In thirteen days we will make a 1200 mile journey to Portland, Oregon, and the Stumptown Cluster, Portland Kennel Club dog shows. We will meet our Cairn Terrier friend who has been showing our young male, Danny, and Danny’s breeder, and some of her friends, and some of their friends. There will be over three hundred combined years of dog knowledge in this group. We are all converging on Portland to evaluate our lease litter. This is our first litter since 2002 when we had our single puppy. He is still in his loving home and we see him and his mom every month or so for grooming. But these puppies are seven in number. They are loud, and devilish and robust. They awaken at 5:30 every morning demanding to be fed and let out into their play area. They are proper Kerry Blue puppies and have driven Lynn, our friend who as raised them so far, nuts. She will be glad to be rid of them, she says, but I suspect she has enjoyed her time with them, too.
The excitement is building at our house. Like adoptive human parents readying their home for a new baby, we are getting ours ready for the onslaught of these puppies. It has seemed strange to be the breeders technically, but have done no work with the puppies so far. We have so many hopes and dreams tied up in these seven little souls that we know nothing about. They are all promised to homes who have waited for a Kerry puppy for some time, but these prospective buyers know nothing more about this litter than we do. We can’t wait to see them and look into their little faces and hold them close. Surely their breath will still have retained that sweet smell every breeder knows to be the best in the whole world: puppy breath! If somebody could put that scent in an air freshner everyone who has ever breathed in that essence of what a puppy is would surely buy it. Better than new car smell, better than bacon on the stove in winter, much better than the chocolate chip cookies at an open house.
We will arrive a 1/2 day early to bathe the little beasties and give them a trim to make them look their best. In the process we will get our first look at them without the influence of our friends. We will check for all the myriad things you look at when evaluating a litter. Are their proportions good, are the heads long or short, how is the tail set, the bite and the shoulder layback. We will be exceptionally critical. Lacking a crystal ball to see if our judgements will be close to accurate when the pups become dogs, we only have the years of experience and an eye for the intangibles that help us discern the show prospects from those destined to fulfill someone’s dreams elsewhere. Not least of all we will try to determine the temperament of each one. Who will be the best fit with each buyer. Lynn will be the most help in this. She has seen them since they struggled free from their soft, warm womb. She has been a witness to the puppy wars they have daily, and she has seen them in their most tender moments: When they pile on top of one another for a nap. Since we have homes for four show puppies, we hope we don’t have to make the sad calls to the potential buyers telling them there are no puppies good enough for them in the litter. Lynn assures us this won’t be the case, but she may be biased after all.
By the time everyone sees them they will look like a Sunday School class. All dressed up and promising to stay clean for the day. By the end of the day, they will be tired and inevitably dirty. We know they will have charmed the hearts of all of us. The years of seeing and evaluating puppies never makes anyone jaded. It is never just another litter, another puppy. All of us who will be in Portland on these days will remember what they felt when they saw their last litter. How you are confident in your breeding choices, but hope your trusted friends see the wisdom in what you’ve done. So much can go right and so much can go wrong with young dogs.
Making this trip I am reminded of the early the settlers that travelled the Oregon Trail from the east looking for a better life and adventure. We make our trip 100 years later to search our litter for a better dog. One girl who will help us go forward with our line. And other girls for two people to add to their lines and go forward, too. One girl will be a family’s treasured companion. Treated to all the best one dog can have. The little boy who will make the return trip with us will go to be a pal and partner in crime to a spirited man who lives in the city. We are happy with the puppy people who will now become a part of our lives for possibly fifteen years or so. Friendships will be strengthened and new ones forged.
Beyond the show ring success we dream of for some of this litter, our most fervent hopes are that each new pup will provide more happiness than sorrow for their new owners.