On a very warm, early morning in July we loaded Danny and the last few pieces of equipment into the van and headed for Portland, Oregon. After months of planning and waiting the time had finally come for us to claim our puppies and pass judgement upon them. We were not to be alone. There would be two other breeders, at least one high profile handler, assorted friends and many passersby to provide all the counsel we’d need to make decisions as to the future of these puppies.
As we drove along, for the first time this year going north west instead of east, we spoke dispationately about what we were looking for in the bitch puppy we would keep. What we wanted for the two other people who were waiting for show puppies from this litter. We hoped there would be lively puppies with great temperaments for the people who were waiting for them. One thing we knew about the litter already was that we knew nothing about them. Would they be our dream puppies? The answer lay 1200 miles ahead of us.
Arrival at a dog show for us is like a circus setting up for a week at a county fair. The mad scramble to find the grooming spaces you paid for, set up your spot and start grooming for the next day. This time our anticipation was palpable. The puppies were there. You could hear them as Lynn and a friend unloaded their small crates. Each one of the seven in its own little house. We stacked them in two towers three crates high with the seventh puppy on top of some of the bigger dogs’ crates. Plastic was laid down and two four foot high ex-pens set up. Then they came out. Seven black, wavy coated barking little dogs each with a brightly colored collar. Girls in one pen, boys in the other. We all stopped what we were doing and wandered over to watch. The weariness from the road, the heat of the day, the tension was forgotten. Puppies make everything better!
Soon everybody was holding one and declaring it their favorite. The whole rest of the show weekend we bathed, clippered, trimmed and evaluated all seven. We were looking for something in the litter that wasn’t there. Not for us. Both dogs we bred were very nice and their union produced seven puppies that reflected their beauty. Just not all in one puppy. We were careful and methodical and at first said nothing to the legions that came to admire them in their pens. But eventually, everyone with any experience at all came to the same conclusion: our long hoped for bitch puppy was not in this litter.
But it really didn’t seem to matter. Each in its own way was beautiful. There was so much to learn about these little beasts that rolled and tumbled and barked with the abandon that young animals have. Totally untrained and uncivilized, puppies out to have fun and learning every minute. We were fixated by them and so was every person who walked by our setup. It was almost an imposition to go to the ring and show the adults.
There was the Rose puppy who was quiet and wanted to be hugged and snuggled. Her sister the Pink puppy, very confident and proud of herself. The Purple puppy, rough and biting her sisters’ tails, and finally the Orange puppy. Smallest and always picked on. I had cut her ear badly while clippering her and we believed the others smelled this wound and took it as a sign of weakness and so continually moved in to finish her off. She held her own, though, sometimes teaming up with the Rose puppy.
The three boys were less our concern. Lynn was keeping two and one was ours. We immediately chose the Black puppy. He was tall and leggy and walked with a swagger. Perfect for a single man with lots of friends who also had dogs. His destiny was to be an urban dog. A true man about town.
At the end of our time at the shows, two males were taken by Lynn who had done an exemplary job of raising the pups so far. We owe her a debt we can only hope one day to repay. One of the two males went home with his new family from the show. They came on Saturday, all the way from the Seattle area, to pick him up. He was the round, thick puppy that was the quietest male. He was often found on the bottom of the puppy piles that weekend and we were glad to see him safe in the arms of his human brothers and sisters. This family had had Kerries before so we felt good about them taking our new friend away.
We started home early Monday morning. We called another show home and let her know there was no puppy for her and called another show home, this person a neophyte with a kind spirit and quiet manner, to tell her we had a girl for her. We called the buyer for the lone boy puppy we were bringing and then called our long-time friends who were waiting on a girl. The adventure was coming to an end for us, but just beginning for these three homes. They would meet their pup and learn to love the little black, wavy being who would soon chew up carpets, furniture, cords and fingers. They would smile as a tired puppy fell asleep on the couch or in her food bowl. And they would become part of our canine and human family.
Somebody asked us if we were terribly disappointed that we had not been able to breed a bitch for ourselves after waiting seven years to do so. The easy answer might have been, “of course”. But, as we held each puppy, breathed their special breath and already loved each one for itself, the answer was not so easy. How could there be anything imperfect with any of them. We had long ago passed the point of dispassion. That had vanished when we listend to their little yips as they dreamed in their crates amid all the noise and hub bub of the shows. So innocent and so unaware of anything bad in the world.
Were we disappointed in this litter? There is no room for disappointment here.