Reality Barks

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Here in our home, where Miniature Pinschers out number the humans, reality may not bite, but it barks –  a lot!  Raising three reactive Min Pins has brought much more noise into our lives than I could ever have imagined.

Barking is definitely one of the hardest challenges we have faced while raising this litter.  When you have multiple dogs, one barking dog can create a domino effect. A “woof” is all it takes to get the party started. Every dog is eager to chime in and let her bark be heard. And it is heard, indeed.

With an uncanny ability to hear a sound from far off in the distance, I believe my Min Pins can hear a leaf falling from a tree ten miles away.

Equal opportunity barkers, my girls will alert me to any suspicious activity happening in our neighborhood.  A plastic bag blowing down the street is cause for concern, as is a squirrel climbing a tree in our backyard. Of course, the loudest sirens are saved for people walking their dogs and the neighbor’s cat who teases the girls with her tantalizingly slow stroll past our front windows.

My Min Pins are always on high alert while standing at their “window on the world”.

With sunset, usually comes peace.  The few hours before bedtime is the calmest and quietest time of day in our house. The girls usually burrow under blankets, even in the summer, and snooze until we announce that it is “bedtime” and herd the crew upstairs to their crates.

Once the girls are tucked away for the night, I am eager to crawl into bed and enjoy the sounds of silence.  If only Bob didn’t snore…

The Bottom Line

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It has been six years since Bob and I embarked on this life-changing journey.  To say it has been a wild and crazy ride would be an understatement!

Do we regret the decision we made to keep the litter together? The answer is a resounding, “No”.  The past six years have been anything but easy.  In fact, they have been the hardest, most trying time of my entire life. But if I could go back and change anything, I would not.

Parenting our Min Pin crew is a full-time job. In the first couple of years, Bob and I said, “What were we thinking?” more times than I can count. What kind of people fly halfway across the country to pick up a litter of puppies? Obviously, we are those kind of people.  Well, it has been a bumpy ride, with extreme turbulence along the way.

The first few months with the puppies were exhausting – we did not get a lot of sleep, but were so elated to finally have them that it didn’t matter.  Aside from our jobs, Bob and I spent every waking moment with the pups.  Having multiple pups under one roof was no easy task, but we managed and believed that the hardest part was behind us.

It was not until the puppies turned five months that we noticed trouble may be brewing. It seemed that all of a sudden, the pups realized that there was a whole world outside of our doors.  The crew began showing signs of what I now know is called reactive behavior.  Reactivity + pack mentality = trouble!!

Bob and I quickly learned that raising three Miniature Pinschers was going to be very different from caring for just one, as we had in the past.  The challenges have been almost insurmountable.  Torrents of tears and fits of frustration have been a common theme, but the sweet sprinkles of happiness and joy have made this difficult situation worthwhile.

As we continue our journey we are certain to experience more failure, but we will also celebrate success.  Sometimes it will seem like two steps forward and four steps back. That has pretty much been the status quo from the beginning.

The bottom line - we love our dogs. They are our world and we couldn’t imagine our lives without them.

For Keeps

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Did you ever want something and get more than you hoped for?  Well, that is exactly what happened to me.  All I wanted was advice on dealing with mouthy puppies, but I got so much more.  In one short afternoon, my life went from trying to find a solution for a minor puppy issue to thinking that we may have to separate our litter.

What were we going to do? What was best for our puppies? After going back and forth, Bob and I still did not have answers to these questions.  It was kind of strange to think that we would even consider taking advice from people we have never even met.  But how could so many people be wrong?

Having had the litter for a couple of weeks now, the realities of life with three puppies was beginning to set in. “Your new puppy will sleep about eighteen hours a day”, stated one of the puppy training books I had recently read.  Well, the author of that book obviously had not based her information on a litter of Miniature Pinschers.  Sleep deprivation was yet another issue we were dealing with since the pups seemed to be awake more often than not.

Bob and I talked for hours on end and made a pro/con list in an attempt to reach a decision. The deck was clearly stacked against us if we based our decision on our pro/con list.  Basically, our “pros” for keeping the pups together included the fact that they were related to our first dog, Twinkie.  Also, we did not want to separate the litter. Our “cons” list was longer: three dogs are more expensive than two, traveling with multiple dogs is difficult,  taking care of three dogs during their geriatric stage could be challenging, and if the information we received was accurate, the puppies could grow up to be aggressive towards one another.  The problem with pro/con lists, in my opinion,  is that I am never able to weigh my decision according to quantity.  One “pro” alone can be far more significant than all of the “cons” together which makes the list useless.

After much discussion, Bob and I made the heartbreaking decision to rehome Malibu. Hoping that we could place her with a family we knew, we began making phone calls.  I  wrote a letter that would be posted at the school where I taught.  How perfect it would  be if a colleague adopted Malibu.  This would allow us to remain in Malibu’s life and always know how she is doing.  Bob also had a co-worker who was considering the possibility of taking Malibu and we were waiting to hear back from him.

Once we had made our “final” decision, Bob and I continued asking each other if we were making the right choice.  We did not seem to be 100% committed to the idea of giving away one of the  pups.  It was time for the puppies to visit their veterinarian again, so we figured that it was a perfect opportunity to get another opinion. In fact, Bob and I decided to let the vet make the decision for us.  We were too emotionally involved and needed the assistance of an impartial individual with experience in such matters.  Basically, we planned to ask the doctor if he believed that our puppies would grow up to become aggressive dogs with the potential to seriously injure or kill one another. His answer to this question would determine whether Malibu would be rehomed, or remain with Aspen and Quest.

Feeling hopeful on the drive to the vet’s office, but also prepared to do what was best for the puppies, Bob and I were anxious to hear the verdict. “Pure silliness”,  is what the vet said when we relayed the negative information we had received about raising litters together.  He discounted the theories regarding the likelihood of serious dog aggression and totally put our minds at ease. Bob and I felt like a weight had been lifted and were ecstatic to learn that our litter would remain together. Whatever the future held, we would deal with it together.

pups at high point

Tip of the Iceberg

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My, what sharp teeth the puppies had! The pups were extremely mouthy, especially Aspen.  She was like a piranha! I know this is typical puppy behavior, but the tops off my hands were soon covered with bite marks. “What happened to your hands?” a student in my class asked.  At a vet appointment, the tech inquired if we had a cat after glancing at my hands. I became extremely self-conscious of how bad my hands looked. Our first Min Pin, Twinkie, was not mouthy at all, so this behavior took me by surprise.

I began to wonder if this mouthy issue was normal.  What do inquiring minds do when they are searching for answers?  Why, they turn to the Internet, of course.  The pups had been in our possession for about a week and a half when I received an unexpected gift, school was cancelled due to a snow day. I was ready to do some research and hopefully find answers to our pressing issue. I spent several hours on my computer hoping to get advice on the mouthy behavior.  I explained our situation so many times that afternoon that I lost count. My scenario described how Bob and I had just acquired three female Min Pin littermates and were seeking advice on how to best handle mouthy puppies. I emailed breeders and trainers, and posted on various dog forums, oblivious to the fact that my picture perfect vision of our little family was about to be shredded into a million pieces.

Responses began arriving so quickly that it was almost as if these faceless, anonymous individuals had been waiting for my emails and posts. As I began reading the emails my hopeful state of mind instantly changed to complete and utter shock. With the exception of a few, the emails were full of doom and gloom.  The mouthy issue was pushed aside by most responders and attention was directed at the fact that we had made a crucial mistake with the purchase of littermates, female littermates.  I was berated for being so clueless and outrage was expressed toward the breeder who sold us the puppies.  Comments included, “He could not be reputable if he was willing to  allow you to purchase more than one puppy”, and “Professional breeders would never sell a litter of puppies to one family.”  Negative feedback kept coming, email after email, painting a bleak picture of how our lives would be should we keep all three puppies.

According to the emails, mouthy behavior was just the tip of the iceberg.  Serious fighting among the dogs was not only probable, but a reality we would have to accept if the litter remained together. Horrific stories of dog violence were told that gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Littermates, particularly females, do not do well together as adult dogs was a common theme among those who wanted to chime in with their two cents. Although none of the responses were positive,  a few attempted to let me down more easily.  Others appeared to take joy in their delivery of such upsetting news.

I was basically told to get my head out of the clouds if I envisioned peaceful neighborhood strolls with my dogs and frolicking dogs playing together in the backyard.  “Sure, you can keep all three pups if you don’t mind living like you are in a military camp”, stated a responder.  A strict and regimented environment was described that focused on keeping the dogs separated at all times and how gates and barriers would be required to prevent the dogs from killing one another.

Now, at this point, many people may point out that you cannot believe everything you read on the Internet.  I did not want to believe any of this negativity, but some of the responders were not so anonymous.  One of my emails had been sent to a well-known dog trainer who was the author of a puppy training book I was currently reading.  After exchanging several emails, her bottom line was that our situation was not likely to turn out well if we were to keep the litter together.

In a few short hours my entire outlook of our lives with the puppies had been dramatically changed.  Excitement over finally bringing the puppies home was cast aside as worry and apprehension set in about what the future may hold.  Devastated, I felt like we were experiencing a cruel twist of fate.  Important, possibly life-altering, decisions had to be made, but I couldn’t even think of parting with any of our pups.

pup family pic

Pack of Puppies

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Our pack of puppies had yet to be named. Bob and I created a list of names weeks earlier and at one point I even joked that we had to take the whole litter because our list was so long. We wanted to give the pups unique names and some of those on our list included Tahoe, Cherokee, Rubicon, and Indy.  The list was narrowed down to three names and now we had to decide which pup would get which name.

pink pups2 pink pups3

pink pups4pink pups1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aspen was the name selected for the red Min Pin.  The larger black and tan Min Pin was named Malibu. Quest was the name given to the smallest member of the pack.  There is significance behind each of the chosen names.  Malibu and Aspen are places that we love and located in our two favorite states, California and Colorado.  Searching for a puppy related to Twinkie, we were dedicated and hopeful while on our journey to find that special dog. We were on a quest, hence the given name.

Since naming our dogs, we have learned that there are other Miniature Pinschers named Aspen and Malibu, but we have yet to meet another dog, of any breed, named Quest.

Home Sweet Home

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Sweet puppy sounds woke us the next morning as our new additions began stirring in the puppy playpen. We carried the pups downstairs to the living room, the designated playroom. Arriving home well past midnight, the puppies were not given much time to explore their new environment.  Now, in the early morning light, they were eager to wander around and play with their new toys.

pups first day -play time

Before picking up the puppies in Oklahoma, I wondered if they would show any signs of separation anxiety once removed from their mother.  Watching them frolic and prance around the room, the puppies did not appear to be missing anyone!  A close-knit pack, the pups stayed close together while playing and when exhaustion set in they curled up in a snug little pile.

pups first day - nap

A few family members were asked to stop by for a visit, but we did not give an explanation for the invitation.  They were certainly not expecting to walk into our home and see a litter of puppies! After recovering from the initial surprise, our relatives took turns holding the pups as we told them about the search for a puppy related to Twinkie and the events that followed.

mom and s meet pups

MomMom and Aunt Sheila

dottie meets pups

Grandmom

Once everyone had left it was just the two of us and our sweet puppies, a perfect little family.

Meeting the Pups

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The moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived – we were about to meet our puppies! With excitement and joy that could  barely be contained, we quickly pulled up and parked next to the truck that held our precious Min Pins.  The breeder and his mother got out of the vehicle and introductions were exchanged.  The breeder opened the truck’s rear door and began handing over the puppies. “They’re ornery”, he declared as he placed the litter, one by one, into our outstretched arms.  Bob and I were overcome with emotion knowing that we were holding pups of Twinkie’s bloodline.

After saying good-bye to the breeder and his mother we brought the pups into the car and stared at them in amazement. They were ours! The puppies seemed to be filled with joy as well. Pouncing on us with pure delight, the pups were eager to shower us with affection.

meeting pups 1meeting pups 7

meeting pups 2

After about fifteen minutes, we secured the pups into the carrier and headed back to the hotel.  We were staying next to the airport and had a couple of hours before we needed to check-in for our flight home.

In the hotel room, it was puppy playtime and Bob was the main attraction!  We did not want to risk any of the puppies falling off of the bed so we spread a comforter out on the floor.  Bravely lowering himself down into the puppy zone, Bob was immediately “attacked” by three energetic Min Pins.  The pups took great pleasure in climbing all over Bob and getting to know the man who would become Daddy.

playing with daddy

playing with daddy2

It was not long before the tiny trio became sleepy and ready for a nap.

meeting pups 3meeting pups 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it was time to get ready for our flight home. Airline regulations stipulate that a carrier may contain only two dogs so we brought two carriers in case the policy was enforced.  Hoping to not have to put one pup alone in a carrier, we were relieved that all three pups were allowed to stay together in the same carrier.

meeting the pups 5

There was a bit of a delay before we were able to board the plane, but the real delay was once we were seated on the plane. Just prior to departure, the pilot announced that a snowstorm in Chicago, our destination, would keep us grounded for an indefinite amount of time.  Although we were on a full size plane, there were only about fifteen  passengers.  Those who fly know what a difference that makes when you are in this type of situation!  Ninety minutes later we were cleared for take-off.  After a brief layover in Chicago, we were back in the air with a plane now filled to capacity.  A huge sigh of relief was exhaled as the plane touched ground in Philadelphia.  The pups had slept since we boarded the plane in Tulsa!

meeting pups 6

The past couple of days had been a whirlwind. Almost midnight, it was time to take our puppies home.

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