A pup like Willow

Konrad Lorenz was an Austrian zoologist who wrote many books on animal behavior. One of his most popular was Man Meets Dog. This book moved me when I read it many years ago. It’s a deeply personal account of his relationship with dogs. Some of his conclusions are scientifically incorrect, but his message is moving.

He wrote about the particular problem that Mrs. Lion and I are facing: handling the reality that dogs don’t live as long as we do. Our relationship with Daisy was as deep and strong as our love for a child and each other. She was a member of our family. We treasure our memories of her.

One of Lorenz’s points was that the best way to honor a dog we love who passes away is to get another of the same breed. He believed that while each dog is certainly an individual, there is a shared foundation that all members of that breed possess. Nine years ago, when our beloved golden retriever Lily died, I wasn’t sure I could handle the idea of giving my heart to a dog again. Mrs. Lion knew better. About two weeks after Lily passed, Mrs. Lion researched available pups. She found a breeder with goldens at a price we could afford.

She called them and arranged a visit. I agreed to go. I was still unsure of whether I wanted another dog. When we got to the kennel, and a herd of excited puppies scampered around our feet, I was hooked. They only had one female. Mrs. Lion picked her up and handed her to me. She didn’t look like a golden. She was light gold with short hair. Her tiny tail was wagging frantically. She didn’t try to squirm out of my arms.

We bought her. It was Daisy. She spent the ride home snoozing in my arms. It was obvious that she wanted to be with us. She went into her crate and spent the night sleeping. She never whined or complained. We were obviously meant for each other. Daisy was nothing like Lily. She was a bulldozer of a dog who pushed her way into anything that interested her.  We were both delighted. None of us regretted our adoption.

Daisy died a week ago. Daisy taught me that the best thing to do was to find another dog like her. I was wary. This time it was for a different reason. I didn’t want a dog who would end up with bad hips, knees, and eyes. It was those bad joints that put Daisy into such pain and forced her to leave us years early. I can’t face that again.

I didn’t know it at the time, or maybe it didn’t exist. The American Kennel Club has a marketplace for puppies. Only breeders who are members can advertise there. They also require breeders to show if their puppies’ parents were tested for the genetic weaknesses of the specific breed. Golden Retrievers have a genetic weakness for hips, knees, eyes, and heart problems. Decades of too much inbreeding have weakened the genetic pool for most breeds of dogs. In case you wondered, the same problems plague mixed breed dogs too.

I only looked at breeders who said that the parents of the pups were tested. It was surprising how many didn’t bother. Mrs. Lion and I are very fond of the nearly-white goldens. We first saw one on the sitcom, “Mom.” We thought it would be fun to have a dog that color. However, we didn’t make that a hard requirement.

It turned out that Mrs. Lion was doing a similar search and also ended up on the AKC site. When she got back from New York on Saturday, we compared notes. Several breeders within 250 miles had female puppies whose parents were tested. I called a few and left voicemails. The first breeder who returned my call was one whose pups looked great. We had a nice talk. She had two females available. One was spoken for, and the prospective owners were coming to decide which of the two they wanted. We could have the other one. There is a steep price for a dog so carefully bred. Fortunately, our pet health insurance (Trupanion) covered all but a few hundred dollars of Daisy’s hospital bill. I took money out of my 401k to pay for the hospital. We’ll use the money to buy this new puppy.

Because of the historic heat here, we agreed to put off our visit until Wednesday. The breeder is over 200 miles away. If we like the puppy–fat chance we won’t–we can get her in about a week. She is still too young to take away from her mother. I’m very happy with that timing. I’m still processing Daisy’s death.

I always believed that people needed time to process the loss of a dog before adopting a new one. My thought was that the new dog would be less loved because the former dog’s memory was too fresh. Konrad Lorenz was right. It feels like we are honoring Daisy by welcoming another pup into our lives. This dog won’t replace Daisy any more than Daisy replaced Lily. The new dog is a continuation of the circle of life. She will be named Willow. We welcome her into our family with our hearts full of love.

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1 Comment

  1. I am incredibly glad that you and Mrs. Lion are ready for such a step. Let Willow bring joy and peace to your home and ease the worries of your recent loss.

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