Sunday, January 24, 2021

Bringing home Harvey

Meet Harvey! 

We welcomed "Nugget 4" into our family in early December, 2020. It wasn't a straight road to getting him, nor exactly what I'd planned. (But then what about 2020 was according to plan?! Some of the story is here. More of it to come.) There was a part of me, right up until the week before we brought him home, that thought it might not happen, that something would fall through. But then the day came to bring him home! I had thought I would be overcome with emotions and start crying immediately when I had him in my arms, but instead all I could think was: "He's so tiny!! Is this really an 8 week old puppy?!" I'd grown so used to our adult-sized Captain.

The first few days were a whirlwind re-entry into puppy life. Of course, since Captain (our first Nugget/baby/Vizsla), we've brought two human nuggets into this world, so I'm no stranger to sleep deprivation. But it was a change to get used to those middle of the night wake-ups again. Luckily, by about night 3 or 4, Harvey was sleeping through the night. 

Of course, we fell in love with him instantly (how could you not?!), and that has only grown as we've spent more time with him and gotten to know him even better.

Like Captain, Harvey's great at training, cuddling, and has been a relatively quick learn on the potty training. UNLIKE Captain, he seems totally un-phased by things like vacuums (he chases mine and thinks its a toy/some kind of loud animal to pounce on) and balloons (he grabbed the Nuggets' birthday balloons by the strings and pranced proudly around with them...OMG Captain would NEVER!), and is very persistent. Captain used to always wait for a gentle pat on the couch and then word "OK" as invitation to join us on the couch...meanwhile, Harvey at barely 11 weeks was taking a running start from the dining room into the living room to attempt a jump on the couch. If he didn't quite make it, he'd turn right around and try again... and if one of us picked him up off the couch and placed him on his bed, he'd do the same run when we weren't looking. Harvey also seems to be a bit more mischievous and more of a "problem solver" (or maker??! lol) than Captain - he will try to figure out how to open doors and get into things. He also seems to be more of a chewer than Captain was, although it's entirely possible I've glazed over that teething portion of Captain's training/early days. (I will always maintain Captain was absolutely perfect of course, and never did anything wrong...except for that time he stole a tray of banana butterscotch cupcakes...or chewed up a DVD... or chewed a hole in our couch...or how he was always trying to get that Shiba Inu he hated...or when he ate the girls' gingerbread house...or when he decided to suddenly become a counter surfer in his last year of life...But other than that he was perfect 😜). Joking aside, of course we take the puppy days and mischief in stride, as they are just learning...and are so darn cute they can get away with just about anything! 

Comparatively, life was also just easier when Captain was a puppy. There was less to monitor...fewer things to chew, no children's toys or antique furniture, no carpet that was personally mine, and ok fewer decorative pillows and wicker baskets (much to my husband's dismay these days) 😜. But of course we're so happy to have a Vizsla back in the house (the wiggles! I love the wiggles so much!!), a reminder of Captain, but also to have Harvey for his own unique personality and crazy little ball of energy self to join in new adventures with us. Harvey has seamlessly rolled right into our lives and us into his. 

Here are some "Harvey highlights" that bring a smile to my face!  

  • Whenever anyone is showering he'll run into the bathroom, put his paws up on the tub and poke his head around the shower curtain to try and catch water droplets. Sometimes he'll inch his way along the side of the tub from the front to the back. It's insanely adorable. He always ends up with a wet head, and our toes always get licked when we get out.
  • I mentioned on our Facebook page - he'll go sit in our backyard and just sniff and stare, so I call him our little Ferdinand, like the calm bull in the classic children's story.
  • He's a little billy goat on our coaches! (As you will have noticed if you do follow the Facebook page...not that I'm plugging for a follow or anything.😜)
  • Sometimes he will sit at the top of the stairs and drop a toy down them. This is both adorable, because he then wants to chase it, and (as a mother) terrifying, because he then wants to chase it.
  • He makes the CUTEST sound when he yawns. It's sort of like a cat raaaa-aaaaarrr sound, but not, and I'll just have to get it on video. He also makes adorable little groans and moans. 
  • If I'm taking too long to get ready for bed, he'll come find me and whine at me, and then kind of grunt when he lays down in his kennel like "took you long enough." 😂
  • Every morning he gives me the best, most wiggly, greeting. 
  • (Also...shh...but.... I think I'm his favorite! Don't tell anyone.😜)

And as for the name- Harvey's Lake is a much-beloved spot we go to in Vermont. A relaxing, rustic little get-away amidst the beautiful rolling mountains of the Northern Kingdom. We were able to share a trip there with Captain. Captain and I ran around the lake together (and then I threw up...because I was pregnant with Nugget 3). I hope to be able to take Harvey up to his namesake soon! (Just without the throwing up this time.) 

We look forward to sharing our adventures with Harvey! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Finding a Vizsla Breeder

Finding a breeder can feel like a daunting task. The first time I contacted Vizsla breeders, about 12 years ago, we were planning a move across the country to San Francisco, California. I think I contacted a handful of West Coast breeders, most with wait times in the 4-8 month range. It was definitely a harder process in our second search (now back on the East coast), for a number of reasons. First and foremost, everyone and their mother seems to want a puppy right now while we're all spending more time at home due to COVID, so wait times and lists are long and breeders are overwhelmed with contacts. Second, having recently lost Captain, I was more worried and approached things more cautiously.

I am no expert on Vizsla breeders. But given the high demand and interest, and our recent re-introduction to the process, I wanted to share a few quick points on finding a breeder:

  • First, and maybe most importantly, try to get connected with those who are really in the know. If you are in the US, contacting your local regional Vizsla club for reputable breeder recommendations is a good way to do this. International friends, if you have other recommendations for groups that make referrals, please feel free to post in the comments!
  • Check for recommendations and referrals. 
  • Do your research. If the breeder has a website or social media page, check what content they put on it. If they don't, do extra reference checking.
  • Make sure the breeder commits to health screenings and can provide information on the sire and the dam. 
  • Have a conversation with the breeder. Have multiple! They should be willing to take questions, and should also be asking you questions. 
This is not an exhaustive list of "do's" (nor is below an exhaustive list of "don'ts") - you will find more by googling 'finding a reputable breeder' or a similar search and asking the experts. Please do these searches! Plan to read a lot before you contact people. In addition to some basic points above, here's a short list of some red flags to note:
  • The breeder doesn't ask you questions. (Most should also want you to complete a questionnaire, too)
  • Always has puppies available (Red flag for a puppy mill- please do not support these!) 
  • Has something on a webpage like "Vizslas are for everyone!" (I think we can all agree they are beautiful dogs, but their personalities and energy levels ARE NOT suited for everyone).
  • Puppies go home <8 weeks old (Too young! They need that mama bonding time!)
  • Breeder not willing to show you where puppies are kept 

Starting with Vizsla regional clubs was not something I did in my first search, but I found it really helpful this second time around. Since we are in PA now, I actually contacted several regional clubs, and found the individual in our area to be a wonderful resource and offer up a lot of referrals. Especially if you are trying to find a puppy during 2020-2021, you may have to contact a lot of people, and you will also need to be vigilant and check in fairly regularly. 

There's a lot of due diligence to ensuring you've found a responsible breeder. Ideally you can visit, but this isn't always possible (especially during COVID). In addition to ensuring you find a responsible breeder, I also think it's important to find a breeder that aligns with or at least understands your reasons for wanting a dog. Finding a breeder is also a matching process. For us, we were seeking a companion for our adventures. (Note: this doesn't mean breed standards aren't important, though, as these relate to health). This was true back when we got Captain, and it's still true today. But of course, these days, we have those "other nuggets" (aka, the human children) along for the ride, too. For some breeders, I found this was an instant no-go. And I get it. Kids distract from the sole focus on the puppy and make things harder. Nugget 4 will not have the same life as Nugget 1, and I already feel guilty about that. (Though I personally don't think it's impossible to take care of a puppy when you have young kids in the house too. Hard, crazy-  yes. But impossible - no. I look at a puppy like another child, and some crazy people have multiple of those!) I also think having a pet helps those human nuggets to learn to be caring and responsible. You just have to be extra committed. And not care about sleeping ;)

A brief note on contracts: Here is a link to an AKC article that I thought contained some useful info:  The short of it is that contracts should indicate that both parents have been health tested, puppies are healthy, and the contract should include some sort of return clause, particularly for health concerns early on. Connect with your referrals to get more expert advice on contracts.  

Read on for more, including our most recent ventures to finding Nugget 4... (and if you're new here, a little background: Nugget 1= Captain - the best dog ever. Period. No arguments. My first Vizsla and frequently referred to as really, really, ridiculously good looking. Also incredibly sweet. Nuggets 2 and 3 are humans, they interrupted our sole focus on Nugget 1, and may make occasional appearances here, but don't worry, this isn't a parenting blog. Hahaha. Definitely not. Subsequent Nuggets to be named in order. There will be no more human nuggets - we play man-to-man defense in our house against those suckers - so 4 through 101 are to be Vizslas, obviously ;) ) 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Tribute Video

It's been one month since Captain left us. Of course, I miss him. Every day. Our lives have carried on, as they have had to, but as one of my friends put it: grief is not linear. 

It was not easy to put together a video with the lofty goal of summarizing his life. I'm sure there are hundreds more versions I could have made, including entirely different, but still favorite, photos of moments with him. But no matter what version I'd make, this song would have to be the backdrop.  It was running in my mind during our last weeks with Captain, especially the line, "Love of mine..." 

I hope it makes you smile (and not just cry), and remember your Vizsla, if you have lost one, with happy memories. I used to collect quotes, and I've always liked this one: "You find you are made up of bits and pieces of all who have touched your life, and you are more because of it, and you would be less if they had not touched you." Captain, most certainly, made me more.

A goodbye is never really the end for true friends or loves. So, til later, Captain. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

O Captain! My Captain!

The same post title as one we began with, nearly twelve years ago. A line from the movie Dead Poet’s Society, from a poem by Walt Whitman. And one that pretty much in many ways sums up the despair of losing a great Captain. I will forever have enormous love, respect, and awe for my dog Captain.