When I was about nine years old my family got a puppy, but we had no idea how to train it or handle it and she became a little wild. My parents found a new home for her on a farm with hippies. We had her for maybe a couple of months. That was the extent of my dog ownership.
The girls have been chipping away at Carol and me for years. Every couple of months we would hear the plea, "Can we get a puppy?"
I started out being adamantly against it. Having never had a dog, it felt like a huge responsibility to me (it is!). We take two longish trips a year to the west coast and we like to go camping on weekends, etc. I couldn't see how that would all work. But I started to weaken just a little.
Our next door neighbor had an older dog when they moved in shortly after us. That dog passed away last year. They have three little boys and the husband doesn't want to add a new dog to the chaos, but Sue misses having a dog around. She told Carol that whenever we were out of town she would be happy to have our dog at her house. That was the key.
That was about a year ago, and we started to lay plans to get a dog after school started when Carol would have lots of time to devote to training. But cancer interrupted that plan.
Now that I'm recovering we started thinking about it seriously again.
We gave a lot of thought to breeds. Golden and Labrador retrievers are obvious choices for a family with young kids. Carol determined that English Labs are even better - an even better temperament than the more common Field Labs. But we had a little concern about size since we drive a Prius with a moderate amount of room in the back.
We went to visit an English Lab breeder. It's possible that he breeds for size (large), but we came away feeling like an English Lab was a little too much dog for us. The puppies sure were cute, though.
The next breed we identified was English Springer Spaniels. We went to a local dog show and met a woman who was showing both English Springers and Cocker Spaniels. We got a good idea of size. The English Springer is also supposed to have a great temperament for families.
We had a lot of discussion about whether to get a shelter dog or a purebred from a breeder. Carol really wants to maximize the chance of success so she wanted a pure breed that is likely to have the average temperament for the breed. Also, one of the points of getting a dog is for the girls to have the full puppy experience. Our local shelter doesn't get young puppies. You can get them from websites like Puppy Finder but for some reason almost all of those dogs are shipped up here from the south. That makes us think they are puppy mills. In the end, we decided to buy a purebred dog.
Carol found and talked to several area English Springer breeders. Just for kicks you should check out one breeder in Connecticut - be sure to scroll down to the photos of the kennels. Nicer than most people's kitchens!
We were also trying to get the timing just right. We take our winter trip to the west coast in the latter part of February and ideal timing would be to find a puppy that would be eight weeks old when we return. That would maximize the puppy experience and also give us maximum time with the dog before we go on vacation in July.
We found such a breeder in Wakefield, Rhode Island. We went down to see the puppies weekend before last and we ended up putting a deposit on the female runt of the litter. The breeder's family has named her Rhodie after the mascot of the University of Rhode Island. We like the name and are likely to keep it. It will always remind us where she came from.
The photo above is roughly what she'll look like as a adult.
Carol is determined to have a well-trained, well-tempered dog. That's part of what convinced me to do it - Carol is all in with the idea of her being the principal trainer and she takes the responsibility very seriously. She has been poring through puppy training books and watching hours of Dog Whisperer (which she's watched for years).
We bring Rhodie home on February 26. The girls are counting the days.