the puppy files: chosing the perfect breed

benji

Thanks so much for all your encouraging comments from the first post in The Puppy Files (Are We Ready?). It is amazingly exciting to be getting ready for our new family member. I know this is going to cause some controversy — and disappoint some of you — so let me get it out of the way. After a great deal of deliberation and debate, we have decided to get our puppy from a breeder, not a shelter. I know a great many friends who have found awesome pets through shelters, and I have personally supported many through the years. But knowing that we were looking for a “forever” pet and that we had a toddler in the house lead us towards this decision.

First, we did a ton of reseplace on dog breeds that are recommended for families. A few good resources I found were: Martha Stewart’s Dog Breeds: Good With Children and WebMd’s Choosing The Best Dog Breed For Your Family.

Secondly, we came up with a wish list of traits.
1. Smallish. Or rather, bigger than a cat but smaller than our daughter (who currently about 35 lbs).
2. Non-shedding. I have been known to sneeze a bit too much after hugging furry animal, and admittedly, we don’t vacuum as much as we should.
3. Smart, social and hopefully, easy going. We have lots of little people around our house, all the time. Shy won’t work.
4. Under 6 months old. Like humans, much of a dog’s personality is determined by his early development. Plus, the whole puppy experience is one we don’t want to miss out on.

After some exhaustive reseplace (including stopping nearly every dog walker we saw in our neighborhood and drilling them about their dog’s origins), we decided on a Labradoodle (an Australian Labradoodle mini, to be exact). A “designer” mixed breed that is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, Labradoodles were originally bred in the ‘80s in Australia to create service dogs for people with allergies. Their ancestors were poodles and Labradors, but now they are their own sophisticated breed, complete with traits, enthusiasts and breed snobs. (You may recall that Obamas were considering a Labradoodle before deciding on Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog.) They also kinda look like Benji, the dog of my childhood dreams. (I know Benji was probably a terrier mix.. but I digress.)

labradoodle
Once we narrowed our sights on the type of dog we wanted, we started seplaceing local shelters to see if similar ones ever came up. We scoured Petfinder. In our area (Southern New Jersey), puppies in shelters are rather rare –they go fast. Most of the dogs we saw were larger dogs (Labs, rottweilers, and pit bulls are the most common — all which could be awesome pets, but are not right for our home and small child).

Then, I thought I hit gold when I found a shelter in our area that specializes in placing homeless Labradoodles. Perhaps having a puppy didn’t matter so much after all and they could help us find a dog in a need of a home? After digging around on their site I discovered a showstopper: Unfortunately, the shelter doesn’t place dogs into homes with children under five years old. It’s understandable – having a young tot and a dog that may have special needs is not something many families can undertake. We were back to square one. Time to start reseplaceing breeders. — Angela M.

Do you have a dog breed you have a soft spot for? I’d love to hear about it!

Previously on the Puppy Files
After Losing Our Dear Cat, We Ask: Time For a Puppy?
Coming up next: What To Look For From A Dog Breeder

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the puppy files: after losing our dear cat, we ask, is it time for a dog?

newcat

This is the first in a series of personal posts chronicling the arrival of a new dog in our home. After doing some reseplace on living with pets and kids, I realized there wasn’t a ton of useful, honest information out there. I hope you’ll enjoy them and find them useful.

Farfalle was an exceptional cat. Everyone who met him agreed. Not one of those cats that hid from you, but rather, he was always close by – curled in laps, perched on shoulders, happily not squirming in our young daughter’s arms. Friends always remarked that his warm nature was more dog than cat like.

He died quite unexpectedly a few months ago from feline leukemia. It was a heartbreakingly sad process to go through. He was under a year old and was born with the illness, unbeknownst to us when we got him. Losing him left a big vacancy in our home.

Immediately we realized that our family was not complete without a pet. Shortly thereafter, the puppy pangs started. After being a cat owner for nearly 20 years (Prior to Farfalle, there was another great feline soul in my life, who lived to the ripe old age 17), I was suddenly wondering: Is it time for a dog? During my single, apartment-dwelling urban years, a cat was the natural companion. Now that I’m part of a suburban-living family unit, it seems time to make the transition from feline companion to dog parent.

Admittedly, it’s been many, many years since either my husband or I lived with a dog, so this is not a decision we’ve taken lightly. True, we grew up with dogs, but pet ownership has changed a lot in the past 20 years. Gone are the days when you train your puppy by covering your floor with newspaper or simply put the dog in the back yard to do his “business.” Now you are encouraged to crate train your puppy, socialize him with doggy playdates, and of course take him for long walks in rain or shine. We are ready to commit to all that, and more. Here are few of the things that helped us decided we were ready for a puppy.

1. We live in a house with a fenced in yard.

2. One of us has a flexible schedule, so the puppy wouldn’t be alone for long hours during the day.

3. Our daughter loves animals and we want to raise her to be respectful and kind to them.

4. We are active people. We like being outside, taking road trips and exploring nature. A dog will, too!

5. We’re responsible – emotionally and financially – and able to commit to caring for another living creature for the rest of its (hopefully long) life.

Once we decided that a dog was in our future, the next step was to do some reseplace on dog breeds to help us get a dog whose temperament would match ours.

– Angela M.

Coming up next in The Puppy Files: Finding The Perfect Breed For Our Family

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wrestling over wreaths: fresh, DIY or etsy?

We haven’t even consumed all of our Thanksgiving leftovers, and I’m already feeling like we’re behind in our holiday decorating. I think the first order of business is to find a wreath for our front door (which happens to be pale blue, fyi). I’m torn between buying a fresh one — there are a ton at Home Depot — or going a more crafty route. Someday, I’ll make my own wreath — I’ve seen a ton of great how-tos online — but this year I’m short on time. Etsy is calling my name.

Here are some that have caught my eye.
wreath2
Maine wreath, $60. Covered in moss with a tiny moose. Reminds me of our summer vacation.

wreath3
This is the one our nearly-4-year old wants. Quelle surprise. It’s made of peppermint sticks and lollipops. $70

wreath4
Modern Felt Mistletoe, $80, is elegant.

wreath1
Fresh Eucalyptus and noble, would look great on door. Would it smell nice? For $90, I’d hope so.

Do you have a wreath on your door? Any advice when buying a fresh one? Or hanging a crafty number? — Angela M.

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test drive: singer heavy duty sewing machine

singermachinelyonhalloween

I learned how to sew on a Singer when I was seven or eight. Not just any Singer though — a before there was electricity Singer treadle machine — that my mother wisely purchased, thinking that I was too impatient for her Bernina. (She was right, of course, but that’s a whole other post.) When I finally graduated to sewing on her Bernina, I was forever spoiled. So spoiled, that until last month, I never purchased my own sewing machine, fearing that a cheap machine would just be more trouble than it was worth. With Halloween looming and my grandmother’s old machine (not that old, this one is electric) wheezing and snapping threads every couple of inches or so, I decided to look for an interim machine. (I still have my grandmother’s but repair will be slow and costly). Enter the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine. Listed for $132 on Amazon, it boasted a speed of 1,100 stitches a minute. Perfect for the impatient sewer. After sewing two vampire dresses out of slippery, shiny material and making various minor repairs on pillows, curtains and such, I’m sold. The stitch range is basic. No fancy embroidery package. And it’s not the sexiest thing ever but oh is it fast. The one annoyance? The release lever for the foot that I kept knocking into the first day, causing the foot to fall off. But for the intermittent or beginner sewer, it’ll do everything you ask of it and will handle glittery polyesters and satins with the greatest of ease. Although with any luck, I won’t have to deal with any of those until this time next year. — Sarah L.

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post off: what’s your costume plan for halloween?

custume

Have we told how excited we are for Halloween this year? Our three-old daughter is combating the princess storm by dressing as the ONLY female Disney character with a job: Mary Poppins! It’s all about the accessories: hat, umbrella, carpet bag. Not easy, but the payoff will be worth it. Her dad and I will dress as obligatory chimney sweeps and allow her to steal the spotlight. After showing off our duds in the neighborhood parade, we’ll lure trick-or-treaters into a makeshift porchside photo studio to capture their portraits. Last year, Batman fell into our lair. Can’t wait to see who will stumble by this year. What will you be dressed as? — Angela M.

Photo by Chad Hunt

More Halloween costume posts:

What was your favorite costume, ever?

What was your best homemade costume?

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