Thursday, October 2, 2008

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match!

If I had to pick one word to describe the puppies right now, it would be "scamper". I am so struck by how fast they go from barely walking to scampering. The puppies move quickly and with confidence now. They do little spins and hops, and they jump up and on each other. They are so small and compact, and it is surprising to see how agile they have become.

The puppies have become more expressive, and we are hearing more little "ruff"s when they are excited. They are a waggy little group, and it seems like they wag their tails more than previous litters at this age. Their teeth are sharp and they know how to use them! Visitors are advised to wear long pants and shoes. And their fur is growing, making them look more fluffy than sleek. It is a delightful age!

I mostly live in denial that I will have to ever part with them. Imagine being told that you must choose one of those you love to be the Special One, and all the rest of those dear to your heart will go to be with others. There is sorrow for those who will be sent away, and guilt for selecting one and not another. But I have yet to have a litter that did not involve having to say good-bye, and so today I wanted to briefly share the matchmaking process that is involved in placing puppies with new homes.
The first part is the "get to know you" stage. I think I am pretty good at assessing people simply through developing a relationship, and so I like to email and learn about people, what they value, what they want and so on. I do ask a few questions but mostly I am trying to just get a sense of who a prospective puppy parent is, and whether we will be a good match. Since I will remain involved with the puppy throughout his/her life, it really is matching people and also people/puppy.

As I learn about the people, their lives and what they hope for in a dog, I am also assessing the puppies. I am watching the emerging personalities, how the puppies respond to different things, their energy levels, their confidence or insecurities, and so on. I want to make a good match between families and puppies because that will help ensure that everyone -- and especially the puppies -- are happy. While I absolutely feel a commitment to the people who get a puppy, my larger commitment and responsibility is to the puppies and I take this very seriously.

It is helpful for me to know what the goals and expectations are for a new dog. For example, in the last litter we had a wonderful couple who wanted a companion for their active lifestyle but did not plan to do any advanced training. One puppy was a little more on the independent side, and would not need that close bond that comes from the level of training I like to do. I matched the more independent puppy with the couple who wanted a companion and it has worked out very well. Another puppy, less independent and with a bigger desire to please, went to a couple who wanted to compete in performance events; that has also been a good match.

It is hard to put into words how this is all done, but I would say it is a matter of knowing the personalities involved -- human and canine -- and also the goals for the puppy, and putting the pieces together. It is also a matter of assessing what kind of people/homes will allow me to sleep well at night, and making sure to send puppies to those kinds of homes. It doesn't mean that someone I do not select is a bad home, but rather that another breeder with different values and priorities is a better choice.

Although placing puppies is hard, I will say that placing a puppy in the right home is also a special kind of joy -- it is rare that we get to make people so happy that they beam through the phone or email! I got that from Jonn earlier this week -- it is a good feeling that helps make up for the sadness of the good-byes.

I am having fun with Terri's camera! The puppies met two more people yesterday, as you can see in the pictures. Heidi and Abby came up to visit, and Ledger made sure to thank Abby as you can see in the one picture. Pine cones and water bottles are really interesting to the puppies and make for fun toys. I thought you might like to see what they do when I show up at the whelping box and so that is the picture of the welcoming committee. Lolo and Halo are asleep together in another picture, and we have close-ups of which puppies?

Have a great day and make sure to scamper at least once -- it looks like fun!


  1. Thank you for the glimpse into the matchmaking process. While it must be hard to say goodbye to the puppies, it must be pretty fun to bring such a delightful gift to someone else when you place a puppy with a family. Your dedication to the puppies is unquestionable! Ok, now for a stab at naming the puppies (from the top): the most handsome and photogenic Ledger; her royal highness Madison; and the sweet, loving Kinsey.

    Hope everyone has a great day!

  2. Everyone needs to get in their car, train, plane and come see these puppies. My heart was full of puppy love after leaving and I cant wait to hopefully be invited back...Often!!


  3. The photo of Lola and Halo sleeping just melted my heart . . . I think I am developing an addiction to this blog, as I cannot wait to see the new pictures everyday. It is also nice to hear Mary-Ann's process of matchmaking. I am struck by the intention and the depth with which she uses to make these significant and complex decisions. It is again, the 'joy and the sorrow, always together.'


    Liz A.
    Urbana, IL

  4. I can attest to Mary-Ann's great ability to match pups and people! When the B litter (Halo's litter)was born, I was a frequent visitor who dreamed of what it would be like to have a new pup to join me and my other Berner, Simon. I worked VERY hard to not lose my heart to any particular pup, or at least to not let it show so I wouldn't be jinxed! But, I always was drawn to "Boo". The competition was fierce ("Boo" was Galen's favorite too!), and it was finally down to 2 pups and 2 people, and "Boo" and I were in that group. I was stunned when Mary-Ann asked if I wanted "Boo", who has been Bella ever since. So, as I read about Megan's match with Rosebud, I had the joy of reliving my matching with Bella. And also, as I read of Zack's death and thought about Lisa and her family, I revisited my own grief over the loss of Simon at the beginning of this summer. As they say, there are no coincidences, and this wisdom holds in puppy matches too!

  5. Here we go again...those Beautiful individual close-up photos of the pups! Help..developing an addiction...I've been hooked from the second blog...oh the smell of puppy breath - but, alas, only in my dreams this time. time...if the time is right & there is a "match", right Mary-Ann?

    My sincere condolences to Lisa and her family over the loss of Zack. I know there are no words to help with the pain.

  6. Mary-Ann -
    I wanted to ask you how did the offering of water to the pups go?

    Also, if the puppies have their sharp teeth, how does Halo tolerate the nursing?? ouch...


  7. Close-ups...

    I think its Ledger, Madison and Kinsey