Meet the newest addition to our family. This is Fenna our Great Dane puppy.
Actually she has been with us for almost two weeks now. I have put off introducing her to all of you, and most of our family, for two reasons.
One, we were waiting on her health check with our vet and I think I was trying to not get attached to her out of fear that there would be something wrong and we would need to return her to the breeder.
Two, we have not had the best luck with dogs over the last many years. I had a German Wirehaired Pointer that I had rescued from shelter back when Kevin and I were first dating. He was a loving dog, but flawed due to the owners he had for the first two years of his life. I found out after adopting him that he had run away from home numerous times and the last time, rather than pay the fine, the owners had surrendered him to the shelter. He was still intact (I had him neutered) and, while lovable and people friendly, he had zero manners. I worked with him, my father worked with him, and a local birddog breeder helped us out as well. The chain linked fence in our suburban backyard did nothing to contain him as he would scale it like a gymnast whenever we turned our back. Later, along came PJ, and it soon became apparent that even though he loved us, and we loved him, he was too exuberant (and in turn, dangerous) to be around the baby. Rather than stay locked up in a kennel most of the day my parents took him to their house until my Sister-in-law helped us find a lovely new home for him with a GWP breeder in Nebraska who had thousands of acres of open prairie for him to run and hunt on. It was a perfect fit and I eased my guilt about having to re-home him. I told told myself I was just a stop-off until he was able to find his forever home, through my Sister-in-Law’s help, in Nebraska.
Three years later, after Shaelyn had been born, I agreed with Kevin that we should look for a new family dog. We were still living in the suburbs and wanted a lab mix, knowing how kid friendly and lovable they can be, having grown up with purebred labs and lab mixes all my life. We found our dog Vito, and brought him home on a late summer day. Things went well with him, until we moved to the farm. Shortly after we moved in he got sick. We treated him for parasites. Then winter came and again everything seemed fine. He was learning his commands (except stay, again we seemed to get an over-exuberant dog, which in the end would be a problem), he had picked up quickly on ringing a bell to let us know when he need to go outside, he was super gentle with the kids and was turning into an excellent guard dog, warning us whenever someone entered the property. Spring came and things got bad again. He would eat any animal poop he could find, outside of his own, and he was quick and sneaky about it. We tried everything, but he ended up spending more time sick and confined to his kennel then he did out with us. Every time we would clear him up and get him healthy he would catch something else. It became exhausting and overwhelming. We had a frank conversation with our vet and he told us, “Look, he would make a great dog in the suburbs, but a farm dog he is not.” I was furious with myself, I felt sad for him, and paralyzed as to what to do. I did NOT want to become a person who bought dogs and got rid of them like they were disposable, but I also didn’t want to have Vito live in a kennel, or worse, get really sick and possibly die. We met a family, with three little boys, who were looking for a lab mix dog, that was already mostly trained, to add to their family. The husband had just been stationed at a local military base and he wanted a dog that would stay home with his wife and kids during his long hours at work. They also happened to live in town, with a fenced yard…little to no chance of other animal poop finding its way in there. They met with Vito and they all instantly fell in love. As a family we talked, and talked, and talked about it, finally coming to the decision that he would have a happier and better life with this lovely family.
Two dogs having to be sent to new homes in less than 5 years. I felt horrible. I told Kevin I didn’t even want to discuss getting another dog. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I had grown up my entire life with pets, we now had an entire farm full of animals, but when it came to having a family dog we just kept failing. My Dad told us it was just luck, neither one had been the right fit and we did the right thing finding them happier (and healthier) homes when things stopped working. Every time Kevin or the kids would bring up wanting a dog I would immediately answer no. Then when Kevin started to bring up the subject more often I decided to give in a little. I gave him a list of requirements that the dog breed would have to meet before I would even consider looking at puppies. Short or curly hair (I was still finding Vito hairballs all over the house, type A me couldn’t handle that again), NOT a hunting dog or hound dog (because of their propensity to take of following game.) The breed had to be known for being good with kids, had to be said to have a moderate to low energy level but would still make a good guard dog. The breed had to be considered highly trainable and he had to find an obedience class that we could afford and that was close by. I thought that would be near impossible to get all in one dog and I was surprised that he came to me with the dog breed book opened up to Great Danes.
I agreed to look at puppies when he found breeders but we had a whole other list of requirements that would need to be met by a puppy before we were going to bring anyone home. We also decided that if we were going to get a puppy it would have to be done during the calmer season on the farm, which also happens to be the coldest, so we would have to be okay with potty training a puppy in the middle of winter. There would be no other option because we are just too busy to be knee-deep in the new puppy stage when lambs and kids are hitting the ground, gardens are having to be planted and summer projects are in full swing.
We finally did find a lovely family breeder, only an hour away, who bred only Great Danes. Check. The puppies were raised in their home, amongst their three children and they had both the dam and sire on the premisses. Check, check. We learned to go look at the puppies, without the kids, so that we could give it our complete attention. When we called the breeder we were disappointed to find there were only two puppies out of 12 still available, but one was a female who was black and white and the litter was still intact as no one had been picked up by their new owners yet, we could still see how she interacted within the litter. CHECK. The breeders offered a two-year health guarantee, a contract signed by both parties, support even after taking the puppy home as well as many other things on our list. I was sure that since we only had two puppies to choose from (one really, since I had already decided I wanted a female) that there was no way she was going to fit within the confines of the personality we were looking for. I was wrong. She was not the biggest nor the runt, she wasn’t the bully but she didn’t get walked all over. She wasn’t timid, she wasn’t overly exuberant. Both of her parents were friendly and calm, letting us pet them and play with the puppies. We liked what we saw but I was still too nervous and felt like it was too big of a decision to make right then and there. The breeder was also expecting another litter in January and still had some openings on the waiting list so that was another option we wanted to thoroughly discuss. In the end we felt like she fit all of our wants so well (almost as if it was meant to be) and if we put our name on the list for the January litter we would have to commit to a puppy before we could fully see its personality. We spent most of the night talking it through and finally decided that we would go in the morning and pick up our new puppy.
Kevin says we did all we could to make the best and most educated decision possible. I know he’s right but I still worry that something (my bad luck?) might make it not work out.
So far, everything is going well. She is doing great with potty training, having had only a few accidents the first few days home with us. Her crate training is also going well, another reason I think she is doing great with the potty training, and she seems to be settling in here and getting use to having us rather than her littermates. Outside of the incessant chewing that comes with any puppy she seems naturally well-behaved and good-tempered. She is set to begin level 1 obedience training at the beginning of January and has received a clean bill of health at her vet visits.
She has been the epitome of sweetness since the day she came home. She rides in the Jeep like a champ and we even took her with us to the yearly holiday parade where she quietly watched it all roll by, fire truck sirens and all. I hope it all works out. We are doing our best to stack the deck in our (and her) favor. Wish us luck.
*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well.