Puppies and Pandemics

Just going to take a break from the timeline here to address the elephant (and the puppy) in the room.

We stopped in Harrisburg on our way home so I could show
Madi where she’d compete one day. We had no idea what lay ahead.

Funny thing about Madi is that she was kind of that proverbial “unplanned pregnancy”. Granted, I had been thinking about adding another girl to what (I have hoped and dreamed and planned) would eventually be a kennel and breeding program. Zuzu is nearing the two year mark with her big and telling OFA scores just around the corner (she’ll need to have good scores on hips and elbows to be bred, just one of the hoops we’re jumping through for this privilege) and I just didn’t want to have all my eggs in one basket. What if her scores aren’t great? (I’m not actually concerned… she’s a freaking machine.) What if she has fertility issues? Isn’t it a good idea to plan for diversity anyhow?

But, oh my goodness, what a horrible time to bring home a puppy! We already had a young puppy in the house; my daughter Marie and son-in-law Dan’s little Scout was only 10 weeks old as we considered another puppy, and going through her nippy phase big time. Scout is a 50/50 blessing, Weimaraner and Border Collie… oddly enough she came out looking a lot like a “Hungarian Weimaraner”, a dog you may know as the Vizsla. Scout is small, athletic, fierce, adorable… we knew Madi would outweigh her in no time and be able to hold her own, but two puppies at once is NEVER an easy proposition.

Madi and her BFF Scout

There were other considerations as well. February had been a brutal month. We had, in four separate tragic instances, lost five friends. One friend had been on life support for some time and though we eventually realized we’d be saying good bye, there was no way to schedule anything definite. Our vacation would be on hold. I was trying to find ways to make the seven hour trip to visit my mom who is in a memory care unit in Fort Wayne, IN. Who brings a puppy home into this chaos?

Well, we did. I spent my first year in the dog show world searching for mentors and relationships. Who has time to work with me, the rookie? Who can I relate to and who makes me feel safe? A group of women had begun to emerge to fill this role for me, and let’s just say I blame them. There was this very nice litter of puppies on the ground. There were 11 of them, they were consistent, very nice heads, well built; 11 puppies suggests good fertility for a future mama, she’s related to Zuzu; these puppies are on the ground now and while you can have pick of the litter this summer there’s no guarantee there will be girls, there’s no guarantee they will be show prospects. These were all bullet points that led us to take the leap and bring baby home… into a world-wide pandemic.

It’s crazy, but everything I thought Madi would compromise or complicate in our lives was erased. Every exciting plan we made for her socialization and training has been canceled or postponed. She’s in a “stay safe at home” lockdown with four humans and three other dogs, and it’s undeniably going to twist the plot lines of her life’s story.

Fourteen weeks old tomorrow, Madi is nearing the end of her crucial socialization window. By this time I would have typically introduced her to a variety of people and animals. We would have visited a friend’s farm, walked the Penn State Campus and be fawned over by hundreds of students from all over the world, gone into downtown department stores, taken rides on elevators (this adventure we have managed to sneak in) and this week we were to start her AKC Star Puppy classes.

Honestly, everyone in our home has been grounded. It’s like we’ve all been given big-kid time outs in our rooms. We have all the time in the world to work with the dogs, train them, teach them new skills. None of us are sick; if they don’t come out of this socialized and ready to be “working dogs” it’s no one’s fault but ours. It’s just that pandemics kind of mess with the mind. All of us, dogs and humans alike I think, are simultaneously busy and bored. My pandemic, as I like to refer to this period of my life, has been marked with severe back pain and the complications of attempting to work in the field of Real Estate (a nearly 100% face-to-face line of work) with strict “do not leave home” orders in place. While I do have crazy amounts of available time, for some reason it doesn’t feel like I have the space… or the margins… or the energy to work the dogs.

Many breeders have canceled planned Spring breedings. Their reasoning goes like this: People are home all the time now. Puppies are getting the wrong message. “I’ll never be alone. My needs are tended to 24/7. Play, sleep, eat, repeat… all under the adoring visage of my family.” We’re constantly monitoring this situation with Madi. We crate her and take the big dogs for extended walks. She needs to learn it’s not all about her. She is in her crate through the night; though I could cheat myself sleep to make her happier, it’s not what is best for her. She has to work for 10-15 minutes every day learning skills she’ll need soon when we return to some sense of community.

But we need these Spring litters! When the economy stabilizes (and it will) we need to be certain excellent, well-planned litters are on the ground so people who need a puppy (it’s a real disorder, puppy fever) are able to work with reputable breeders and bring home a solid puppy.

Here’s the thing (and I’ll hearken to my view of “emotional support animals” here)… pandemic or not, I believe humans and canines need one another. There is a special bond God has formed between humanity and dogs, and it’s 100% emotional-support based. Every dog is an emotional support animal. This puppy is making my pandemic soooo much more difficult. I’m exhausted non-stop because “the thing” goes to bed by 8 pm and wants to play by 5 am. I’m the one who gets up with her, shoving anything I can into her mouth so she doesn’t wake the whole house with her cries of starvation (put a time lapse on her and I guarantee you’ll see that little belly expanding and her legs growing longer every time we drop food in her bowl.) But she’s done something else as well. She’s helped us appreciate the passage of time. This is the first puppy I’ve been able to set aside all of my “I’m too busy” sentiments to actually watch her grow out in that time lapse fashion. She’s a miracle. She’s precious and delicate. And I think she’s reminding us all that we are delicate miracles too.

Welcome home, pandemic pup. Madi and Daddy on 3/5/20

Published by: When Life Goes to the Dogs

It was my youngest daughter who introduced me to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That first boy, Hero, set in motion all kinds of crazy love. And now, at the end of the day, I often find myself asking... what do these dogs have that is so special? I'm raising three Berners now, navigating the world of social media for dogs, holistic health and raw feeding. Sherman has become a therapy dog; Zuzu may soon follow in his footsteps. Madi, as I like to say, is still cooking. I guess we all need something to put our hands to that makes us feel like we've made a difference in this world. Believe it or not, these dogs help me do just that.

Categories Uncategorized1 Comment

One thought on “Puppies and Pandemics”

  1. I love this Suzy ours berners or any dog that you truly love will love you back with all there heart we do need them as much as they need us after losing tucker my first Berner I was lost don’t realize how empty the house is until they are gone I didn’t wanna be home cause wasn’t the same then I got maverick my house became a home again I dedicate my time to him because time is precious with these wonderful dogs love watching them grow and love how much they are so loving back they bring us to make new friends that practically become family and it makes life wonderful specially when life is hard enough. Madi is lucky to have joined your pack and and u guys are lucky to have all ur wonderful furry kids 💙🐾💜🐾


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s