When we arrived at the PWD Kennels a few days later, I got out of the car first and was greeted by a large-ish Spaniel-type, or maybe a very stocky standard-Poodle-ish-type dog with no hesitation or malice in his approach. Good looking dog. I put out my hand in that open, palm-side down, vulnerable way of greeting dogs that basically invited him to ‘bite me’.
And he did!!
I wasn’t sure that I had been bitten at first. I looked at my hand and there were definite tooth marks, like dents on the skin. Sorta-like a taste more than a bite. (PWDs are a ‘mouthy’ breed, it turns out, and they often quasi-bite-without-chomping to get a ‘feel’ of a person. I didn’t know that at the time.).
I looked at him. He looked at me. And I wondered whether I should proceed any further. Still no real threat was being made but, on the other hand, no ground was being given either. He seemed to be saying, “Had enough? Or do you need me to tell you again?”
I stood there undecided for a bit and then his owner showed up. “Bogart! Come here!” He did as he was told and Sal and I went to shake hands and begin the interrogation that would or would not result in our being judged worthy. Bogart was the reigning sire at the kennel and had a vested interest in who came and went. Obviously, I thought, his vote had already been cast. Judging from the scowl on the owners’ face, she was leaning in the same direction.
So, as I always do when meeting strangers, I let Sal go first. I call it ‘putting our best face forward’. People allow her into their space much more readily than they do me and I then get to follow quietly behind. This was definitely one of those times.
We went through the heavy grilling and, of course, I let Sally answer just about everything. It was not hard to do that since the woman barely acknowledged my presence (don’t forget previous phone call mentioned below)and I got the distinct impression that she preferred dogs to people and female people over the male ones. I have experienced that kind of ‘cool’ initial reception before from women.
I wonder if it is me?
While we underwent the being-judged process, the kennel-keeper introduced numerous dogs into the house although she was fairly diligent in keeping it to one at a time. Bogart was kenneled before any of the other dogs were brought in. The one exception was later, when we went outside and she let a few of the females run around fetching balls and things. I remained, for the most part, mute although I confess to tentatively offering up a bit of light charm in the form of self-deprecating humour. If I get anywhere with women like that, I have to deprecate like hell.
It is not that hard, actually I have plenty of material.
But I also noticed that I was not the only mute one. None of the dogs barked. Well, not that I could hear, anyway. Occasionally I would see a dog make a barking-like head gesture but no noise resulted and the dog went about it’s business of ball-chasing so I wasn’t sure.
Seems they had been de-barked. Show-dog breeders de-bark their dogs by having their larynx lasered. It is illegal in some countries. Not Canada. They do this so that the dog shows (and the hotels they frequent) are not a riot of barking dogs. It didn’t seem like a very nice thing to do but, of course, I levied no criticism of the breeder lest she rip me a new orifice and we had to go home dog-less. But I didn’t like it. Neither did Sally.
We were introduced to Megan-the-mute and a love bond formed between her and Sal faster than five-minute epoxy.
“If you want, you can take Megan for awhile, say a month, and see if you get along. If you do, we’ll make it work. If you don’t, she has a home here. And, remember this: she will always have a home here. Do not ever think of getting rid of Megan if your life circumstances should require it. Bring her back!”
It is pretty clear that the breeder loves her dogs, larynx-removing and too much kennel time notwithstanding. They are fed well, treated well and shown as much love and attention as anyone can sanely do with a dozen or so dogs, few of which can be left alone with each other (due to sibling rivalry, unchecked mating, naturally occurring fights that might lead to show-damage, etc.) But being a breeder is not the same thing as being a dog owner. Dog owners make a dog a member of the family.
My worst fear.
We had not gone more than ten minutes down the road with Megan in the back seat when Sally decided that Meg ‘must be lonely back there’ and climbed into the backseat with her so that more snuggling, licking and hugging could take place. Megan even did some of that as well.
It took me a lot longer forty years ago to get Sal snuggling and hugging in the back seat than ten minutes, I can assure you. A year, actually, as I recall. Seemed like an eternity at the time.
About an hour into our trip home Sally said to me (from the backseat) with an authority in her voice that was not to be dismissed, “We are not going to take her back! This is working out just fine. Nothing needs reviewing. Don’t even think about it!”
And so the trial period ended.