It’s Friday, I’m in Love…

The countdown is on! It won’t be long before we bring little Mr. Carter home.

At times, it felt like this frigid February would never end. The Blue Jays have begun their spring training and so there is hope!  Hope of warmer temperatures and with March (finally) around the corner, it won’t be long before a puppy moves into our house.

If you think we’re not counting down the days, you are oh… so… wrong.  Just check out the highly sophistcated countdown calendar that was carefully and lovingly made:

Countdown calendar
Oh it’s on… the countdown that is.

Yup we are THAT close!

Now back to the “it’s Friday I’m in love” just like The Cure song…

We received the following updated photos from our breeder Catharine. Get ready to fall in love.  Here are the pups at almost 5 weeks old.

Ya I know. You want one too. It’s Friday, and you’re in love!

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What’s in a Name? Why baseball of course!

When it comes to puppy love and finding a name for your pup, it’s not about love at all. It’s a battle to get your favourite name to come out on top! Just like trying to decide on a breed, choosing a name for our pup via consensus was filled with many passionate debates. Four people with a veto over one another’s names didn’t help the process. But that’s ok.  Naming your dog is one big and important decision.


Harry Styles

My little niece, who is afraid of anything furry that moves, offered her favourite name. She said she will like our dog if we named him Harry, as in Harry Styles from the boy-band One Direction. Well, Harry is cute I must admit. And so is the name. However, my boys didn’t wait a nanosecond to shoot that name out of the water.

The one thing my family agreed on was that the dog’s name had to be baseball-related. Both my boys play competitive baseball, and we spend much of our summer at baseball diamonds and travelling to many tournaments.

At the breeder’s 3 week-old pups visit, we chatted with other families about names. One couple had a name locked up, and chose a hockey-themed name. Their boy puppy will be called Bauer. Great name.

Another family we met was in the same boat as us; close to finalizing a name. This family looked to their favourite movie characters for inspiration. They threw out names like Bilbo, Frodo and other characters; then tried more standard names like Max and Cooper and finally landed on Reilly. But I’m told, they are not sure if it will stick.

One name that was often suggested to us was ‘Homer,’ which would be awesome if it didn’t remind me of Homer Simpson. Doh!  (No I’m not including a photo of Homer Simpson.)

Just like trying to find the perfect baby name, with meaning or a great story behind it, there are many websites to get you started. A quick google search, and ka-pow, you’ll find a whole lot of help: Names for Boy DogsMost Popular Dog Names 2014

The list of names we went through included: Jackie and Robinson after the first black person to play in the major leagues; Robbie for Toronto Blue Jays’ Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, and Joey for Canadian-born Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

Embed from Getty Images
Jackie Robinson
Embed from Getty Images
Roberto Alomar
Embed from Getty Images
Joey Votto

In the end we decided on Carter as the name for our puppy. Carter, as in the Toronto Blue Jays’ Joe Carter, who hit THE  home run in dramatic fashion during game six of 1993 World Series. It was the bottom of the 9th, runners on first and second, Toronto was losing 6-5, and on a 2-2 pitch, Carter sent the ball over the left-field wall. With that home run, the Jays won their second consecutive World Series.

Maybe our very own Carter will bring good luck to my boys this summer. There’s nothing like hitting a home run, and nothing better than watching your kid hit one out. This summer I’ll have someone helping me cheer on my boys from the stands.  Can’t wait.

For all my 20-something classmates, here’s Carter’s home run in case you missed it the first time.

Puppy Open-House! A meet and greet with 3-week old Pups

Almost every morning when my younger son leaves for school, he will say to me, if Catharine (our breeder) emails and sends more photos, text me right away. He’s not supposed to have access to his phone during school hours, but he sometimes manages to sneak a text and ask if I received any new puppy pics.

We eagerly awaited for the pups to turn 3 weeks old!  Because that’s when we could finally go back to Braefield to meet and hold the pups for the first time.

WARNING … CUTE PUPPY PHOTOS AHEAD

When we arrived, another family and two couples were already in the doggie-bedroom. All it took was one look around, and I knew everyone was in love with the pups. The pups were beyond adorable. They were barely awake and hardly did anything, but they were so darn sweet and cuddly.

Mr. Yellow and Miss Purple. (Photo courtesy of Braefield.)
Mr. Yellow and Miss Purple. (Photo courtesy of Braefield.)
3-week old pup. (Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.)
3-week old pup. (Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.)

We were encouraged to grab and hold a puppy, and to share and pass them around.

A few sweet family moments…

At first, my older son was nervous to hold a pup as it was quite squirmy and he quickly handed the pup to me. He eventually got comfortable and held a pup the whole time we were there. He fell in love with Mr. Black.

Mr. Black chewing on my son's finger.
Mr. Black chewing on my son’s finger.

I took hold of a pup and immediately began to rock back and forth. The instinctive “rocking-mom stance” came back to me. It was like holding a newborn.

My husband’s pup started to whimper and mama Flora came marching over to find out why her pup was upset. That was pretty amazing. Flora began to vigorously clean (lick) the pup and the pup settled. Mom knows best!

Mama Flora taking care of her pup.
Mama Flora taking care of her pup.

My youngest took to the pups like he’s done this every single day of his life. He fell in love with Mr. Yellow and at one point had two pups in his lap. Adorable!

M loving the 2 puppies on his lap. But we're only taking one. Photo courtesy of Braefield.
M loving TWO puppies. But we’re only taking one. Photo courtesy of Braefield.

It was great to meet and chat with the other families that will also take a pup home. I already planted the seed for a puppy play-date over the summer with one family, who doesn’t live very far from us, and a  young couple, who does live far from us but said they’d come too!

Our visit was full of aww-moments, but we quickly realized we had a lot to do before our pup comes home.  Catharine asked if we had vets picked out. We don’t, so I need to get that figured out.  Then her husband Grant asked if we had names yet. Ahhh, the great name-debate!  Stay tuned for that story.

We reluctantly left after our two-hour visit with a to-do list, and already thinking about our next visit in 3 weeks time.

The pups will be completely different by then. They’ll be bigger and more active.  My younger son made a count-down calendar. And his daily reminder to me for an immediate text should new puppy photos land in my in-box, continues.

My Top 10 List of Reactions to “You’re Getting a Dog?”

When you share news with friends and family, you will always get some sort of feedback. Whether you ask for it or not. When we told our family and friends we were getting a dog, we got some pretty funny responses from both dog and non-dog owners. So I’m taking a page from David Letterman, and present my Top 10 List!  Drum-roll in your head: optional.

You’re getting a dog? Top 10 Reactions from dog and non-dog owners…

(and my thoughts in brackets!)

10. Kiss your freedom goodbye!  (Oh great, thanks!)

9.  Are you ready to poop and scoop?  (Isn’t that what my kids are for? I’m in denial you may say.)

8.  Big dog = big poop.  (What’s with all the poop? I bet I’ll find out.)

7.  Dogs are so much fun.  (Duh!)

6.  Dogs bring so much love into your home.  (Ok fine, but they also bring mud and sticks too.)

5.  Dogs are a great stress release.   (Not really feeling any stress release yet.)

4.  You won’t regret it.  (I will hold you to that.)

3.  What? Why? Do you have too much time on your hands?  (Thanks Dad!)

2. You’ll wonder why you waited so long. (Ya, probably, maybe, we’ll see.)

And the number one, best reaction was from my six year-old niece who’s afraid of any thing that’s furry and moves…

  1. I’m never going to Auntie D’s house again! (Yikes. Going to have to work on you Missy M!)

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Can you guess which comment came from a dog owner and which came from a non-dog owner?  Some of the answers may surprise you.

Answers:

Dog-owners: 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2

Non-dog owners: 9, 3, 1

Only time will tell if any of the above comments will prove to be true. I’m happy that most of the comments were positive. Until then, I will continue to focus on what comes next, like picking out a name for the puppy.  Let’s just say, this is also causing a grand discussion around here.

And one more awww-cute puppy photo!  Just because.

Pups at 2 weeks old.
Aww, Miss (Piggy) Pink. She was the biggest pup born.

They’re Here! Pups Are Born

Yes, the pups have arrived!  On January 19, 2015 Flora gave birth to eight puppies: 3 girls and 5 boys. All pups were born healthy and weighed between 15 1/2 – 19 1/2 ounces. The biggest one was a girl – she’s the one with the light pink ribbon. The coloured ribbons, while adorable, serve a purpose. The ribbons help breeder Catharine keep track of the pups that she weighs daily to ensure they are growing.  The pups in the photo below are only hours old. One of these (male) pups will be ours by the middle of March. Wowza!

The puppies are born! Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.
The puppies are born! Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.

And while mama Flora was a tad exhausted and busy, she’s also doing well.

Flora busy with her pups.
Flora busy with her pups. Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.

Catharine has been sending us email updates with lots of photos and video. Here are a few photos of the pups at 2 weeks old. They grow so quickly! To say they are cute is totally not necessary, but they are so darn cute! At this stage, it’s eat, sleep, poop, repeat.

Pups at 2 weeks old.
Pups at 2 weeks old. Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.
Miss Purple 2 weeks
Miss Purple at 2 weeks old. Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.
Mr Red 2 weeks - 1
Mr. Red at 2 weeks old. Photo courtesy of Braefield Goldens.

We visit the pups when they are 3 weeks old. By that time, they’ll have opened their eyes and won’t be so sleepy. We can hardly wait. I guess there is no turning back now. This is really happening. Oh that was me talking to myself. Really, how hard can this puppy thing be?

Time to Hit the Road! Off to Visit the Breeder

I almost used the Wizard of Oz once again for this post’s title, like follow the yellow brick road, or off to see the wizard. But I refrained, sort of. We followed the QEW to get to our breeder.

Now that you exhausted your research, and trust me it can be exhausting, and after family discussions and compromises, it’s time to contact the breeders you have selected. We chose to go the breeder route, but if you decide to go the ‘rescue’ route, then off to visit your local shelters.

In our case, we first contacted Catharine at Braefield Goldens through the website. The first step was to complete and submit an online questionnaire. There were many questions: do you have a securely fenced yard, who will be the primary caretaker, do you live in a house or a condo, do all your family members want a dog? The questionnaire also clearly asks: Goldens live approximately 10 to 14 years. Are you committed to care for this Golden Retriever’s needs throughout his/her lifetime?” Deep breath… yes we are!

Within a week or so we received an email back saying that two litters were expected by the end of January. Hurray. I emailed Catharine a few times with more questions, and to set-up a time to for all of us to meet in person in January.

The In-Person Interview/Meeting

I wasn’t sure what to expect during our visit. Were we going to be peppered with questions and, in the end, would we be deemed worthy and fit to have a puppy? I was a little nervous going in, but I had nothing to worry about. Our interview visit was actually a lot of fun and friendly. It felt like we were visiting with friends.

Catharine welcomed us into her home. As we entered, there were two Goldens relaxing in the living room. We wrongly assumed these were the two mama Goldens. Instead the two mamas, plus the rest of the extended family was out back playing. Catharine went to her kitchen door and called in the dogs, and one-by-one, and then two-by-two the dogs came, and before we knew it we were hanging out and playing with 12 Goldens! All of them were super friendly and eager for our attention. We also got to personally meet mama Flora and mama Hope, and papa Teddy. The other papa, Kingston, was hired from another breeder for his ‘services.’

Flora's Family
Hanging with Flora’s Family

I can’t really remember if Catharine asked us specific questions, but we certainly had questions. We asked about the personalities of the mamas and papas, and what to expect once the pups were born. We learned a lot, and got more excited as we gained information.

What surprised me the most was how Catharine pointed to each of her dogs and explained how they were all related, how many litters some of the dogs birthed, how old they were. There was a grandmother and grandfather, aunts, half brothers and sisters. I needed a family tree to help me keep track of the linage. Plus the dogs really didn’t sit still for too long and I kept confusing them.

And then it happened. Catharine asked if we wanted a pup from Flora or Hope, boy or girl? Yes, we passed whatever test there was to pass, and we are worthy. Silent cheer!

Flora or Hope, that is the question 

We decided that we would take a boy pup from Flora’s litter for a number of reasons:

  1. Flora had an earlier due-date than Hope, and we really didn’t want to wait an extra week or two. Plus Flora was expecting 8-11 pups, whereas Hope was only expecting 2-3.
  2. Both Flora and Kingston are a pale golden colour. Teddy, the other papa and Hope’s mate, is more golden.
  3. But the final discerning point was Flora’s personality. Hope is a very quiet, calm and sweet girl. I thought perfect for me! But if you have read the other posts, I’m not exactly getting what I want in this whole process. As Catharine explained, Flora can be mischievous and sneaky. Catharine showed us a photo of Flora where she somehow got in, behind a fence that was put up to protect the indoor Christmas tree from wagging tails! As soon as the fence went up, Flora somehow managed to get behind it and sit next to the tree, proud of her accomplishment. That sealed the deal for my boys, and all three wanted a pup from Flora.

Mama Flora

At the time of our visit, Flora was definitely big and breathing hard. She was due less than a week after our visit, Catharine measured her temperature daily to try and estimate her due date. We thought she would give birth any minute!

Mama Flora
Big Mama Flora

After an hour and half visit, we left, eager to hear of any news. Catharine promised to email updates and send pictures. Like everything else so far in this process, we had to be patient and wait.

Lucky for us we didn’t have to wait too long. We got an email two days later that Flora was in labour! I can’t explain how excited we all were. I emailed our family and friends and I called my mom with the news. We could hardly wait to hear more. How about you?

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Corrections:

Two corrections from my last post “Breeders, Breeds and Panic. Oh My!”

  • Braefield Goldens are not ‘white’ but a pale golden colour, and some breeders will refer to them as ‘cream-coloured’ Goldens.
  • Also, no breeder can guarantee that a pup will not have any genetic faults or health problems. The parents are tested throughly for any health issues before they breed them, and this can help reduce the incidence of future problems.

Breeds, Breeders and Panic. Oh my!

I have no idea why I’m on a Wizard of Oz theme for my post titles, but I am. For a soon-to-be new puppy owner, saying yes to a dog is a big decision. Recently, a friend told me how he compared his dog to his two-year old niece; both need a lot of care and attention. BUT unlike his dog, his two-year old niece will grow-up, become independent and eventually leave! In other words a dog = big commitment.

So what’s next? You have to decide on the right breed for your family and lifestyle. You would think this would be exciting and easy, but it wasn’t exactly easy when you throw kids and a husband into the decision-making mix. Of course there are many factors to consider when selecting a breed like size and temperament to name a few. My family’s requirements were simple but vastly diverse. I wanted a smallish, non-shedding, cute dog. They wanted a big ‘real’ dog (no toy poodles!) that can play catch, fetch and run. Hum, one of these things is not like the other.

Research

The obvious place to start your research is to hit the Internet and that’s what my boys did. I choose to send out a bunch of “OMG what did I just say yes to?” panic emails asking friends for advice and suggestions.

If you start an online search, a great place to start is the Canadian Kennel Club. You’ll find lots of information about pure breeds, and listings of reputable breeders by province. The Internet can also show you what breeds may not be suitable for your family. For example, my younger son was lobbying hard for a Husky, until we watched a video on YouTube entitled Warning About Huskies. While huskies are beautiful and can be great family dogs, they are very strong-willed and require an experienced dog owner. And that’s not me.

My research approach was a little different, and less digital to start. After I received reassuring replies to my panic emails, I talked to many friends and asked a lot of questions.

First stop, life-long dog-owner and friend, Jen. We went for a walk in High Park with her sweet Martha, a Golden. (You can see where this is heading right?) During our walk, I pointed to every dog we came across. What dog is that? Tell me about that dog. And Jen always had an answer. But guess who stole the show? Yup, Martha the Golden Retriever. I didn’t even know she was a Golden Retriever because she’s not golden but white! Yes, I have a big learning curve people.

Shortly after our walk, while I continued to ask other friends about their dogs, I had Martha over to meet the rest of my family. She got 3 yeas, and a maybe. Majority rules! In addition to the Internet, your best bet when it comes to making a final decision is to talk to dog-owners. Go to a dog park and watch dogs play and talk to their owners. You will get a lot of good and practical advice, and probably fall in love too! With a dog, I mean. After spending about a month researching and some lively debates, we settled on the Golden Retriever and chose Martha’s breeder, Braefield Golden Retrievers.

Reputable Breeders

After conducting a non-scientific survey with my dog-owning friends, here is a list of what to consider when looking for a reputable breeder:

  • A reputable breeder will ‘interview’ potential owners because they care about where their puppies are going. These breeders do their job as a labour of love, and are not just in it for the money.
  • You too should meet and interview the breeder. A few friends visited 2-3 breeders before settling on one. If they are willing to answer all your questions and not rush you out the door, it’s a good sign. In our case, we had to first fill-out an online survey and then met with the breeder in person.
  • Be sure to also meet both the mother and father of the pups and get a sense of their temperament.
  • All my friends chose a breeder that had their puppies and dogs in a home environment. If the breeder uses kennels, visit the kennels to be sure they are clean, and the dogs are well tended to.
  • Find a breeder that is registered with the Canadian Kennel Club. This helps to ensure CKC breeding rules and regulations are followed. A good breeder can tell you the lineage of the pups, and guarantee against potential hip or eye issues for example.
  • And as tempting as it may be, DO NOT purchase a puppy or dog from Kijiji or similar sites. These pups or dogs may come from a puppy mill, and you have no way of knowing if your dog will develop health or behavioral issues. If you haven’t seen the “GoDaddy” controversial Superbowl commercial, you should take a look at how cruel it is to sell pups over the Internet. The commercial has since been pulled due to the outrage it created all over Twitter.

Rescue Dogs

You can also find the right dog by going to rescue shelters. Like reputable breeders, there will be an interview process, and a good shelter will get to know you and your family and find the best dog to match your lifestyle.

My friend Margaret’s beagle-husky mix, Babette, is a rescue dog from Toronto Animal Services. Babette was about four years old when she was adopted and is now a happy 8 year old!

Here are some of the ‘pros’ of choosing a rescue dog:

  • An unwanted dog is forever grateful for the home you have given them
  • Shelters provide ‘head to tail’ service, including neutering the dog if this hasn’t been done
  • Rescue dogs cost considerably less then going through a breeder

A drawback to a rescue dog is that you can never be sure of the dog’s background and whether there was any abuse that may affect their behaviour.

The Toronto Humane Society has a foster-parents program to help socialize dogs, or help them recover after a surgery before they are put up for adoption. That’s how my friend Deborah got her German Sheppard, Maverick. Initially her foster-parenting was supposed to be a two-week gig, but once Maverick started to improve and gain weight, Deborah and her husband couldn’t let him go and adopted him.

I promised photos… and here is the first! This is the gorgeous Maverick, also known as Maverick the Wonder Dog. Look at that happy face!

Maverick
Maverick the Wonder Dog

In conclusion… 

So my family didn’t settle on the small, non-shedding dog I thought I wanted. But Goldens are really cute, and loyal and loving. I’m also told that they’re easy to train! Really, how hard can this be?