It’s called puppy amnesia, the way we remember the round fat belly, the impossibly soft fur, the musky smell, the roly-poly hijinks and the snuggling, but we forget the needle-sharp teeth, the middle-of-the-night housebreaking, the endless unauthorized chewing, digging, eating, jumping and clawing.
And so, six weeks after our beautiful old dog Riley died, I found myself cruising the animal rescue website Petfinder.org. I wasn’t really in the market for a puppy yet. I just sort of wanted to see what was out there.
On Petfinder, I clicked on an image labeled “Charlotte’s Puppies” and up popped a whole bunch of border collie puppies. Oh, those little faces! Those white-striped noses, those speckled paws, those white-tipped tails. I clicked deeper.
I got my first dog in 1988 from the pound in Duluth (it was still called a pound then). Toby cost $5, no questions asked. Pay your money, go home with a puppy. I’d never had a dog before, had no clue what I was doing, and it was lucky for all of us that it turned out so well.
Adopting one of Charlotte’s Puppies wasn’t that simple. First, I was to fill out an online application with the rescue group Heart of a Border Collie. I needed to provide three references. Then there would be a phone interview. Then a home visit. Holy moly.
I figured I would do all those things in advance, so that in the spring, when my husband and I planned to get a puppy, we’d be ready.
I filled out the application a few days after Christmas, assuming it would be a while before anyone got back to me. Ha! If border collies are smart and energetic, so are border collie rescuers; they started calling my references even before I had told my friends that I had given out their names.
Things moved fast. The phone interview was next, and then, right away, the home visit. Home visit with puppies.
The foster parents said they’d bring two of Charlotte’s pups with them.
“We don’t have to take one,” I said to my husband. “Just because they’re bringing puppies doesn’t mean we have to keep one. We can wait until spring.”
“Right,” Doug said. “I’ll go buy a crate.”
And then two nice people in fur-trimmed parkas were walking up our sidewalk, each carrying a squirming black puppy. I knew there was no way they were going home again with both.
Charlotte and her puppies had been rescued from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. From what rescuers could tell, they were a mix of border collie, Lab and maybe cattle dog.
The two pups burst into our house and immediately began to play with our six-year-old Lab mix, Rosie. They raced around, explored the house, peed on the carpet, wrestled, ran out into the yard and dashed around the snow.
I picked up the calmer pup, the one they called Calvin (whom we would later rename Angus). He had a white smudge on his nose and a swirly black and white belly that looked like marble rye. He settled in my arms and turned his head to look at me with his dark eyes. And that was it. I was in love.
And boy, oh, boy — vet visits, and puppy classes, and gear to buy, and housebreaking, and teaching all those commands that we use without thinking for Rosie. (Sit! Wait! Come! Don’t eat that! For the love of God put that down!) Puppies don’t know anything. I realized we had a lot to do.
Laurie Hertzel is not a dog expert — just a dog lover. She is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. @StribBooks
Coming Feb. 10: Housebreaking at 11 below zero.