The (long) Story of Choosing Savanna

I mentioned this in my last post, and if you follow me on Instagram you definitely don't need reminding, but Jared and I got a puppy! I'll try to keep this post short and introductory (ha, I'm reading through this after I wrote it and it's NOT short!), because I could probably just go on and write a 10-page essay about our sweet girl if I didn't limit myself. I could also load this post with pictures, but I'll just leave my favorite one there at the top and invite you to go check out her instagram account (yes that's a thing--not even embarrassed) if you want to see more.

During our first year or two of marriage, Jared wasn't too keen on the idea of pets (except for some reason he wanted a bird or a ferret that he could train to follow him everywhere and sit on his shoulder? he's awesome). I grew up with my family's dog, Brinley, and during my last year of high school and throughout my college years she was a particularly special part of my life. These are the years when I really discovered the mountains that had been in my backyard my whole life, and several times a week I would take Brinley with me on my favorite hike up Dry Canyon. Alone time in the mountains is a really good form of therapy for me, but I probably wouldn't have felt as comfortable going without my dog. She was my buddy and my security, and she came with Jared and I on all our hikes when we were dating and engaged, including the one when he proposed.

Grenada will probably be a time of my life that I always look back on with mixed feelings. I'll always be grateful for our 2 years there because of the gratitude it's given me for so many areas of life I took for granted before, but there will also be a bit of PTSD about it for a good long while. My first year in Grenada was hard. Easily the hardest year of my life. I was out of my element, severely depressed for much of it, and lonely. So, so lonely. I'd never lived so far from family before, and even though Jared was with me, in many ways he wasn't (med school, man).

During our second year in Grenada we began to see some light at the end of the tunnel and would often talk about what we were excited to have back in our lives when we'd move back to America. We began tossing around the idea of getting a dog. I was looking forward to having more wide open spaces back in my life, and hopefully having access to trails and other pretty places I could visit while Jared was working at the hospital. However, I knew that if I felt uncomfortable hiking by myself in my mountainous backyard in Utah, I'd probably feel uncomfortable hiking by myself somewhere unfamiliar. I also knew that getting out in nature and exercising more would be a nonnegotiable if I wanted to be really happy in our new home. I never felt comfortable going out on my own in Grenada, so I never exercised (probably a good thing--a girl was hit and killed, then dragged off, right by our house while she was going for a run while we were there). So anyway, a hiking buddy and a friend to have with me when Jared had to pull long day and night shifts sounded pretty appealing. It was hard for Jared to leave me alone for long hours every day in Grenada, so he liked the idea as well.

Fast forward to our summer in Utah. We spent our anniversary week house- and dog-sitting for my aunt's sister Erin. She has a great dane and a golden doodle, and we also had our cousin's golden doodle for the last two days. Jared and I were both really excited to do this over our anniversary because (a) we'd be getting paid instead of forking out money for a getaway, and (b) we could "test drive" having a dog together and see how we liked it. Although there were aspects of having dogs for a week that were inconvenient--they woke us up early and we couldn't be away for long periods of time--we recognized that those inconveniences aren't necessarily bad things, and the good outweighed them. We loved taking Penny on a hike up American Fork canyon with us, and it was fun to have some dogs to cuddle when we watched movies. We found out that we'd been placed in Atlanta while we were dog sitting, and I unexpectedly had a meltdown over it (Grenada PTSD giving me an anxiety attack). I went out to the backyard and sat on the grass and cried for a few minutes, and the dogs, sensing that something was wrong, came and nuzzled into my arms. Dogs really are amazing animals, and I was able to calm down quickly and put a smile back on.

So anyway, that's when we started to research breeds and look for our dog. I'd never seen Jared so enthusiastic about puppies, but because he'd been wary about getting a dog for so long I knew we'd be looking for something very specific. I think the relationship between dogs and babies/young children can be so sweet. Since we want to start our family very soon, our top priority was to pick a breed that has a good reputation for being baby friendly and mellow. We also wanted a dog that would be happy in a smallish apartment for the first few years of its life.

I someday want to get a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever because they're soooo pretty and athletic! But they can be high energy, difficult to find (no breeders in Utah), and extremely expensive. Jared initially wanted a Sheltie because one of our neighbors in Grenada had one and she was so well behaved and always walked at a perfect heel. I prefer a more outdoorsy dog though, and Jared said that as long as I could train another dog to be as well-behaved and loyal as that dog was to her owner, we could pick a different breed. The only other breed that really jumped out at me was golden doodles. I knew from experience that they were friendly, cuddly, and tend to be well behaved. My aunt and uncle breed golden doodles, so they were a great source of knowledge about the breed. Jared and I were also really attached to the idea of a dog that sheds minimally or not at all. However, Jared doesn't really like the look of curly-haired dogs and, again, golden doodles were out of our budget. We didn't want to spend much on the initial cost of buying a dog, but Jared wasn't excited about the idea of getting a rescue dog either. I respected his desire for a dog with papers and a known background, and his desire to own the dog from the time it was a tiny puppy.

Jared started looking online at puppies for sale in Utah and in Atlanta. We wanted to get an idea of what type of pup we could expect in our price range and see if anything jumped out at us. We didn't mention to our families that we were looking, because in the past whenever we mentioned thinking about getting a dog they had been dismissive of the idea and didn't take it seriously. Plus we didn't really expect to get a pup until after we moved. For some reason most of the dogs Jared was seeing for sale in Georgia at our price range were either pit bulls or great pyrenees mixes. Not the best small apartment dogs.

One evening Jared was looking on the KSL classifieds. He brought his laptop over to show me something interesting he had just found. It was an advertisement for two puppies in Kamas, UT. The dad was white standard poodle and the mom was a golden retriever/yellow lab mix. Even more interesting, the adorable puppies had flat coats (which Jared likes) and were selling for about a third of the cost that golden doodles and labradoodles typically sell for. We both loved their enormous floppy ears. I sent my golden-doodle-breeding aunt an email to ask what she though of them. She was suspicious of the non-curly coat, but suggested we go look at them with some questions for the seller and see what we thought. We got in touch with the seller, who informed us that there was only one pup left for sale, and we made an appointment to come see the puppy the next day.

At this point I knew I'd have to talk to my mom. We would be living at my parents' house for another month and knew that if there was any chance we'd be bringing home a puppy during that time, we'd have to ask permission first. I had a plan for what I was going to tell her (basically everything you've read in this blog post so far) before informing her that we were going to look at a puppy we might be interested in. I was nervous because I knew her opinion on us getting a puppy (babies > puppies) and because I knew it would come across as a not-well-thought-out impulse buy since she didn't know we'd been looking for a while. I hoped for a good hour to talk to her about it in the morning, but when I woke up she was off at an appointment, and she didn't get back until five minutes before we had to leave for a tubing excursion with Grenada friends. And right as she walked in the door, Jared got an email saying that his USMLE Step I score had been released. Top priority immediately became checking the score of this future-determining test. He did very well and everyone was excited, but I was only able to squeeze in a nervous-sounding 60-second version of "could we bring a puppy home if we like what we see today?" before we had to rush out. My mom gave her permission, but I could tell she didn't think we were really serious about it.

We were on cloud 9 all morning (all day really). Jared did better than he could've hoped for on his test so our future finally felt secure, we were tubing the Provo River with good friends, and we were about to go look at a puppy. As we floated along we talked about what medical specialties Jared could go into with his high score, and about potential dog names. I joked that we could name her "Emily" if we got this pup, because we'd be buying her on the day Jared found out his USMLE score (MLE...emily...get it?). Jared threw out the name Dixie since we'd be moving to the south, and it felt perfect. We went straight to Kamas after tubing, nervous but excited. The last thing we wanted to do was rush into an impulse decision, but we also knew that the puppy we'd be looking at was the last one available in a litter that seemed to have everything we were looking for at a very reasonable price. We knew we'd probably never come across flat-coated golden labradoodles again during our search, and particularly not within our budget. We withdrew the deposit money from an ATM, just in case.

As we pulled into the long driveway of the address we were given, we saw acres and acres of farmland and dozens of alpacas in front of us. A short woman came out to greet us, smiling, accompanied by a gorgeous white pyrenees and some sort of tiny terrier. Her name was Terrilee, and this was her farm. Would we like to see the puppies? Of course we would. She led us behind her house to a pen of adorable, buff-colored puppies. There were three of them, but one was being saved for her daughter and another had been sold to another family who was in Bear Lake and would be picking him up at the end of the week. The original litter had nine puppies. The mom was smaller than we expected of a golden retriever/labrador mix, which we liked! She was friendly and happy to see us, and clearly she'd had these puppies for long enough that she wasn't feeling too attached anymore. After she greeted us she ran across the farm to go play in a watering hole.

Terri let the puppies out of their pen so we could play with them. They were so sweet and had the funniest scruffy coats! Soft, short fur with wiry long hairs sticking out at random. The puppy we were there to see was lighter than the others, with less of a fluffy coat. She was happy to let us pick her up and play with her, and even when she was playing with the other dogs she'd leave often to come sniff at us and let us pet her. Jared threw a stick and she bounded after it, veering off at the last second to grab a much bigger pine branch on the ground and drag it around. We talked to Terri for nearly an hour, asking lots of questions and talking about farm life. She had been a bit surprised when the puppies were born without curly coats, but not too shocked. When she decided to breed her dog with a poodle, she looked at several studs and bred for temperament rather than looks. The standard poodle she chose was slightly smaller than the others and shockingly gentle, but with more of a wavy than a curly coat. She showed us a picture, and he looked like the sweetest poodle on the planet. She didn't know if the puppies would be hypoallergenic, but she assured us that they would shed less than most other dogs.

Jared and I walked around for a few minutes to talk about whether we wanted her. I didn't want to be the one to sound certain about the first puppy we even went to look at, but Jared said, " I think we should do it." It may have been all the adrenaline from his good test score, but I'm so glad we decided to throw caution to the wind and put down a deposit that afternoon on that alpaca farm! She was everything we were looking for in a puppy and within our price range (I'm sure the breeder would have sold them for twice as much if they had come out curly, since non-shedding is what people usually look for in a dog that's half poodle). The timing couldn't have been better, but I'll talk about that in another post. We picked up our puppy two weeks later, after we'd returned from a trip to Bear Lake with Jared's family. She was the only one left by then, and her ribs were showing. Apparently she lost her appetite when her last sibling was taken home a few days earlier. We snuggled her all the way home, fattened her up, and decided that Savanna would be more fitting for our sweet pup than Dixie. We love our Savanna, and I'll write more posts about her in the future! She keeps me busy busy busy, so one blog post a week is what I'll be shooting for during the next little while.

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