Friday, August 16, 2013

How I Spent My Summer...

It’s been busy here these last few months, busy with preparation and even busier with what we were preparing for: a puppy. We took the leap and got a puppy, a bundle of fur equipped with sharp little teeth and clumsy paws and more muscle than you’d think a baby anything could have.

Last year, after eight years of talking about getting a dog, after 20 years of my yearning to have a dog again, after learning that I can bring a dog to work, we started looking for a reputable Golden Retriever breeder. They’re a dime a dozen out there, people who have a dog who happens to be AKC registered and decide it would be a good idea to have a litter without taking the proper steps to minimize the inherited health issues so common in Goldens. I was adamant about health clearances, the tests that check for hip and elbow dysplasia, eye issues, and heart problems in dogs that will be bred. One breeder I talked with didn’t believe those were necessary. “I’ve never had a problem”, she said. Not in the entire four years she’d been breeding. Four years. That’s not enough time to know what kind of genetic problems she’s passing along. It’s irresponsible breeding.

So we kept looking and found a breeder we felt comfortable with. She tests her dogs and doesn’t breed until all the clearances are in.  I talked with her over the course of about six months before we filled out an application. (You really want to work with a breeder who makes you jump through a few hoops. It shows they care about where their puppies go and not just the fee.) Once the pregnancy was confirmed we went to meet the breeder and her dogs. We wanted to get an in-person feel for both. It was a match.

On June 2 we brought home our boy. He was ten weeks old, sweet and beautiful. We named him Finn, a nod to my heritage.

Now we get to the busy part. I expected it to be work. Yep, I did. I knew I’d be tired. Yeah, that too. I knew training would take time and energy. Check, knew that was part of the deal. I didn’t know I’d be so cross-eyed with exhaustion I’d sit on the floor and cry. I didn’t have a clue that I’d spend my days  and evenings watching his every move in order to catch that tiny bit of body language that said I’m about to pee NOW, and that I’d be late to the scoop-him-up-and-run-outside-party most of the time. Nor did I expect that he’d look me straight in the eye with a hah-try-to-stop-me look just as he chomped down on every piece of furniture in my family room. I most especially wasn’t prepared for the criticism I’ve received from people who think they know all about puppy raising. Those same people who disregard advice from the Vet, the trainer, and every bit of common sense about bringing a dog into your home. Yeah. That one knocked me for a loop.

But beyond that, deeper than all the work and exhaustion and hurt feelings, I have a dog. Read that again with awe. I have a dog. He’s four and a half months old now. All the work and training are beginning to fall into place, and though we have a long way to go yet, we can see that our energetic puppy is going to be an awesome dog. House training went faster than expected. He goes to the door reliably, asking to be let out; he’s learning, slowly, to walk politely on leash; someday, hopefully soon, he’ll learn that keeping all four on the floor will get him petted faster than jumping up for attention and that the couch is not his playground; there’s a split second of hesitation just before his teeth sink into a chair arm and a quicker release when we tell him no.

My boy!
I love this little guy. I love that he leans into me for petting when we sit together in the mornings and again when I get home from work. I love that when he licks my arm his puppy tongue sticks to my skin. I can’t imagine what life would be without him.

We got a puppy and life isn’t going to be as quiet around here as it was before he came. And that makes me really happy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Into the Season

Our winter garden is finally giving us a small harvest. We planted last October, our first stab at winter vegetables, and then watched the seedlings do nothing. If they grew at all it was in fractions of inches. Most of them withered away or refused to reach out a root or leaf for sustenance.

We discovered that the winter sun is shaded by our house, so much that the backyard is in almost total shade all winter. How did we not notice this all these years?

This afternoon I've weeded a few beds in preparation for spring planting. The winter vegetables that survived an exceptionally cold winter are leaning their faces into the sun.

In the last few weeks we've had kale sautéed, chopped onto hearty winter salads, added to soups and scrambled with eggs. Delicate baby lettuce, carrots, and radishes make artful salads. I could learn to love broccoli, its flavor and texture so different from supermarket crowns.

We probably won't plant a true winter garden again, but might opt for an early spring planting in addition to the summer garden. It's been a good gardening lesson for us and I'm happy it's finally growing.