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The puppy who chose us

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Sometimes you choose a dog—and sometimes the dog chooses you. Even if you didn't think you wanted another dog. And especially not a puppy.

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For three months last fall and winter, the kitchen of our Warrenville home was Puppy World—home to Pearl and her three puppies. The family overcame fleas, intestinal worms and mange before reaching adoptability. Two of the puppies and their mother quickly found their forever homes through Chicagoland Dog Rescue. And, bowing to the inevitable, I let the third become the newest member of our family.

Given that intense experience with newborn puppy care and developmental training needs, why adopt Perdita the beaglet? We had done the puppy thing years before: a 12-week-old chow-Jack Russell puppy when our two sons were young. Amber had seemed enough for about six years, until Crystal, a fully adult spaniel-retriever-who-knows-what-mix dog needed a new home, giving us our pair of “semiprecious” dogs. Then Amber died and Crystal was getting old.

My husband, the same man who "didn't know if he’d like a dog" before we got Amber, didn't want to be without a dog when Crystal died. We decided to adopt 22-month-old Seiki from her former family, and her young-adulthood attracted me as much as her physical resemblance to our beloved chow-terrier. I’d done the puppy-raising drill with Amber, and didn't feel the need to do that again. Seiki had most of her basic training in place but she also retained a youthful spirit that would allow her to bond with us more (and more quickly) than the older-when-we-got-her Crystal had.

Yes, shibas have an independent spirit and their own agenda. But I doubt whether a shiba exists who can boast of a more dedicated human family than our Seiki. She has responded to our affection with reciprocal love and trust. And requests for more attention or treats, of course.

Then we started fostering for Chicagoland Dog Rescue. I finally had a life that would allow dog fostering: working from home, no little kids, enough room in the house. So, when a friend posted that 2 dogs needed a foster family right now last summer, I said OK. One 3-ish-yr-old Samoyed and similar-aged Rottweiler-mix later, I decided that smaller—and maybe younger—dogs would be easier to handle. I was doomed.

Angus and Duncan, 2 male black-and-tan hound puppies, seemed safe enough. Between an adult size projected at 60+ lb and my absolute preference for girl dogs, I knew I could love them and still happily hand them along to new families. Unfortunately, my husband bonded with them anyway. He (reluctantly!) agreed that we couldn't keep either of them but mourned their adoptions, even though Angus went to friends.

So then I took on a beagle with three newborn puppies, to help Bill get over losing the previous pups. Pearl had plenty of problems, but she was a good mother, and even the smallest of her three puppies gained weight quickly. By the time all three were trundling around our kitchen, they’d charmed us completely. And Bill had renewed his lobbying for raising a dog from a pup. Again.

Pearl's litter had only one girl, Perdita, one of the beagly-looking ones. I had never imagined having a beagle. But Dita had one huge factor in her favor: she is a world-class snuggler! Perdita snuggles better than just about any dog I've ever known. Even as a wiggly little pup, she would settle down on a lap or in the crook of an arm for a good long nap.

So I gave in to Bill's desires and Perdita's hopes and we welcomed our loving, crazy, troublemaker of a beagle with open arms. Seiki still has reservations (whenever the puppy gets too rambunctious) but she's very tolerant. And now that we have a new foster family, the two permanent residents can at least unite in bafflement about yet another set of puppies!

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