On 08 August 2007, we decided that we would advertise the fact that we were looking to adopt a dog into our home. We used a forum that appeared to specialise in setting up homes and owners for dogs being fostered and rescued.
The forum seemed to work based on the premise that those who felt they had a suitable home to offer a dog would advertise the fact, and those who were fostering, rescue-kennelling, or wanting to privately rehome their dog, would advertise the dog(s) they were looking to rehome.
To be honest, we weren't really certain what breed of dog we wanted. In fact, breed wasn't really an issue for us. The main criteria was that any dog we take on be leash-trained, healthy, child-friendly, and able to accompany me on my daily walks, which can typically last for up to four hours a day, and with a minimum size of a Border Collie.
We looked through the private rehoming posts and various posts made my rescue organisations, but nothing really stood out for us. It was time for us to send out a beacon. Perhaps the right dog would find us? We composed a post, detailing what we felt we could provide a dog with: long country walks, weekend trips away, constant daily company, and daily walks of up to four hours, over rambling hills.
We also explained what we were looking for. Good health and energy were the main criteria, as I wanted the dog to accompany me on my daily and quite energetically paced walks. I love being out in the fresh air, armed with my camera, enjoying the local scenery.
Shortly after submitting our post, we received a response from a dog foster-carer. She was fostering a ten week old Border Collie bitch, which had been rescued from a working farm. The puppy was, therefore, living with the foster-carer, her three other dogs, and three cats. Would we be interested? Strange, we hadn't seen it advertised anywhere. We later learned that the foster-carer was deliberately holding back the details of the puppy, and with good reason. How many people wouldn't jump at the prospect of a new puppy, if presented with the opportunity? We had already mentioned in our post that we don't have children, and so the carer knew that we were not one of those millions of people who probably purchase a puppy for their children, who then later lose interest in it. The foster-carer did the smart thing, and just waited until she saw the potentially right home for the puppy. Maybe we were that home.
As it happens, the thought of a puppy had never seriously entered our minds. I think we both felt (naively) that puppies don't end up in foster care and rescue centres. All we knew for certain was that we wanted to rescue a dog, and not purchase one from a breeder. It's too hard to justify buying a puppy from a breeder when there are so many dogs around the country in desperate need of loving homes.
After hearing about the puppy we began to realise that, in actual fact, it might be an almost perfect scenario. I am extremely fortunate to work from home and so we can take a puppy on. We don't take on any bad habits or behaviours that have been caused by someone else, and we can train the puppy from a very early age. The more we thought about it, the more appealing the idea became.
After several messages, reading books, web-pages, and talking to other Border Collie owners, we decided that we wanted to proceed, and let the foster-carer know of our decision. A meeting was the then set-up for the 17 August so that she could come and check our home over, all questions could be asked, and we could get to meet the puppy. Let me tell you, those few days of waiting couldn't have seemed to pass any more slowly. We'd seen a couple of photos of the pup, but photos never do justice to a new puppy.
I'm pleased to report that we passed the home-check. The foster-carer has been exceptionally helpful to us throughout the entire process, and we are taking our puppy on the Friday 24 August. We have named her, by the way, as Ellie. Talking of which...
We are not great believers in fate and all that jazz, but there are some things that are often too spooky to ignore. Firstly, what were the chances of us posting on the very morning that the foster-carer happened to look at the new posts in that section and spot us? But then, later she asked whether we'd like to consider a name for her. After all, the dog would need a name whether our home was suitable or not. Out of nowhere, came the name "Ellie". We'd never heard of the name before, and to this moment we have no idea where it came from. So? Well, now it gets weirder.
From the photo of the puppy, it was hard to tell if she was short haired, medium haired, or long-haired. We asked the foster-carer. She believed that the pup was short haired. We did a Google image search for "short haired border collie" and clicked the very first image. "Nice", we thought. But then we saw the name of the dog under the photo. Seriously, what are the chances of us clicking the very the first image, of 14,700 potential images, and that image being a short haired border collie named Ellie? I'm no statistician, but I'd be willing to bet that the chances are pretty slim.
It's easy to look through such situations with rose-coloured glasses of course. However, if you had asked me to describe the character of a puppy that we would have wanted, I would have said something along the lines of:
We want character and spirit. We want a pup that is bold enough to step forth, curious enough to investigate, happy enough to jump about a little, full of energy, and eager to learn.
Ellie, like many puppies perhaps, matches our requirements perfectly. She is so full of spirit and courage. Some puppies sometimes seem a little nervous and weak don't they? Ellie doesn't have that about her at all. It was stunning how quickly she would sit and lie down on a verbal cue for me with a treat being offered, and credit for that must, of course, go to the foster-carer, who has also done a stunning job in toilet-training her and crate-training her. When Ellie visited, she toileted twice, both times she let us know that she wanted to go out by tapping the patio door frame with her paw. Maybe more luck than judgement on her part, but who cares. The point is she let us know.
Don't think however, even for a second, that we think it's going to be plain-sailing. We are both fully aware that it's a puppy, and a very smart and demanding Border Collie puppy at that, and one from a working stock! She's going to need a lot of attention and work. We're ready, and to be perfectly honest with you, we want a dog that demands and responds to a lot of training. We're going to book her in to a local training class on Monday, as spaces are limited. It is this life of training and growing that we intend to continue to write about.