of me was worried. Training Cash hadn’t been easy. He’d turned out all right, but not as “perfect” as I had expected. Don’t get me wrong. I like to remind myself that dogs weren’t given to us to be perfect. But it’s hard to ignore the dogs who get locked up in laundry rooms when people visit, or eye children suspiciously, or destroy the house regularly.
There is such a responsibility in dog ownership and oftentimes I just wondered if I was lucky with Cash. Despite some spurts of hyperactivity, Cash is calm and affectionate. Not to mention well-socialized and non-destructive. Was I being over-eager by getting a second dog? Would I remember what worked with Cash and what didn’t? Well, there was only one way to find out.
Bringing Home Brooks
There was not much to see on the way to Indiana. I itched with excitement, not only to see Brooks but to see Kelsey too. Once we arrived, we spent several hours seeing town, getting tea and vegan ice cream, and trying not to bubble over in anticipation.
But 6:00 finally rolled around, and we pulled into a small farm on a back road. Reuben and his wife were waiting for us, and showed us in to where the puppies were.
There is something magical about puppies. They warm your heart in the most profound way, like hot chocolate during the Christmas season. You’re not sure you can contain all your joy..
I spotted Brooks immediately. He had the darkest face of them all, and was somewhat smaller than the rest. His face was petite, unlike his siblings, and I reached my hands down to touch them all. Reuben pointed him out to me again, but told me that I could pick any one I liked.
At first, I panicked. I hadn’t thought about that. I surveyed the group. How on earth could I ever choose? They were all jumping and biting my hands and biting each other. They were too adorable to handle.
Good thing Kelsey was there. She eyed the pups and nodded toward him. “He looks like he is the calmest,” she said. “And he’s really cute.” I wasn’t going to argue. If it was meant to be it was meant to be. So I scooped him up, paid Reuben, and went back to Kelsey’s house.
The First Day Home
Brooks salivated and cried most of the way home (before promptly puking in his carrier). I tucked him into his (cleaned) crate when we got home, and we set ourselves to making dinner. I kept rushing him out to the bathroom, hoping we would start out on the right foot. After watching Kelsey’s housemate’s dog, Bonnie, pee outdoors, he picked up on it quickly. I was so proud.
That night, I thought it’d be best to let him sleep with me. I’d read that puppies do better when they get to sleep with a warm body their first few days home, since they’re accustomed to sleeping in a pile of litter mates. But Brooks set himself to chewing the bed, chewing me, chewing everything. Not to mention walking the edge of the mattress like a tightrope and nearly toppling off. So much for first night cuddles then. I was up several times throughout the night, rushing him to the bathroom to make sure we had no accidents in the house. He didn’t really go.
Needless to say, I was zonked out the next morning. But we had the best time. We took a trip to the zoo, without Brooks, and then took the little guy to the main campus at Purdue. It was his first therapy session with students, and a great opportunity to socialize him. He met around forty people! And it clearly tuckered him out. So home we went (after which he puked again in the driveway).
Back to Pennsylvania and to Cash
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long with Kelsey. We had to make the trip back to Pennsylvania with enough time to let Cash meet Brooks before the week began. So we packed up the pup at 6AM, and went home, praying he wouldn’t be sick. He did magnificently, and we were all too happy to be done with driving by the time we got there.
As it turned out, the more time I spent with the new pup, the more I missed my first one. I was very excited to be all together as a family, and my suspicion was that Cash was going to like Brooks. We kept the new one in the car, while we let Cash run around and relieve himself. Then out came Brooks.
It was a good meeting. Cash was a little rough, wanting to play at full tilt straight away. But Brooks is a tough little tyke, and he took it all in stride. Not sure if Cash has 100% accepted the wee devil yet. They like to wrestle (a lot), and Cash isn’t wild about sharing his toys (toys he’s ignored the entire time he’s had them – until now). But they’ll figure each other out eventually. And I’m sure they’ll be friends.
I feel extremely exhausted though. Having a puppy is hard work, and no matter how much I read, I feel hopeless when it comes to practicing it. Cash seemed so much simpler, but then again, he didn’t have a three-year-old dog riling him up every five minutes.
Brooks bites more than Cash though, something I thought I was prepared for. Mouthy puppies are a good thing – it means you can teach them to never put pressure into their bites. But Brooks also nips hard when he’s being particularly devilish. At first I yelped and it scared the daylights out of him. Now, he just seems keen to mouth the world, swinging his head wildly and gnawing on everything he comes in contact with. I think he’s part piranha. And it’s eerily ironic that the KONG Cozie I chose for him was an alligator.
Potty training has its own hazards. Unfortunately, my Fresh Patch order had an issue and didn’t arrive in time to use during Brooks’ first few days home. And when it came, he settled for ripping apart the grass instead of just peeing in it. To his credit, Brooks “holds” it when we’re gone. But if we’re not careful, he’ll have accidents while he’s playing. At least he likes the KONG toys.
Practice Makes Patience
It’s a bit overwhelming at times to have a new puppy and a clingy adolescent dog. Cash likes to hover a lot, and ignores us in order to keep toys away from Brooks (or find the kibble Brooks leaves behind). It’s going to be a difficult transition overall, but I know that, in time, we’ll have two great dogs to raise our kids with.
Nevertheless, I’m grateful that puppy class is coming soon. We all have a lot of learning to do. In some ways, my fears still remain – what if I can’t train Brooks better than I trained Cash? What if we fail as a team? What if I lose my patience (again) or give up too easily?
But then I look at Cash, and I assure myself that he turned out just fine. Not perfect, because dogs aren’t made to be perfect, but still loving, loyal, and good. I take the pressure off myself because Brooks isn’t putting any pressure on me. He’s just asking me to be there, to be patient, to be in charge in a loving and compassionate way. When he throws a tantrum, or chews everything in his path, my job is just not to throw a tantrum too (or chew him out verbally). My job is to be his companion, to be his best friend, and show him how to fit in in this human-dog world with as much love as dogs somehow possess.
Practice makes patience. Patience forms a good dog. And good dogs are some of the most special things in the world.