On October 25th, a litter of Coolies was born at Killara Station, home of Canadian Cobar Coolies. It was a litter of ten puppies, five boys and five girls, born to Hunterslea Adelaide and CCC Tucker. It had every color of pup imaginable, and hopefully, a puppy who would grow up to be my next working dog and colleague. (For me a working dog is a companion who will co-teach all my group classes, attend behavior consults, seminars, hike, compete in obedience and rally and serve as a living representation of good communication between a human and a canine.)
We all have certain traits we are drawn to in our canine companions. A dog might look like a childhood dog we dearly loved, or have the same ears as our friend’s dog who is a favorite. I see this all the time with clients who adopt a second dog who looks like it could be an actual sibling of the dog they already have. Some of these biases operate under the surface, and some are conscious. I gravitate towards female dogs, short coated, with huge, upright ears and blue eyes. Piper, my now almost 15 year old working dog, is the best dog I have ever had the pleasure of working with and her appearance has become a preference for me. So, when I went to Canada to meet the puppies, I already had my eye on a short haired, seemingly blue-eyed girl puppy who hit all the emotional buttons that Piper had installed in my heart. I was open to changing my mind but I thought it was unlikely.
When I arrived at Killara station to see the puppies, Sue let them out of their whelping box right away so they could run around and I could sit on the floor and interact with them. As a litter, they were stunning. So many colors and patterns, all swirling together into one glorious whole. People talk about this sort of balance in their koi ponds, having the right mix of colors and patterns of fish so that the whole is a work of art in itself. That’s how beautiful this group of puppies is. The little girl puppy I had been drawn to crawled up into my lap to sit, quietly, but my attention was drawn to a different pup, a fluffy boy pup, who moved in joyful circles and arcs, bouncing, light as helium. I ran my hands over the pup in my lap and looked up when the boy pup knocked into my elbow in one of his playful circles. He radiated happiness and confidence.
I studied him further. He handled new experiences with resilience, quickly returning to his baseline of bounding and joyful curiosity. He was social with all the other pups, playing appropriately, not too rough, not shutting down. He had a lot of behavior, all the behavior you want juvenile animals to express: running, jumping, mouthing, leaping, exploring, chewing. Baby animals should express enough behavior to make your head spin. And he liked touch, liked people and could settle in your arms. In short, he was a behavioral dream. And really beautiful. I decided he was my pup within the first half hour.
That night at my hotel, I warred with myself a bit. I’m used to deciding with my heart, not my head. I knew he was the best choice for me, by far, behavior-wise, but my heart wasn’t sure. I was going back the next day to visit again, before I drove home. I decided I would keep an open mind.
When I arrived the next day, I was again overwhelmed by just how beautiful the whole group of puppies was. What a decision! We let the pups out again and immediately, I knew Plugga was the one. Seeing him again on day two confirmed how spectacular he was and this time my heart was wide open. My new working dog was a long-haired, beautiful boy. I had told myself before I went to Canada, that it’s best to remember you don’t know a thing. To trust that the universe is wise and will guide us if we can relax and listen. Still, I felt divinely surprised. Lucky. In love.
He will come home to Idle Moon Farm just a few days after Christmas, at nine weeks old.
When he gets here he will start his new life, as Lir Lionheart. Lir, for the Irish king, and Lionheart, for his big, brave heart.