So you’ve found your dream dog and you’ve managed to get everyone on board with its acquisition and employment. Now, there’s only one hitch in the giddyup. It’s not easy to find a Bedlington Terrier puppy.
It turns out that at one point, Bedlingtons almost disappeared due to Copper Toxicosis of the liver, so today’s breeders are ardently conscientious about blood lines, DNA checks, and strengthening the genetic makeup of the line. The result is that only about two hundred fifty Bedlingtons are born each year while in the same period there are somewhere in the vicinity of ten thousand Lab puppies looking for a home. I began my search by first checking the bona fides of the Bedlington Terrier Club of America, and let me tell you, these folks are serious about the protection and celebration of the lamb dog. From them, I not only learned about the breed’s history and temperament, but also found a list of Club approved breeders.
Part of my obsessive research on the Sunday after the First Sighting included scouring the websites of the BTCA associated breeders in my general vicinity. That didn’t take long. There is only one, a hundred miles away. He would have no puppies until sometime in the summer. I cast a wider net and included all of the West Coast. One litter eight hundred miles away. The West Coast is a really big place. I emailed to ask for information, then I began clicking on every link on the BTCA site. Hurray! A breeder in Michigan who might be willing to send a puppy by air. I completed his online interest form, expressing my plans for the puppy and asking if he thought his dogs would be good candidates for therapy dogs.
I should probably admit to a bias right now. I wanted a girl dog. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but I simply didn’t want to deal with a male therapy dog. I have nothing against boys, completely the contrary. But I just couldn’t mentally get around the image of the eighth grade girl sitting in my office crying her eyes out about whatever crisis she was facing as the dog lolled around on the carpet with his winkie hanging out. Plus I’ve always had girl dogs. Girl dogs, boy cats. That’s just the way it has to be.
The breeders I talked to were very understanding. Does passion for something engender generosity towards others who share your interests? Or does it take a generous person to become passionate about a fuzzy four-legged? Whichever the case, it has been my experience that Bedlington folk will gladly spend hours talking about their dogs, giving advice, providing a sounding board to a newbie.
Within twelve hours I had heard back from both my inquiries. The woman in Portland had committed all of her new puppies, but she did have a little girl from her other dog’s earlier litter. This puppy was now five months old. And the man in Michigan? He had just committed his last puppy to someone in New York. He wanted me to know, though, that he had a very good friend in Texarkana, Texas, a woman with a champion Bedlington who (that?) had given birth to six puppies about a month earlier. He thought it was possible that she had some puppies unclaimed and he forwarded my inquiry to her. Sure enough, within a couple of hours I had an email from the Texarkana woman. She had one little girl still available.
I called the Portland woman, a wonderful, down-to-earth person who talked with me for nearly an hour. She explained that she had planned to keep her five-month-old, but was quickly realizing that five dogs were simply too many for a single woman to take care of. Though she hated to part with her little girl, she felt it was the best choice for both of them. The nice thing, she told me, is that an older puppy is already partly trained and would be over the more demanding stages of puppyhood. Thumbs up for therapy dog potential. Either I could fly up to Portland and pick her up, or the woman would fly down to Monterey to deliver her. This dog was liver.
Bedlingtons come in two colors: liver and blue. The liver start out brown and gradually become light tan. The blue start out charcoal, almost black, and fade to a silvery grey. Both are lovely.
So I call the Texarkana woman. The mother of her litter is a show dog, but also the family pet. About three years earlier she had had a very small litter. The woman and her husband had so enjoyed raising these babies that they decided to have one more litter “before they got too old to keep up.” The puppy was five weeks old. As it turned out, they would be flying to Phoenix, Arizona, just as the puppies reached eight weeks old—the age that they could leave their mom and go to their new homes. She could bring the puppy and, depending on airline restrictions, pop it onto a plane for the short flight to Monterey. She, too, was convinced that Bedlingtons would make terrific therapy dogs. She quickly emailed me a photo of her baby.
That is a face to fall in love with.
My husband and I spent a considerable amount of time talking over the advantages and disadvantages of a five month versus a five week old dog, but it was finally pure emotion that made the choice: I wanted to experience every bit of this puppy raising. I wanted her to be mine. I wanted a tinky puppy. Oh boy, had I ever forgotten just what that means.
But we emailed lovely Jan from Texarkana and sealed the deal. She was thrilled and had the graciousness to tell me she was honored that her little one would have the chance to comfort the distressed. She told the puppy she was “a lucky girl.” Can you get much more supportive than that?
But we were not home free quite yet…