How Can You Part With Them?

Balanced precariously on my left leg like an indecisive crane, I waver with my right foot dangling uncertainly in midair, searching for a clear space in which to descend. There is none. The moment one appears, it’s immediately filled by a streaking, furry black body on the way to somewhere. Meanwhile, a determined set of puppy teeth are tugging at the shoestrings on my stationary foot. The puppies have advanced from cute, cuddly creatures to weapons of mass destruction. Moving through the maelstrom is not easy. They’re everywhere and never still for a moment, like white water rafting through black fur. Just walking across the room is an exercise in agility, balance and infinite patience.

Stalking prey like a panther on the prowl, one will suddenly launch himself like an RPG and land with a resounding thump on his unsuspecting brother who responds with growls and flying feet. Moments later, the battle ends as they double team another brother to remove an old shoe from his jaws. The robust female gets in on the act and lets the boys know ‘bitch’ stands for Boys, I’m Taking Charge Here. She charges across the room like a raging bull and knocks a brother off his paws.

They’re into everything and taking my eyes off them, even for a minute, is an invitation to disaster. Of course they’re smart and adorable and I tell them so shortly before warning them I will wring their smart and adorable furry necks if they remove one more treasured tome from my bookcase with intent to shred and destroy. I don’t mean it, but don’t tell them that.

So two of them dive under my bed and come out with something I didn’t know was under there. Oh, so that’s where that went. Yeah, well, I’ll admit to not being the world’s best housekeeper. Not even close. However, the puppies encourage neatness. Somewhat. I’ve learned to pick up everything within reach of their jaws and move it to higher ground, like the top of the bookcases. They, in turn, have learned to jump up and grab for inviting articles. Good for building hind end muscles. Not so good for the shoes, clothes and magazines they manage to pull down.

If there’s one command that must be firmly embedded in their vocabularies by now, it’s got to be “Leave it!” Generally, they obey, but that doesn’t mean they don’t find something else to ravage seconds later. One of the boys delights on climbing up onto the baby scale so he can look out the window. But I can’t tell how much he weighs because they pulled the arrow off the dial.

I call a halt to the chaos by announcing dessert time. Almost immediately I’m surrounded by a semi-circle of seated, sedate puppies with expectant expressions. They’ve learned treats are only dispensed to polite puppies who sit and wait their turn to get the goodies. Score one for our side.

Over the weeks, I’ve watched them grow from the good old days when their mom did all the work to the present when I’ve inherited the job. I’ve shot pictures of them from week to week, chronicling their growth and proudly showing them off to friends. “Oh, they’re so cute,” they enthuse, “how can you bear to part with them?”

They’re cuddled, fed, loved, groomed and taught basic skills and manners. They’ve developed personalities, become individuals and watching them emerge is an education. They’ve acquired call names, how ever temporary. What’s ahead for them? I wish I could predict. Sure, I’d like to keep them all but that wouldn’t be fair to them and it wouldn’t do much for my sanity either. Being one of the gang seems to bring out the competitiveness in them. But that’s good because they need to have confidence and the ability to stand up for themselves when the occasion demands. As individuals, they’ve snuggled in my arms, licked my face and put pawprints on my heart. One of them is staying. And the rest will go to the best homes possible. How can I bear to part with them? It’s not easy. But I will.

– alice bixler, Bearded Collie Club of America, bcca.us.

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