Introducing, the newest boy in the Swanson family.
Our imperfectly perfect puppy.
And once again, there is a story. I really didn’t want a story. I just wanted a puppy. But sometimes we don’t get what we want, but instead we get a story. (I’m beginning to think this is a dilemma especially true of writers.) Fortunately, we usually end up with something better than what we thought we wanted, and well — that is what I can hope will come of this story.
Here’s how it went:
Our family has been on a mission to find a new puppy for many months now. We had not fully decided on a breed, and have sadly discovered it is very difficult to get the breed of your choice (even a mixed breed) on an island. (Most “rescue dogs” we have found here seem to be a mix of breeds that just don’t seem very family friendly — mostly pit-bull types.) We have looked plenty, and were getting discouraged. I had recently had my heart broken in the (humiliating) puppy scam, and we were striking out left and right. The few breeds we were interested in had long wait lists.
As it turns out, Dave had our name on a wait list for an Australian Shepherd breeder on Maui from many months ago. And in October, we got a call, saying a liter of 9 Aussie pups were born, which would be ready in December. Though I had hoped to go with a different breed this time, when I realized how limited our options were, I became more open to another Aussie. (especially if it could be a Christmas puppy!) I started to get excited.
Dave and I flew to Maui in late October to celebrate my birthday and visit the puppies. They were on a ranch in West Maui, and it was super fun to visit them in person. They were adorable (in a gerbil-sort of way — still very young and just piled up on each other in a basket.) We met the Mom and Dad — two beautiful Aussies (a tricolor mom and a red-merle dad.) We really liked the rancher/breeder, and we picked our favorite brown-merle pattern puppy, with plans to get it in early December!
The breeder kept in touch over the next few weeks. All was well. We were getting excited, watching YouTube videos of Australian Shepherds doing incredible tricks. We read a book about Australian Shepherds. We talked names. We bought the crate and the toys and the food.
In mid-November, the breeder sent updated photos. I didn’t want to say it, but…Something was off. Though the brown merle coloring was there, the puppy was not looking like I remembered our Aussie pups had looked. It had short hair. A different nose. My heart sank.
I texted the breeder my concern. He remained confident. After all, he owned both parents, and he even had photos of the breeding process. 🙂 “Just a really unique coloring” he said.
My mom and I booked tickets for a day trip to Maui to pick up our pup. Then, two days before our trip, the breeder called. “Amazing little guy,” he began. “A really sweet imprint. Great personality. Beautiful coloring. But I have to be honest…”
no…please don’t say it…
“This entire liter just has really short hair.” (I waited.) “And…a slightly different look.” Ugh. He explained that his Aussies have had other liters of puppies, and he’s sure he saw them mate. “But…I cannot be 100% sure this puppy is full Aussie. I’m so sorry. I don’t know how it could have happened. I’m scratching my head over here. I don’t know what to say.”
Enter: All of the feelings…
Dave and I spent the next day and night wrestling with the news, talking, praying, and trying to decide what to do. This was our Christmas puppy. What do we tell the kids? What should we do? The breeder kindly brought the price down from a really good deal to “a gift.”
In the end, Dave and I decided to just go for it. Why not? We had already fallen in love with it over time, and every puppy needs a home, right? 🙂 So, Mom and I followed through with our plan, and flew to Maui. We had a fun day shopping and having lunch in Lahaina, but all the while, I was so nervous! What if I couldn’t stand the dog? What if it was mean or ugly or…What if it was mixed with a breed I can’t stand? (no offense, Pit bull lovers.) What if…what if…what if…
I’m not the dramatic type, but your family dog is a big decision that will last many years…it’s what your kids grow up with, and what you have to take care of beyond when kids are grown. Right? I felt the weight of that.
Finally, we met the rancher at the airport, puppy in his arms. There was a ton of love there (he had packed up the puppies favorite snacks, small bed, and food.) No, it didn’t look like a pure Aussie, but yes, it was precious and sweet and it licked my face and then slept in my arms on the 45 minute airplane ride home.
And that is the end, and I suppose the beginning, of the Swanson puppy story.
Needless to say, the family has fallen in love with our new boy. He seems really smart. He is a thinker. He sits a lot, which most puppies don’t. I mean, he actually walks around and turns and sits and just watches. (with head tilted, which is my absolute favorite.) Yes, he has many playful hours in the day, and has begun trying to chew down the house, but then he sits and watches and contemplates all of us. He seems to prefer me, which scores him some big Mommy points; he spent the first two nights in our bed, finding his way onto my chest as I slept. Now he’s in a crate at night (in our bedroom, for the time being,) and adjusting very well.
Whether we’ve got ourselves an “atypical” Australian Shepherd, or a mix, or a mutt, I’m not sure. It doesn’t really matter any more. It’s our puppy. We named him Thor (though I’m still debating because a few other names keep coming out.) I’m pretty sure he isn’t pure-bred, and he’s not perfect, but then again, that probably fits us better anyways. He’s perfectly imperfect, just like the rest of us.
And I have a hunch he’s going to provide many more stories in the years to come.
Thanks SO much for the love and support on Facebook and Instagram. I always love hearing your animal stories too, so feel free to comment. Also a quick question: Have any of you used an animal DNA kit thingy? I’m so curious about this guy, I’m tempted to try one. Would love to hear your experience or opinion on those!
Mon, Thor, and family.
PS Feel free to suggest what kind of dog you might see in Thor!? However, if you see Pit Bull, please keep thoughts to yourself. I reserve the right to delete comments and remain in complete denial on this subject. 😉