Our puppies arrived in early June and while this was a great time for them to be born it took us off the road until we decided we just couldn’t stand it any more and entered the Capitol City Cluster, in Topeka, Kansas, at the end of August. Our van seemed to bulge with both of us, Eva, Danny and the two puppies. We had added two extra crates for the pups, a small ex-pen, bales of newspapers and lots of towels. All our usual show paraphernalia: large wheeled cooler, three sets of crates for every dog, our two bloated garment bags, food bin, equipment bin and our bigger than necessary tack box, were piled in. We looked like a bus from the outlying states coming into Calcutta. All that was missing were the crates of chickens and goats. A true Griswald’s Vacation, dog show version.
It had been a year since we had travelled with puppies in a car across country. Like somebody’s name stuck just outside your memory I knew there was something about the process that I didn’t like. Ten minutes outside our neighborhood it came back with crystal clarity. Both puppies threw up. They banged their water and food bowls in their crates and barked. After listening to their rhythmic gagging for a few miles everybody seemed to settle down. We drove on contemplating how bad the puppy crates would be when we made our first stop somewhere just inside the Kansas line. We were not to be disappointed! After cleaning up the puppies and their crates, walking the other dogs and ourselves we started out again. This time to our shock, there was no sound of retching. The two pups had found their car legs.
On this trip we were inordinately invested in training the little black ones. They no longer technically belonged to us and we were anxiously waiting for the days when their new owners would claim them. The whelp leader, now called Allie, will go to a long-time breeder in Maryland. We feel confident she will love this puppy as she has many of the qualities sought after by the breeder. The little boy, our sweet one with the wagging tail, will go to a friend in Reno. She has a private plane and her puppy, she has named Mickey, will have his own seat and ear plugs. Usually, our puppies don’t see many people before they go to their new homes, but this litter of three saw plenty. They seem to love people and are outgoing. The blue puppy left us a couple of weeks before this trip. Now called Bella, she has a new Wheaten brother and lives far away on the other side of the mountains. We feel sorry for the new family. In a little while she will be running the place.
Staying with dogs in a motel is never easy. Adding two puppies would not make anything better. We haul room crates inside and set them up where they usually go un-used as every dog we bring prefers to sleep on the bed. One crate became a convenient stand for the puppy crates. Always looking to save money, we bought our puppy crates at PetCo for about $30.00 a piece. They seemed a little smaller than the ones our litter from last year travelled in so we were proud of ourselves. However, like so much in life, or certainly in the world of consumer goods, you get what you pay for. The little crates were not the strongest and their latches seemed flimsy. Also these crates had shrunk since we brought them home. Maybe the puppies had grown, but how could that be? Looking at them we started to realize that was most likely the case. Luckily, they still fit into their little portable homes saving us the chore of buying more on the road.
For this trip we had a small ex-pen for the puppies. Our puppies seem louder and more boisterous than other breeders’ pups. They clamor for attention and make unreasonable demands on us. The puppies want to eat on the same schedule as they do at home and cannot understand why they have to wait for us to set up their pen and lay down the tarp and papers. They are also at the age where they are fighting with each other. They used to play with toys and were so cute, looking up at us every once in a while with their precious faces. No more. They glare at you with beady, black eyes and demand new toys every day to distract them from each other. We hurried every time we returned to the room to put them in their pen so they could pee and poop and run in it all. Tired from a long day setting up and grooming Danny for the upcoming four shows the last thing we wanted to do was shush puppies and clean up after them. But they left us no choice. Their fighting and playing, with the accompanying noise, could have awaken the dead. That’s what made me realize I was still living: I could hear the din.
At this cluster we had early ring times: around 10:30. Thankfully, we only had two dogs to do. But to arrive at the show early enough to unload all the gear we took to the room every night, set it up, eat and feed dogs we had to get up before 6:00. A little known fact about travelling with puppies, you don’t need an alarm clock. Every morning they would wake us up barking in their little plastic rooms at 5:30. It’s hard to see the upside to it. They have learned to potty in the ex-pen so that saves taking them outside and wandering around the motel grounds while they eat grass, bean pods and goose poop and return to the room where they are sure to poop and pee on the rug. It took about two hours, every morning, to get four dogs and two people on the road for the two-mile drive to the show grounds. By the time we were standing in our set-up eating our fast food breakfast we had decided this would be our last litter. Only three puppies, only two of them with us, but it seemed there were many, many more. The grooming space across the aisle was occupied by another Kerry breeder. She proudly told us of her last litters of seven and eight. She is obviously more adept at handling puppies and viewed this as a good thing. I winced at the thought of taking seven puppies on a road trip. We could barely handle two!
As the weekend wore on, and wore us out, something amazing happened. Through no fault of ours, Allie and Mickey learned to be great travelers. They stayed dry in their crates all day and all night. They barked mostly to go outside to potty and Allie was quick to learn the way to the ex-pen outside the show building. Our little new ones met hoards of people and were poked and pummelled by kids and adults. They were sniffed by other dogs and were barked at by them. Allie stood up to all the intrusions with a loud bark of her own and gaited around on her little lead with her head up. Mickey tried to be brave and follow his sister. He didn’t like the slick floor and the doorway outside seemed so far away. Since he is still the cutest,l we took turns carrying him outside to the pen where he joined his sister in a bark-fest. Gradually, the burden of taking puppies 600 miles from home didn’t seem too heavy.
Driving home we talked about our next road trip in two weeks. Of course the puppies would be with us. After all, it wasn’t too hard to take them this time. One will be meeting her new owner at the next shows and the other staying with us a little longer until his new mom will come for him. Looking back into the crates at the little toothy faces of Allie and Mickey, the rigors of their first road trip seemed so minor. Maybe humans are designed to forget the pain and focus on the future. I certainly hope so.