We'll know tomorrow if we are getting Leroy, a two-week old Boston Terrier puppy for sale.I wrote about it earlier today.
We're going to the breeder's house before noon. This will not be a long, drawn out affair, there is no drama to it, we've been talking about it for a long while.
We are interested in getting a third dog, I am especially interested in learning what a small dog is like (I've never had one) and we both believe animals are central to our lives and our work. Three dogs is a good number, for the dogs and for us. More than that becomes political, dogs are like people in that way.
The question is whether or not this is the dog for us, and we'll decide that almost certainly tomorrow. It is interesting that my daughter and granddaughter are here and they will have a say. Everything happens for a reason.
If it is meant to be, it will be. If not, there are many other good dogs in the world.
I've gotten many dogs, most of them quite wonderful, and written a dozen times about the process. So we are in it.
The first thing I do is ignore all of the people who tell me how to get a dog, or who tell me there is only one way to get a dog. They are not my friends, nor are they the friends of dogs, they are mostly the friends of themselves and their own egos, they know nothing about me and care less.
Dogs are not a moral decision for me, but a practical one. I've gotten dogs from rescue groups, shelters and breeders and the questions for me are always the same.
No one can or should tell me how to get a dog, that is an intensely personal and individual decision, it is mind-boggling to think there is only one way to do it.
I want a small dog so I can learn from it, write about it, love it, photograph it, and learn from it. I am getting older, but doing new and challenging things is the healthiest and most valuable things I ever do. I am not about downsizing my life or spirit. I do not do old talk.
So moving forward:
First, I make sure that every living person in the household is on the same page, wants the same thing. When Maria and I get any animal for any reason, we each have an absolute veto over the process. If doesn't matter what the reason is, everyone in the house has to want the animal, dog, pony, cat, donkey, sheep or chicken. All she or I have to say is "no," and it's over. No argument.
I look everywhere for the dog I want. Shelters, rescue websites, breeders pages.
I talk to as many people as I can who have a similar dog or who know anything about the dog. If the history of the dog cannot be known or uncovered to any degree, I usually will not get the dog. Too many people and dogs get hurt that way.
I don't have to know everything about the dog, but I have to know a lot. When you bring a dog into a home, or a hospice unit or a book store crowded with people, you have to know people can do anything to that dog and it will be okay.
Two weeks ago, a man at a book reading accidentally ran his wheelchair over Red's tail. Red let a short yelp, backed away, and then came over to put his head on the distraught man's knee, tail wagging. That is the kind of dog I want to have. You don't get that kind of dog by putting a blindfold on and tossing a dart on a wall.
My dogs go everywhere, most are therapy dogs doing sensitive hospice or other kinds of therapy work. I cannot and will not risk harming or frightening any of these people, there is simply no tolerance for mistakes in that work, so I need to have some reason to believe the dog's temperament is sound. And no dog of mine will ever again harm the face of a child. Those are my values.
The idea that a dog of mine might harm a child or bite the hand or face of an elderly person in assisted care is absolutely horrifying for me. I will do everything I can to make certain that never happens.
Rescuing a dog is a wonderful thing, and I've done it a lot, but my primary moral obligation when getting a dog is not rescuing one but doing the right thing, and taking the time and trouble to make certain we did everything we could to get the dog that was right for us, that we will keep and love and cared for.
If I can rescue a dog, too, great. But it's one factor, not the only one.
Taking away our choices is not only lazy, it can be harmful, most often to the dog, and the people who own him.
Bringing a living thing into my home for years is a sacred responsibility. I will do it in the right way for me.
I have been focusing on Boston Terrier rescue pages and websites for some months and have not found the dog that I believe is right for me and my farm. I have not found such a dog on breeder pages either. I am in no rush. My vet was the matchmaker, and vets are good matchmakers.
If Leroy is not the dog, I will keep looking. Cute is great, it is not enough. Every dog we adopt, rescue, buy, needs a home, no matter where it comes from.
When the vet called, I rushed down to see Leroy, he was with his two siblings, both of them are sold. The vet told me the temperament of the line is stellar, the dogs are healthy and there is no history of aggression or serious illness. She thought it would be a great dog. I liked the look and feel of this dog, he spoke to me, it felt like he was the dog I was looking for.
When I showed the photo to Maria, she said, "this is our dog." We said the same thing about Fate as soon as we saw her photo.
Those are the words I want to feel and hear whenever I get a dog. I haven't spoken those words yet about Leroy, yet the process seems to be coming together in that way. I put it out there, and wait. If it is right, it comes true. I love the choices I have.
I have a solid, but not perfect, track record when it comes to choosing dogs.
Two or three did not work out and were returned to the shelter or breeder or given away. One was euthanized for repeated aggression. The other dozen were wonderful dogs, each one fit perfectly into my life and gave me companionship and affection, and taught me something about myself.
I do not look to people on Facebook or Twitter to tell me how to get a dog, that is an internal decision, that can only come from me, and from Maria.
So when we got to see Leroy tomorrow, I will look to see how he relates to me, Maria, the other puppies, his mother, my daughter, her child. I will look for signs of skittishness or extreme fear, I will look inward to see how I feel about getting him. We will all sit down and talk about it. I will ask a lot of questions about his forebears and their health.
I hope the breeder asks me a lot of questions about me. And then we will all go home, talk, think and make a decision. All of these steps are important to me, and I made a vow once never to short-cut the process or skip any steps.
Bringing a living thing into my home for what could be the rest of my life is a profoundly important and very personal decision. It is not a vote for other people to take, or an argument for any one else to make. I did appreciate the stories and testimonials about the breed that so many people posted on my Facebook page. They were very helpful.
So tomorrow, the next step. Or not. I'm excited and wary, both at the same time.