Of Muppets, Doodles, and High Maintenance Familes

I guffawed at designer dogs until I felt the 13-year restraints of my husband loosening about the idea of having a dog. I did my research. Between my husband and myself, we were not easy to please. Dog attributes: loyal, but able to be independent; low dander and no shedding; lower maintenance personality; not a “pee-er”; not too big and not too small; an “Omega dog” as we came to think of them: the kind of dog who knew who was boss.

I started at the Humane Society. I found some great dogs there – but none that put together all of the pieces that would work for us. My husband, ever the protector of our wood floors, even went with me once. Frankly, I would have adopted any number of them, but Doug was more realistic and less easily fooled by big brown eyes and a wagging tail.

For a while I was quite in love with the Portugese Water dogs. I ran into 2 of them at the Fremont Market here in Seattle on beautiful spring day resting under a tree. Their owners looked like Olympic athletes – that should have tipped me off right away. “Yeah, they do need a bit of exercise, but they are fabulous dogs!” Dang. I looked down at my belly – moving right along.

Secretly, I had been researching Golden doodles and Labradoodles for months. While the kids were at school, I had called every breeder in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Still, my husband was not on board. My daughters, 13 and 15 at the time, kept asking for a dog and I tried valiantly to keep them at bay. “Pop still says no.” I would remind them.

My eldest wanted a lap dog – the kind you can sit on your lap and carry into the grocery store if you are sneaky. My youngest wanted a rowdy red retriever she could run with. She had fallen in love with one of her grade school friends’ dogs, Pippy, when she was younger. That dog made me crazy, always jumping and sliding across their wood floors. “Shvee” they would yell at her in Hebrew. Pretty soon we all got good at it.” Sh-vee, Pippy, Sh-vee!!” Somehow using Hebrew made her more endearing. I knew the girls would fall in love with any puppy that came through our door.

One weekend I took the 6-hour drive to see my dad and brother in a darling little town in Northern Idaho: Moscow. It’s a rolling hills meets pine tree mountain; earth-mama-meets “dirty old farm guy” kinda town. It is the only “blue” part of Idaho. I know it is a weird combination. That is what makes it particularly charming. I would move there in a heart beat for their food co-op which makes the most heavenly pesto rolls you have ever put your lips around. Maybe the only ones.

But, I digress. It’s a 6-hour drive to Moscow from Seattle, which runs through 3 possible Doodle breeders. I kid you not. The population through those 250 miles is probably around 250 – that’s one person per cubic mile –  and there are 3 doodle breeders. If you count up the dogs, there may actually be more doodles than people! Let’s pray there is no revolution.

Fortunately, one of the breeders is about 5 miles from the farm house where I was raised near Spangle, WA.

So, feeling like Santa Claus going rogue without the Mrs., I made the trek to Abracadoodles http://www.abracadoodle.com/, the transformed cow farm the Suksdorfs lived in when I was a kid. I was met by a nice man and about 3 happy dogs. Cindy, the owner, was on vacation. I could hear some older dogs barking behind the house. He yelled at the top of his lungs, “Now shut up back there right now, King, we’ll have no more of that racket!” The noise all died off within seconds. (I was already charmed.) We walked up to a classic old red barn and slid the door open. Inside there were several stalls which were inhabited with litters of labradoodles, kairn doodles, standard, mini and medium golden doodles and even double doodles. The man explained to me that the younger ones lived in the basement of the house with their moms warmed by heat lamps and lots of attention until they were ready to be weaned.

He led me past some scuffling in pens to the recent litter of medium-sized Golden Doodles. There was about a baker’s dozen of them and they all came running to the wire fence that held them in. Yipping and barking, jumping at the wire, they clearly knew the man. He went into their cage and they herded around him, jumping on his legs and chewing on his jeans and shoe strings. THIS is why I wanted a dog. OMG – there is NOTHING – nothing – near so sweet as a happy puppy. He picked a couple of them up by the scruff of the neck. They were so adorable I thought I might take 2 or 3 of them right there.

But wait: I needed to stay married. I came back to reality.

I checked them out thoroughly. I was attracted to a couple of shyer ones in the back. Some of the puppies were desperate to be held, yipping “pick me, pick me!” I had already gotten good at dog language. There were two in the back. One was a small redder female, the runt of the litter, who seemed very docile and sweet. The other with probably the largest bodied male. He already looked fat and distracted with all of the carrying on of the other dogs. His fur was not super curly, and he was a big love when you held him. “What’s his name?”

Suffice it to say, I cut them a deposit check, knowing I might get thrown out of the house when I returned home. But, about six weeks later, my youngest daughter and I drove across the state again and this time, we came home with a darling, non-shedding, super sweet, muppet-like puppy we call Barley. In truth, I think we are designer people. The dog just happened to be the perfect one for us.

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Here are a few photos of him and some of his litter. The last one is of him now (11 months.)

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