Canine Capers and Furry Friendship for Life

It was part of the deal, as we persuaded our ten year old that moving miles away from her school, her best friends and all the goodness she'd come to love growing up in our small coastal Wellington town, would actually be a great idea. The promise of a puppy provided the hook we needed to paint a very tempting picture. Pretty much all her young life she's been besotted with animals and if it was left to her, she'd wake up to a menagerie everyday.

So it was amidst the full swing of cottage renovations and a stream of friends and family visitors over our first summer months here that we stumbled into puppy adoption. Why is it that these things are often thrown in the mix during some of the most chaotic times of our life? I pretty much put it down to naivety, we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into so we just lept in. Well to be honest, for me it was more a tentative shuffle, being cohersed and persuaded by the big and little in the family, I had always been a bit cooler on the dog loving side of life.

That was until we discovered Ben, or Chief as he'd been temporarily named by the lovely SPCA staff. He and his gorgeous little sister stole my heart at first sight. I swore we were only going to stop by for a look but I think I knew we'd be heading back the next day after 'sleeping on it' to sign the papers and prepare our home for a new member of the family.
We chose little Ben, more formally known these days as Benson Chief, and I'm sure I don't have to explain why. His mum is a Border Collie but we we're not sure of his dad, although we're guessing it was a rendezvous with a German Shepard that resulted in the cute little litter. Ben came to us when he was 8 weeks old, a babe who needed love, play and training. The first few weeks were a total shock to the system. We were advised to have him inside at night for the first few months and while we didn't have a crate for him, we had a little spare room where we knew he'd be safe and warm. From day one his 'colourful' character shone through.

Each night our peaceful dream time was shattered every couple of hours by crying, scratching and yapping. We were in 'newborn land' again, sleep deprived and totally unsure of what we were doing as parents, only this time there was no nine months to prepare! Both big and little are sound sleepers, a freight train could pretty much crash into our living room and they might just manage a snuffle. So there's no prizes for guessing who took the night shift...playing tough love, trying to predict if the cries were genuine toilet requests, taking him outside for him to quietly take a seat and stare at me wide-eyed and ready to play. Then being woken again an hour before dawn, more crying - this time being greeted with puppy poo in the corner of his 'bedroom' - exhausting!

I'm not going to lie, the cute fluffy factor wore off pretty quick over this time and on a number of occasions I was ready to bundle him up and return him, surrendering defeat. Many others with puppy experience will know this pain but I'm happy to say that some good advice from our puppy pre-school teacher provided the break-through we needed. Ben after all, has the makings of a working dog... he's not built to be inside, shut away from the sights and sounds of the outdoors. He's made of the tough stuff and when we trialed night one in his kennel (an ex-playhouse with peaked roof, windows and porch to boot), I woke after my first full night sleep in what seemed like a decade!
With the progression from babyhood behind us and Ben no doubt sighing with relief that we finally got the message, he's growing into a fine little pooch and I can't imagine what life was like without him.

And this is despite the fact that for an SPCA rescue pup, he's actually cost us a pretty penny. It was a freak accident, in fact hardly even an event, just a little jump while playing with Holly that sent him screaming and yelping like I'd never heard before. Limping and then crying in my arms on a Friday afternoon, we had no idea what had happened. So it was down with the paint brushes and off on a speedy trip to the vet. An X-ray soon revealed a tiny but potentially devastating break in the growth plate of his hind knee. Specialised surgery was required followed by almost 6 weeks of the leg bound in a splint.
He handled it well, managing to adapt to the 'wooden peg leg' quickly and never missing a chance for a walk at the park or play at the beach.

With his injury behind him, most days are spent now keeping guard of the house, although it's not people intruders that push his alert button (being a place of numerous paying guests, he's been taught to greet people rather than scare them off) - it's the feathered visitor variety that keeps him entertained. Prowling, then breaking into a sprint sending flocks of Sparrows, Pigeons, Kingfishers and Tui fleeing with Ben pouncing on the shadows they leave behind them.

While he's a pup and still learning the ultimate guest-friendly behavior, he seems to be forming his own little fan club. Visitors to the Orchard Cottage are wonderfully understanding when I explain we're still training him to keep his distance from the cottage and keeping the gates shut will help instill this message. Dog loving lodgers find his sweet nature and floppy ears hard to resist and soon enough he's taking the role of bush-walking chaperone, sunset watching friend or best play mate to giggling kiddies.

It's a hound happy home here that's for sure and we love that our guests also enjoy his puppy presence. The whole thing has surprised me really. I truly never thought I would cherish, so dearly the companionship of this little guy. He's single-handedly put me in the dog loving category of life!


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