Thursday, October 23, 2008

Head vs. Heart and Itchy Scratchy Collars

This morning I put collars on the puppies for the first time. You can see in one picture what all the puppies were doing -- scratching! Who knew collars were so itchy?! The puppies will not wear their collars all the time because that would be dangerous but when I am home and awake, they will practice their collars.

It is now the most challenging part of raising puppies. First of all, they are active and busy, and this makes more work. They need to have interesting toys and activities, and they play a lot. They eat more and potty more and in all ways are just MORE (including more cute and more fun).

The second reason it is hard is because it is getting close to the time when they leave. It is challenging to pour yourself into something and then have it all end so suddenly. And when that something is the creation and nurturing of lives, it is even more tender and hard to have it all end.

The third reason it is hard is because it is time to make matches, and this is what I want to address today. I have talked before about how I make matches but I want to write some more about that process.

After nearly eights weeks of not enough sleep, not enough “self-care” as Liz pointed out, and the anticipatory grief that is a natural part of this process, my emotions are often raw. At the same time, I have to keep a clear and objective head about me so I can make the hard decisions that need to be made. The emotional part of me does not always get along so well with the logical part!

Sometimes people express a preference for a puppy or for certain markings, or express that they do not want a certain puppy because of markings or some other personal preference. The logical side of me thinks this is understandable and perfectly okay. But the emotional side has a whole different reaction!

My emotional reaction to an expression of puppy preference is outrage at the rejection of one or more of my precious, perfect, wonderful babies -- remember that picking one or two means NOT picking others. The follow-up to that is to worry if I decide to place another puppy with that person about whether the puppy is really wanted, and then my emotions sail down roads that are not productive to any of us. This is the time of raising a litter when I have to keep a steady hold of my emotions, and try hard to let the logical side of me prevail. Raising a litter well is hard on the heart, as I have said before...

The litter is lovely but only a few puppies will be designated as “show” puppies. This does not mean the others are inferior but rather it means that certain puppies are viewed as more easily able to finish a championship. This is a litter of strong competition for that designation – in another litter one of the puppies we designate as “non-show” could easily have been pick of the litter.

The number of show puppies is based on the number of show homes I have selected, assuming that the quality is there in the puppies, which it is. We may have six show puppies in the litter but I will not place that many so puppies that could have been “show” puppies will go into non-show homes.

So the process for matchmaking is that I must first decide on the “show” puppies. The next step is for me to decide which of those I will keep. I will then decide which show puppy goes to which show home. Megan is taking a show girl, and she hopes it will be Rosebud but knows it is possible that she will be offered her other choice. I will then make decisions about which puppies go into the remaining homes. I have ideas already of which puppies I think will make good matches, but I cannot say for sure until the process of evaluation is completed.

The evaluation process is not likely to be done until November 1. Tomorrow we will do the formal evaluation with an experienced person here in Montana. We will videotape the puppies during that process and make DVD’s, which will be sent out to 2-3 people for review; the goal of these reviews is to gather opinions about the show puppies. I will take all the feedback and then make the decisions that need to be made based on input and my own observations over the past eight weeks.

All of the puppies are wonderful, and I appreciate how well Terri from Portland described that in her guest post to the Blog. The sorrow of having the puppies leave is eased by having them joyfully welcomed into their new families, and so I appreciate the patience and trust of the new owners who are currently waiting like kids at Christmas/birthday to find out who they are getting.

I took these pictures this morning after putting on those terrible itchy collars. Ledger is the one in blue who is scratching and Dawson is scratching at his orange Harley collar. Kinsey is peacefully falling asleep, and Darby is playing with the toy. In the picture of Lolo you can see both of her eyes, and that the left one is smaller but I actually think she is starting to look better. Don't forget to double-click on the picture to enlarge it. Rosebud is trying to train her ears to stand up -- she is in the hot pink color, which suits her personality. Two puppies are arguing about which one should get the purple collar. Finally, there is a close-up of Dawson and a picture of Puppy Central.

Your continued interest and support is appreciated -- thanks for visiting us and have a delightful day free of irritating itches!


  1. M-A,

    It's clear that your commitment to all the puppies is very heart-felt. It sounds like a very difficult process to match puppies with homes, and certainly it sounds difficult to have to say goodbye to any one of the puppies, let alone 6 of them! I think all of the puppies are just beautiful, and all the homes that receive one of them will be truly blessed, regardless of which one you pick for them. I believe, too, that your keen sense of these puppies will result in matches better than the new puppy families could make for themselves--not having the experience and knowledge of each individual puppy that you have.

    I hope you are able to find comfort in knowing that all the puppies will be heartily welcomed, with open hearts and hands, into their new homes. Thank you for giving us all a glimpse of what this process is like for you, and how truly difficult it is. You will be in my prayers as you are making your decisions.


  2. My heart also goes out to the human and feline puppy nannies. This must be hard on them, too! M-A, remember what we alsways tell parents in family meetings, "You will get to the right decision, and you will know it when you do." Trust the process.

  3. For those of you anxiously waiting to know which puppy will be coming home with you, what I can pass on--having just gone through this--is trust Mary-Ann!

    I just brought home a puppy from another litter, for various reasons I was given the choice between three of the girls, the breeder of this litter had made a recommendation of which puppy of the three she felt was the best choice for me.

    Having only had photos to look at and a handful of conversations about the three individuals' personalities, when I got there to meet them I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in a very long time. I easily narrowed it down to two, but choosing between them was excruciating to say the least.

    In the end I chose the one who the breeder recommended, even though I liked the looks of the other one better. (Which when you really have only had photos to go by, it's hard to get past that, you get attached to one puppy by looks only. And especially in the case of Mary-Ann's litter which has been so fabulously documented photographically, it's hard not to fall for one face or the other-or all of them for individual reasons.)

    In the end, I am so glad I trusted the breeder and chose the puppy she recommended. I have no regrets what so ever, and even though this puppy (Ochoco-named after an Oregon mountain range!) has more white than I prefer, I have totally come to love her looks and her winning personality just seals the deal, and she suits me to a "T".

    So again, trust Mary-Ann, she knows her puppies intimately, and having met them, all I can say is they are all precious. And to you Mary-Ann, I want you to know whom ever you choose for me I will be more than delighted with and will treasure with all my heart. I trust you implicitly.

    Terri in Portland with Ochoco and ??? (it's exciting to think who will be the and!)

  4. Dear Mary-Ann,

    All I can say is Ditto to what Brin wrote.

    Will we get to see the videos too?

    Get a good night's sleep & know you are so respected because of who you are.

    God Bless,