I’ve spent a lot of time with puppies. My family has always had dogs. Those dogs had several litters when I was a kid. In college a good friend of mine got a puppy and we shared custody for the first six months of her life. My sister had a Great Dane before she was done with college. My brother and his wife have a hound/heeler mix. The six months before I moved to Iowa, I lived at home and helped raise my mom and dad’s Australian Shepherd.
Since then, however, I’ve had a lot less to do with dogs. There are dogs around the barn, of course, and they are excellent for petting and saying hello to. We’ve house/puppy sat for friends a few times over the years. There was also the time a stray Border Collie wandered into our yard and we almost kept her.
While I love the house we live in, I’ve always thought it wouldn’t be great for a dog. I also always thought we’d only be in this house for a few years. But I’m starting to discover decisions you make in your mid-twenties about where you go and what you do have a way of becoming more permanent than you necessarily intended. Whether or not it’s what I would have picked given limitless options, Brian and I live in Iowa City for now. He has an excellent job. My business is thriving. We have enough leisure and resources to work with quite a few horses while still building our retirement and savings. While I want to move back west, the reality is we’d be walking away from a great life into a total unknown. Considering how many of our peers are un/under employed or neck-deep in debt, chucking it all and starting over feels reckless, to say the least.
Brian and I are both highly rational, highly analytical people. We don’t jump into big decisions. We don’t do anything without exhaustively weighing pros and cons. While this serves us well in many ways, sometimes it can lead to a sort of decision-paralysis when things are good. We’ve both wanted a dog for a long time, but there were always a lot of really good reasons getting a puppy wouldn’t be ideal. So whenever we’ve talked about a dog for the last many years, we’ve tended to end the conversation with, “No yet.”
Until this weekend, that is.
It’s puppy seasons, of course. Ranch dog litters have been popping up all over the horse sites I visit on a regular basis. On Friday after a trip to the barn I was scrolling down a Facebook horse page and there were just puppies everywhere. I said to Brian, “Wow. We could get a Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, German Shepherd, or Australian Shepherd. All from litters nearby. Your pick.”
I was mostly joking. But lo and behold, by Saturday evening, we had a dog.
Part of the decision came from how Brian perked up when I showed him the Aussie pups. Part of it came from me realizing there will always be a reason not to get a dog. Part of it came from the reality that I struggle not to sit at my desk too much, since my job is 100% sedentary, and I also spend vast amounts of time alone. I’m a highly introverted, extremely independent person, but in the last couple years I’ve learned even I can reach the end of my capacity for solitude.
Whatever our motivation for getting her, suddenly we have a puppy. Her name is Esti. She’s an eight week old tricolor Australian Shepherd. She’s not from the litter I saw on Facebook. She’s from a different one Brian found north of Des Moines. There were six pups still available when we contacted the breeder. We were able to drive over, spend an hour playing with the pups and getting to know their different temperaments, and pick the one we wanted. We also got to meet the parents.
Esti’s dad is gregarious and friendly. He comes from a well known show dog line. Her mother is focused and shy but also very sweet. She comes from a line of scrappy working cattle dogs from Oklahoma. While we wanted a stock dog and will hopefully someday have working dogs with real jobs, the reality is this one’s going to be more of a pet. Esti seems like a blend of her parents, emotionally, mentally, and physically. So this seemed like a good cross for us. We intend to dabble with teaching her things related to herding and working with livestock, but we don’t really know what we’re doing and will have limited opportunity for any actual work since we don’t currently have anything but a medium-sized yard full of squirrels. So it doesn’t really matter if she’s super gifted with instinct or not. Her real job is going to be hanging out with me in my office while I build websites, and taking me for walks a couple times a day.
So far, we’re very happy with our pick. Esti is adorable and sweet and perceptive and already very locked on to us as her family. Though I’ve spent a lot of time with dogs, this is the first time I’ve ever had my own. Two days in, it’s already a bit difficult to imagine going back.