As I continue to blog, I am discovering that most of my stories are connected to 2017. Once in conversation with my Father, he ironically told me that people who suffer from tragic losses usually define their lives as pre-tragedy and post-tragedy. At the time of our conversation I had personally experienced very few intimate losses in my life. I remember reflecting on those thoughts and feeling pity for people who were dealing with life after tragedy. Several years later I would find myself navigating through post tragedy life. So even my dog story is connected to my pre and post tragedy. There are times, when honestly, I hate the connection to tragedy and other times when I reflect and think that my heavy impact is a reflection of the heavy impact of my parent’s in my life.
I recently decided that the goats have gotten a lot of attention on my blog and I neglected to write about one of my most important homestead partners, Stella. I will probably write a couple of blogs about Stella, the first will be how Stella became a homestead dog and the following will probably be homestead stories about Stella. One of the favorite things my boys like to do when we have company is to share Stella stories. They are always wild and entertaining. Even Stella’s beginnings were an interesting story.
In 2016, our sweet Sheltie, named Ginger, died suddenly from a cancer mass in her stomach. My parents had bought Ginger as a puppy for my boys. My Dad firmly believed that kids need dogs. My Mom also agreed that dogs were important in raising healthy, well-balanced children. She would often tell me that, “Kids make good dogs, and dogs make good kids.” My husband was not excited about the added responsibility of a dog and did not have a positive family dog experience growing up. He wasn’t on board with the dog mantra that my family had always followed. My parents felt so strongly that my boys needed a dog, so they did a rare override and bought my boys a dog. Ginger was well loved and enjoyed being a puppy with my boys. She basically grew up with my boys. I would always laugh about how the boys would run through a sprinkler followed closely by our Ginger. I remember the awful moment I decided to have Ginger put out of her misery and let the vet end her life peacefully. I called my Mom crying and asking if it was the right thing to do. My Mom said tearfully, “she has been a wonderful dog; tell her goodbye and spare her suffering.” I decided I didn’t want to bury her in our subdivision but to take her back to the farm, which she loved. My Dad met me in the driveway with a shovel and buried our sweet dog under a dogwood tree. There have been many moments I have reflected on and times I was thankful for my parents. Although it might seem silly to some, I am grateful for the moments where my parents so sweetly grieved our wonderful little dog and helped me honor her life.
My sons took the loss of our dog hard. She had been a constant companion to them for nine years. My husband had grown to love our furry companion too. He announced there would not be a second dog because no dog could live up to Ginger. My youngest was three years old at the time and cried nightly because he missed his dog. He would go outside and call her name hoping she would show up. I informed my husband that we would need another dog. He was reluctant but did agree I could start a savings account for a new puppy.
In the months following I poured myself into family dog research. Ginger had been a wonderful fit for our family but I knew a Sheltie puppy might not work with my very active three year old. When things got too rough for Ginger, she would simply go hide and escape. I was fearful that a puppy might not be as smart. After hours of reading I found a breed (or type) of dog that interested me, Aussie-doodle. Aussie-doodles are a cross between Australian Shepherds and Poodles—in our case, a standard Poodle. I wanted a dog big enough and strong enough to play with our three year old. I liked the thought of it not shedding and possibly being more allergy friendly. I read a great deal about their intelligence and temperament. Aussie-doodles are very loyal to their family members and have great easy going temperaments. They are in general a very happy dog that is not easily scared. I then priced these wonderful family dogs, only to find out that they were way out of my price range. An Aussie-doodle at the time sold for between $1,200-1,500. I took all my research to my husband, who said …. “No way, I am not spending that on a dog!” He finally agreed that I could continue my savings account, while he secretly thought there was no way I would accumulate that amount of money. I was thinking maybe we will be dog-less. 2016 came and went and we were dog-less. I did have a small amount that was starting to add up in my savings but not near enough. Every once in a while I would log on and look at puppies for sale and think, maybe one day.
In April of 2017 I logged onto the puppy website and found an interesting lead. I found Aussie-Doodle puppies for sale at a very reasonable price, and of all places in my hometown. I thought maybe this is a scam, so I called the phone number attached and talked to the owner. I then talked to my husband, who never goes back on a deal. He had to say ok, because I had enough savings to cover the cost of the puppy. I excitedly called my parents and got advice from my Mom about picking out the best puppy. My Dad warned that I may not want the dog because it could be unhealthy or just not the right situation. I planned, with my eleven year old son, an in person visit with the puppies. We went to a very small trailer and met the Mom of the puppies first. I have very rarely said a dog was ugly, but this Momma dog was ugly. She was friendly and I gladly pet her but I didn’t want to take her home. I was thinking, “maybe that is why these puppies are a bargain, nobody wants an ugly dog.” She was wiry, long legged, and awkward looking. Not at all what I envisioned as I had looked at the soft cute lovable pictures of Aussie-doodle puppies. We sat and waited as they brought the puppies to us, or rather they unleashed the puppies. There was a litter of thirteen puppies; it was kind of like a scene from 101 Dalmatians. They only let out the eight puppies that were female and available for sale. In came fat, little, curly-haired Stella; of course, she was just one of eight at the time. Following my Mom’s tips for picking out good dogs, I tested to see if she would come to me. The problem is I had five little girl puppies come to me and my son. They licked us, climbed on us, and untied our shoes. One by one, I turned them over to see if they would let me rub their bellies, another tip from my Mom. I was down to three girl puppies (kind of reads like a bad episode of The Bachelor). I then started looking at hair types and appearances. Stella was the only puppy that had a very nice curly haired coat, and it was incredibly soft to pet. Stella also happened to be the largest female in the liter and the owner told me she was the leader of the pack. We had finally found our new puppy. She wasn’t ready to come home yet, so we sadly had to leave her there for two more weeks. We excitedly went home and started puppy prepping. Everyone in the house was excited except for … you guessed it, my husband.
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