With our sweet Billie out of the picture, we were back to where we'd started. My teenager, being a teenager, assumed the melodramatic worst. We would never find a puppy now and she would go off to college in less than two years without having had one. With a few more decades under my belt, I knew this was just a temporary set-back; there were plenty of other pups out there. But, after our bad experience, first with the unscrupulous breeder and then with our chosen dog's health issues, I was wary.
I began round two by looking at other breeders' sites. Many of them seemed legit — but, I reminded myself, so did the one we had originally found. A more pragmatic issue was that none of the sites had puppies for sale right now; they were all taking deposits on litters due later this spring, summer and fall. Clearly a delay of weeks or months was not going to go over well with the offspring.
Next, I tried some "Puppies for Sale" sites. There were several mini dachshunds available in neighboring states: Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut. Prices were all over the board, with the fancier new varieties ("Piebald" or "English Cream," anyone?) going for $1,600 and more.
Who says you can't put a pricetag on love? Umm ... me, that would me.
I opted for more traditional coats (and costs), and quickly sent out several email inquiries.
The breeders must have thought I was a highly functioning neurotic or an undercover agent for the ASPCA (or both). Having been through our earlier misadventure, I gave each breeder the third degree. "How many dogs do you own?" "How many litters each year?" "Are they raised in your home?" "Have they been handled by children?" "What about their parents' health?" "Do you have past customers I can speak with?" "Are you listed with the Better Business Bureau?" "Have you been inspected?" "Are you licensed?" "Can we visit the puppy in your home?"
One thing I had learned was that many of the people who run puppy mills will offer to deliver your new dog to you. This is positioned as convenient customer service, but is actually a ploy to prevent you from seeing their operation.
Paranoia aside, I found a family in Maine that sounded ideal. They had several dogs (but not 72!), some rescues, only bred one litter a year. We were welcome to come up and see the puppies for ourselves. Our new dog would come with a clean bill of health from a vet, all of his first round of shots and microchipped. He was seven weeks old and we could pick him up the following Saturday.
"Not Saturday!" moaned my daughter. (Needless to say, I expected a more positive response to my announcement that I had found another puppy for us.) She would miss the pick-up because of her all-day job at the stable. She suggested that we bring the new pup there on our way home. Besides the fact that a stable detour would have added an hour to our trip, I didn't think that twenty horses and at least as many squealing girls was the most serene way to introduce the tiny dog to his new life.
She would simply have to wait until after work.
My husband and I left early that morning, and within a few hours we were back again with the new member of the family. He sat calmly on my lap while we were in the car and cautiously explored his new surroundings once we got home. Soon, with the help of a few treats and a few squeaky toys, his more energetic side emerged. He's a mini long-haired dachshund, and his coat is what is known as dappled wild boar. His tail has rings like a raccoon. He is tiny (we're guessing 4 or 5 pounds now; eventually he'll top off at 10 or so). He is beautiful.
At 4:30 on the dot, my daughter pulled into our driveway. I was upstairs at the time, but it was impossible to miss the moment when she met the (her!) puppy.
"Ooooohhhhh!" she squealed, about two octaves higher than her natural voice. "Ohmigod, he's sooooooo cuuuuuute!"
It's been a long time since I've heard that level of enthusiastic joy from my often sullen, always blasé teen. But, I wasn't all that surprised.
After all, there was a puppy in da house.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.