We recently did something that from the outside probably seemed rather rash to most people. We woke up one day with no immediate plans to get a puppy and the next day we had added a new puppy to our family. While it was sudden and unexpected it was not exactly unplanned. It was less rash from inside our little bubble than it may seem for anyone seeing our updates on social media.
We recently lost our dog Josie. She was an older dog and even before we found out she was sick we had been discussing what life would be like after she was gone. We just knew with the combination of her breed and her age the odds were not good that she would be with us a whole lot longer. We have always lived our lives with dogs as a main focus of our lives. We often let our hearts lead us into situations that maybe a more rational thinking person might not take on. We have fostered and adopted dogs some of whom have been hard cases. We wouldn’t take any of it back for a minute, but it can make life more challenging and lead to sporadic disruptions. We often didn’t have plans for how we wound up with dogs we just did what our hearts urged us to do. After everything we’ve been through, especially all of the recent loss we wanted to have a plan for our lives with dogs.
Josie was a Bernese Mountain Dog, the breed we had fallen in love with. She was out last Bernese Mountain Dog. We knew that we really wanted to have a Bernese Mountain Dog in our lives as much as possible. So we began to think about what made the most sense for us. While we loved adopting older dogs the heartbreak of the very limited amount of time you get to have with them and the huge tears that loss leaves in your heart was just too much for us to go through again right now. We decided that what we really wanted to do was to have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy to raise as our own. A dog that with all good fortune would live a long and healthy life and have many long years to spend with us.
We began to think about what the process would be to bring a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy into our home from a reputable breeder. We began discussing this with our friends who have experience with the breed itself, people who have gotten their dogs from responsible breeders, and with people who have experience with breeding dogs. It seemed like in the best case scenario it would likely take at least a year before we would have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy in our home after losing Josie. It was not really what we were hoping to learn but it is what we were willing to do to do what we believed was best for dogs. We would have loved to have had a new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy sooner, but we wanted to go through the process that would hopefully lead to a good outcome for us as individuals as well as a good outcome for dogs in general. We were always looking to help dogs in shelters and rescues and were open to that possibility but what are the chances that a happy healthy Bernese Mountain Dog puppy is just going to wind up in a shelter or rescue and be available to us?
The answer to that question is, as it turns out surprisingly high, at least in this one instance. My wife is connected to I don’t even want to know how many shelters and rescues on social media. She is always showing me cute dogs that would love to come live with us, or cute dogs that we should “just go visit”. I have fallen for that trick before. Then surprisingly one Saturday my wife shows me a post on social media. There is a 15 week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy available at a rescue. This dog was not available at just any rescue. This puppy was available from the same rescue where we adopted our girls Josie and Little Kira from. So we knew them and they knew us. It was kind of stunning and a little hard to process.
My wife asked if she should inquire about the puppy. I said yes, inquire about the puppy and find out as many details about him as you can. I was skeptical that a perfectly happy and healthy dog, a puppy especially had just magically landed right in front of our eyes at a rescue. It seemed unlikely. It seemed too good to be true.
After a lot of messaging back and forth with the rescue it seemed like the puppy was healthy as far as they could tell. He was neutered and up to date on his shots and ready to be adopted. He was just waiting for someone to come get him. Being familiar with the rescue we knew we could trust their information and they knew they could trust us to provide a good home for this puppy. It really just came down to a matter of logistics. Could we actually make getting a puppy work right now? Could we make arrangements at home that would be good for a new puppy? After a lot of frantic discussion and messaging we thought that we could. Could we actually go to get the puppy? See that is the other trick. The rescue is 6.5 hours away in Ohio. So that is an entire days worth of driving to meet and adopt a dog. That part actually turned out, purely by coincidence to be the easiest part of the equation to solve because it just so happened we learned this information on a Saturday and we had nothing going on, on the next day, Sunday. We could actually just go get him the next day with no problems. The next issue was what would we do when we got him home. We didn’t want to go get a puppy and bring him home just to leave and go to work literally the next day. Fortunately one of the best aspects about my work is that I have a good amount of vacation time and work is pretty flexible in letting me use it. So we decided that if we got the puppy I would take the week off and stay home with the dog to help him get adjusted to his new home. Then what about after I went to work? Thankfully through our frantic messaging we were able to find friends who would be able to help us out watching the puppy during the day. We thought we had everything we could anticipate covered.
So then we just had to decide. Were we ready to get a puppy? Is anyone ever really ready to get a puppy? Were we ready after losing our last dog so recently? I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready in just about every way. Even though I know it is what we ultimately wanted. I generally like to be a little more deliberate about things. This might be the fastest we’ve ever had to make a decision like this. A puppy in a rescue wasn’t going to last and we had to decide.
So, we told the rescue that we are in. We wanted this puppy. We woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to Ohio. After a long drive we arrived at the rescue and reunited with the amazing owner there who allowed us to bring Josie and Kira into our lives. We met this tiny (well not so tiny rally, 35 lbs) puppy that we wanted to bring home. And we met the rest of the permanent residents, the owner’s dogs. It was so nice to be in a house full of dogs. They all wanted to meet these new humans who had arrived, especially the darling puppy. After spending time getting to know the new puppy and talking over everything with the rescue and asking all the questions we could possibly imagine we said our goodbyes and began the long journey back to New York to bring our new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy home. He was amazingly good on the ride home. You would not have even known he was in the car. We got home got home and did meet and greets with the puppy and our current dogs, Mojo and Brynn, which went amazingly well. Then we crashed to sleep.
Monday the real adventure started. Working with the new puppy to get him all settled in and adjusted to his new home and new routines. The plan for me was to get up early at 5 AM just like I would on a regular work day and get the puppy used to starting his day off with us. The biggest goal was to get the dog used to th routine of going out to go to the bathroom at regular intervals as well as getting used to spending some time in his kennel which he would have to get comfortable with at least for a while when we are at work.
Spending a week at home with the sole purpose of taking care of the dogs, particularly the new puppy was a totally new experience for me. It was very different than my normal routine even on days I am off or otherwise on vacation. I think it may have been a more difficult transition for me than it was for the puppy.
Monday was a really fun day for the dogs. We spent time letting them get to know each other outside. Brynn really, really wanted to play with the puppy. The pupy wanted to play too but was not entirely sure of what to make of Brynn. Her antics are a bit out there at times. She is loud and constantly in motion when playing. Once Brynn and the puppy got to know each other and knew they wanted to play it was on. Brynn went into full on zoomies mode. She was scampering all over the yard from one end to the other and then in circles around the puppy and Mojo as the puppy tried to make any sense of this game and attempted to follow along with Brynn. The puppy obviously could not keep up with Brynn but seemed to be having fun. Brynn was having more fun than I had seen her have in a while. She loves puppies. After all the fun in the yard Brynn was tuckered out and slept most of the afternoon.
After a day or so we arrived at a decision on a name for the puppy. We decided to name him Colton. My wife came up with that name and I liked it. It was a good name and could also be shortened to Colt. It also reminded me of a park I like in PA, Colton Point State Park.
So, not only was the new puppy arrival overwhelming for the humans it was hard on the dogs as well. While Brynn loved the dog she was not used to exerting herself at that high level to try to play with a puppy and she ended up with some type of injury and she was content to sit on the couch and didn’t even bother me while I was using treats to work on training with the puppy. So I knew she was not feeling well. Brynn ended up on medications for her injury. Now I was taking care of a brand new puppy and working on training and managing energy and behavior, but I had to take care of an injured dog and make sure the puppy did not accidentally hurt the now injured dog that previously wanted to play and that the puppy continued to want to play with. This was not a contingency I had planned for and was a difficult tight wire to walk. Thankfully Brynn has recovered and is currently feeling much better.
With our dogs we try really hard to stick to force free positive reinforcement training in the Karen Pryor style. While we had worked on training with all of our previous dogs at times it had been a while since we had really done much focused training on behaviors our dogs really needed to learn. It was hard to get back into that routine. The treat bags and clickers we retrieved from the cupboard where they have been for a while. I spent most of each day wearing a treat bag and with a clicker in my hand working with not just the puppy but our other dogs as well. Helping Colton to learn and refreshing prior training with our older dogs. They were all so well behaved when it came to training. No fighting over treats or anything. I knew that our other dogs still had quite a firm grasp of training basics like sit etc. at least when at home so I was hoping working with all of them at once that Colton would not only learn from me but would learn from observing the other dog’s behaviors as well. Colton is very food motivated which is very helpful in training. I spent one morning sitting in the living room with him cutting up treats and having him sit and rewarding him with the yummy stinky treats when he did as asked. But what he really wanted was to jump up on the table and gobble up all the treats at once. But he didn’t do it.
Colton has quickly learned sit and is in the process of learning skills like leave it, drop it, and loose leash walking. Being a toothing puppy he really wants to chew just about anything from coffee tables to ay pair of footwear you take off but do not immediately put out of reach. He really likes to chew toys we give him but quickly becomes bored and wants something new to chew on like a hand, foot, or maybe a face. You have to keep a stream of constantly new distractions in front of him.
Colton has been great but our current dogs are a true blessing and really make this possible as they adjust easily and put up with all his nonsense reasonably well.
One reason we decided that while unexpected it was actually a good time of year to get a dog was because it was the time of year being fall going into winter where we would not be particular busy with vacations or other spring and summer adventures. We would have more time to have a new addition to our lives and help him adapt. It would also be cooler outside so it would be easier to have all the dogs outside to play and expend energy than it might be in the heat of the summer. The downside is that it is getting darker and darker earlier and earlier. So It is currently a challenge to get outside and play with the dogs after work because it is essentially dark when we get home.
Brynn has been remarkably well behaved with the new puppy, especially when outside playing. Brynn loves her toys especially her balls for fetching and chewing. She has a tendency to guard them jealously. However, much to my surprise with this new puppy she has been remarkably patient and willing, however reluctantly, to share her toys at times. I can go outside and throw Brynn’s ball for fetch and she can obviously get to it and retrieve it before the puppy, but then she has to bring it back and put it down for me to throw it again. This is when the puppy strikes. As soon as Brynn puts the ball on the ground Colton rushes over to claim it for himself. Brynn has an expression on her face that clearly signals she disapproves of this, but she allows it. The fact that she even allows the new dog near her toy let alone to take the ball from her, often without even growling or making a noise is huge. We have had to stop playing fetch with her at times around other dogs because she becomes too excited and protective of the ball. Watching the dogs behave appropriately with each other makes me so happy.
Colton has also become very fond of Mojo. I am not sure Mojo knows what to think of him. Brynn is our only dog that in Mojo’s 12 years has ever actually wanted to play with him. Colton loves him. Colton will run right up to him and back at him and bounce around trying to get him to play. Mojo will run and Colton will give chase. Mojo will bob and weave and dodge Colton trying to avoid having to play with him, but never behaves aggressively towards him and sometimes gives in and actually plays with him. Colton also has found the fact that Mojo’s idiosyncrasies require him to wear a leash even when outside in our fenced yard fun. Colton has picked up the end of Mojo’s leash and dragged him across the yard by his leash. Luckily he seems to e mostly over that now.
One thing I have been trying to do with Colton as a way to help him get exercise and help him get used to walking with me and staying with me is to take him for walks along the inside perimeter of the fenced in yard. He trots right along with me for the most part. If he gets distracted and stops I stop and wait for him and then we resume our walk as soon as he remembers that is what we were doing and runs back over to me.
At this point things are going about as well as one could hope for when adding a new puppy to a house already full of animals. No serious behavior or health problems have presented themselves. Nothing more trying or frustrating than regular puppy behavior, which I mean can be very trying at times, but it is hard to stay mad at this little fluff ball for long. We are so in love with Colton. Even though this is not where we expected to be with dogs in our lives right now we have fully embraced this new journey as you really have to if you are going to bring a puppy into your home and do right by him. I am sure I will be sharing more about him here in the future. If you want to follow along in Colton’s adventures I created an Instagram account for him and you can follow along at colton_rescue_bmd : https://www.instagram.com/colton_rescue_bmd/