As if life wasn’t complicated enough…
The house has been in uproar for weeks now. So after three weeks of renovating a caravan, then making a short film, then having our bathroom ripped out five weeks ago (and yes, we’re still without a bath), the refrigerator packing up and the kitchen taps falling apart, we decided to complicate matters by buying a puppy.
The timing’s not brilliant, admittedly, but when IS a good time to have sprogs? Not ever, if you stop to think about it.
The catalyst for getting the new pooch was our friends C&G, who lucked onto a beautiful puppy and phoned us to crow about it. His name is Rufus and he is absolutely beautiful – one quarter each of husky, malamute, Belgian shepherd and Pyrenean sheepdog. He looks like a little rust-coloured husky and we were quite smitten. This is how I am with animals – our friends have kids and I couldn’t care less, but kittens or puppies, well that’s another matter.
We bought Rufus’s brother and named him Cézanne, but while he was still at his original owners’ I did some more research on his breed parentage and I panicked – both huskies and malamutes are known cat-killers, and unlike other breeds that are fine with cats they were raised with, they are known to turn on cats they’ve known their whole lives and tear them apart.
I joined a husky owners forum in the hopes of being reassured but they all insisted it was a bad mix and that they never, ever turned their back on their dogs. We have three cats and we’re cat people – we’re known as cat people, sometimes having as many as nine at a time. We can’t endanger them for a dog we don’t know yet. So regretfully, and I did cry a bit, we decided against the husky cross.
I was bitterly disappointed, as I’d met the little fella and he was gorgeous, but as luck would have it, I almost immediately spotted another puppy, this time a Breton spaniel/Labrador cross – sometimes known as a Labny or Brittador. This one, I thought, must surely fit the bill, and I provisionally arranged to go and see her.
The temperament is perfect, but a brief look at what these dogs look like when they’re grown up and the DH lost interest. They are basically Labradors with Breton markings (white blaze, etc), and this is too big and too smooth-coated for us. We love Zola, our Breton/Gordon setter cross, with his big foofy tail and leg feathers and floppy ears – for us, he is the perfect dog – so I set about finding something similar.
Next up was Bella, a gorgeous three-year-old rescue dog down south, who was a spaniel/setter cross of unknown origin, with markings almost the reverse of Zola’s – mostly white with black details. But the shelter said she hated cats, so again with regret we gave up on this idea.
I was beginning to think we weren’t going to find anything in the short term. There were several purebred Breton spaniel litters coming up but they either dock them at birth or they’re born without tails, and we did specifically want that big flag tail, so I enlarged the hunt to setters of all kinds, French spaniels and Epagneuls bleus de Picardie. But then suddenly I saw an ad on AngloInfo for the last puppy in a litter of Sprollies.
A Sprollie is a Border collie/Springer spaniel cross. Not a true breed, but those who breed them are hoping to have them recognised as such at some point. I researched them online and got very excited – gorgeous working dogs that are generally rather calmer than collies, but with a long lean body, great leg feathers, short flop ears and an alert, but soft expression. They are good at agility, though not as good as Borders, and any given pup may lean more to one parental side than the other.
I rang for more info and gave our circumstances: childfree, home all day, 1 hectare of wild garden surrounded by farmland, rarely travel and never abroad, lots of time for training and walking, etc, and we arranged to go see him. Within minutes of walking into the room, I could see the DH was in love. He got this soppy expression that I’d only seen before when he saw Zola for the first time, and within minutes we’d made the down payment.
Cézanne, for thus he is named, is the ugly one of the litter, and since he is beautiful, that might give you an idea of what the others were like. He had four litter mates, plus his mum, five older siblings, his dad and a Border collie named Jenna. They are all beautiful dogs – keen, bright-eyed, lean and full of bounce.
We visited him one more time to take over a towel, fleece, toys and cat carrier so that he could come home with something familiar, but there was no need. When we went to get him for the final time, aged eight weeks (see right), he attached himself to us instantly and doesn’t appear to miss his canine family at all, the heartless little sod. He slept on my lap all the way home, isn’t travel sick and appears to fear nothing except Zola barking, at which point he heads for the corner.
He’s had a busy few days in the four days since we got him: travel, visits to the vet, repairmen coming to the house, friends visiting for brunch, a trip to the supermarket to see what crowds look like, a trip to the local park where he struggled to be put down (not allowed until he’d vaccinated). And lots of playing and running about and playing with Kongs and annoying the crap out of Zola.
The cats have decamped to the woods, the kitchen and our bedroom in their respective huffs, but they will come around in their own good time, no doubt (he’s already had one claw through the nose for looking at Bembo the wrong way).
And Lord, I had forgotten how full on this is: toileting every hour during the day, and every time he plays, eats, drinks or wakes up (one of which he does at pretty much every given time…). But it’s the nights that are the hardest, going to bed at 11.00, setting the alarm for 1.00, and 3.00, and 5.00 and 7.00. Blurgh.
Roll on 12 weeks of age, at which point he’ll be able to hold his bladder for four hours!