Well the time has come for puppies to go to their new homes. Deciding which pup goes where has been an on-going process since birth. I have been taking copious notes, evaluating each at home, in training, in new situations, in the car, meeting new people and dogs, and doing my best to figure out what kind of home would most enjoy and help maximize the potential of each puppy.
While there is much intellectual processing going on here, the other factor that I believe to be critical is the heart. While I know connection can be developed and strengthened, it certainly makes bonding and working with a puppy a lot easier if there is that spark right from the start. And aren’t we all hoping for that spark?
And so I have been doing my best to work with each home to make sure that as many components as possible in their prospective new family member are there from the get go: the drives that matter for the work to be done, the structure required to stand up to the tasks over the long term, the temperament to blossom in the lifestyle they will lead, and that little tug at the heart to make the whole process that much more joyful.
The first decision I had to make was which puppy I was going to keep. Once that became clear, it was much easier to move forward with the placement process. Since I knew without a doubt that I was going to keep a female, I let Snap (formerly Cooper) go to the home he unquestioningly matched a little younger than the rest. He is now well settled in, locally, with a wonderful family where he will be doing agility and obedience, spending his summers at the cottage, and otherwise being loved and spoiled.
Next I had to decide which of the three girls I was going to keep. Because I will be doing both herding work and agility at a competitive level, and also because I am looking for a bitch with breeding potential, structure was important to me. Raven had the best structure, with Wren following close behind. Lark’s structure is more designed for four-on-the-floor work, like her brother Griff. This narrowed down my choice to the first two.
From there I had a really, really hard time choosing. Wren certainly stole my heart with her wiggling antics and flying leaps of joy. A very emotionally excitable puppy, she is super duper fun to train. She throws herself into everything she does with great enthusiasm, even if that means sometimes forgetting exactly what it is she is supposed to be doing! This is a dog who will work with all her heart. That said, she is also going to be a challenging dog to train, and likely also to live with.
Raven’s toy and food drives are also quite good, although not as intense as Wren’s. Personality wise, she is a serious, no-nonesense little pup. Quieter and initially less active than her sisters, I at times worried that she might not have the stamina to do what I want. As she has matured, this concern has gone away. She now has no trouble keeping up with everyone and is often the last one standing, I suspect due to the efficiency with which she dispenses her energy. As my breeding mentor pointed out, sometimes calm is the result of confidence; a lack needing to respond to every stimulus. I think that indeed is the case with Raven.
Both pups had strong pluses, and equal (but different) minuses, with respects to what I was looking for. So how was I to chose? While I knew either would have made me just as happy, I made my final decision based on three additional factors.
First, as a breeding prospect, I thought Raven was stronger. Why? Because she’s calmer and more steady. While the sport world is clamouring for more Wrens, to be perfectly frank there aren’t that many homes out there who really need or can make the most of such dogs. The result is often considerable frustration on the part of all parties, and I am speaking from experience. As such, as a breeder I believe I should be producing dogs that are a little more practical: easy to train and easy to live with. Indeed, the mark of a good border collie is a solid off switch and the ability to be calm when there is no work to be done.
Second, since I couldn’t decide who to keep, I asked myself who would be harder to say goodbye to. The answer was immediately clear: Raven. Why? Who knows? It’s just what my heart was saying loud and clear. The answer actually surprised me, but I have long since learned that my heart has its own mysterious wisdom that is ignored at my peril.
Finally, Raven made it clear that she had no intention of leaving. From a very young age, this pup has been quietly and softly saying “Ah-hem. I am The One.” And from the moment I decided to agree with her, she left the pack of puppies and not looked back. While they tear around the living room, she sits quietly at the gate to the kitchen, waiting to join me at my desk while I work. She alway has eyes for me, and is more keen to be with the adults than her sibling, even though the big dogs completely ignore her.
And so, there you have it. My choice is made. Or rather, it made itself. Raven will be here to stay, and the others are now free to go. In turn, my puppy homes are coming to pick their pups. Today, Wren left for her new life in Quebec, where she will be working full-time on a very large sheep farm along side a wonderful young farmer and two other border collies. A perfect outlet for all her frenetic energy and a home I am thrilled to place her in. And yes, I cried when I said goodbye.
The next puppy leaves on Tuesday. After that I will have one puppy remaining and, when I know who it is, I will begin searching for that last perfect home.