Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A New Friend

My husband and I adopted a dog last weekend. We've always had pets. Mostly we've had cats, but we've had a dog before--a sweet, lively Australian Shepherd named "Cindy," that we loved for thirteen years. It has taken us five years to be ready to adopt a dog again.

As anyone who has shared a home with both dogs and cats can tell you, while you adore both, the relationship with the two species is quite different. Your cats honor you with their attention, while your dog lets you know the honor is all his. Dogs live for you, trying their best to please you, whether they succeed or not. If you've never had a dog, read Marley and Me. You'll get the idea. Losing a dog leaves a big hole in your life, and it takes time to be ready to have another dog.

But now we are ready. We decided to go with a shelter dog--a mutt. I searched online, and found that a local shelter, Furry Feet Rescue, had a litter of eight Australian Shepherd mix puppies who were ready to find homes. Another Aussie. It sounded great. Cindy was a great dog. She had the personality and energy of a puppy nearly all her life. Her joie de vivre was infectious. And she was smart enough to train her people to understand her. She mostly left our cats alone, and they tolerated each other well.  Our memories of life with Cindy made us want another Aussie.

Then we saw the litter. Oh my. They were such an adorable bunch of puppies. Playing, chewing, tugging on each other with seemingly boundless energy until they simply exhausted each other and fell into a heap for a nap. Nothing could be cuter than a pile of puppies. My husband picked one he liked best, I had another. So we decided to go home and think about it.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if such a high-energy dog was best for us. We're not as young as we were when we got Cindy. And we have more cats than we did when we had her. We were concerned that our clowder would find the rough play of an Aussie puppy too difficult to bear.

That's when another dog went up on the rescue's website. This was a Newfoundland mix pup. I didn't know anything about "Newfies," as they are often called, so I looked them up on the internet. The first thing I saw was that they can be enormous. That sounds like a dog that will need a lot of space and a lot of exercise. The next thing I read was that they can make good "apartment" dogs. What? How can those two go together?

It turns out that the Newfie, while being smart and extremely affectionate, is not big on exercise. They can be content with a little play, a short walk, and then spend the rest of the day relaxing at their people's feet. This sounded like a dog that was more our speed. We're both writers, so we spend much of our time in more quiet pursuits. In this light, a hyperactive puppy seemed impractical. A couch potato seemed just right.

Newfies can also be good watch dogs, although they are gentle by nature. They are great with children. "Nana," the dog/guardian of the Darling children in Peter Pan, was a Newfie. And if you ever need a fishing net dragged ashore, or fall overboard on an ocean voyage, well, a Newfie is the only dog for you. They have often been credited with saving scores of people at a time from shipwrecks. One is credited with saving Napoleon who fell overboard in rough seas during his escape from Elba.

I contacted Furry Feet Rescue and asked to see the Newfie and our two favorites among the Aussies again. After that, it was simple. The Newfie picked us. We brought him home last night.

The cats are very wary of this new beast in the house, but he's indifferent to them--much more interested in lying at our feet after a relatively short period of gentle play than in chasing cats. We hope for a swift detente among them.

Now we're back in the business of housetraining, and bonding with a puppy. Of course, he is a mix with nobody-knows-what kind of dog. This will have an impact on how he grows and develops. It already appears that he will be on the smaller side for his breed--which might be good. But he is definitely more of a couch potato--even at his young age.

We've named him Mr. Darcy. It's a great name for a tall, dark, and handsome fellow, don't you think? (I guess I'll tell him when he wakes up.)


  1. Oh, Carol! That MY Dog!!! I've wanted a Newfie for decades!!! It must have been in high school when they became my obsession. I mean OBSESSION! Ever since I heard that they rescued people and jumped out of helicopters, I've wanted that dog. The Gentle Giant! A furry rug with a pulse! And what a brilliant dog, with such good taste as to pick you! Keep posting pictures of this dapper dude, and let me know how it all goes!

  2. We're having a great time with him, Terry. We've already started to teach him to come and to sit. He's highly motivated by doggie treats, so he ought to be easy to train.