Friday, January 2, 2015

Chapter 1. I am born.

Pip, the tiniest of the litter, is the one on the right. Photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

Despite the particulars of the character who inspired her name, Pip is neither an orphan nor a boy. She is named for the main character in Great Expectations, but I'm starting her story as David Copperfield started his, because this seems as good a place as any to begin, on the day Pip was born. I lost my dog Photon last April. She was my perfect birding companion for 16 years. You can't replace your best friends, but eventually I accepted that it was time to start a new chapter in my life.

Photon was a Bichon Frise. I wanted a dog who would be similar in size and temperament, but different enough that I could love her entirely for herself. I read a lot of great things about Havanese dogs, but have been increasingly disturbed by the American Kennel Club, which happily registers dogs (for a fee, of course) with purebred pedigrees, regardless of even the most serious genetic health issues in their bloodlines. I couldn't in good conscience support that in any way. Fortunately, I found the Havana Silk Dog Association of America.Their website explains their history in some depth, noting that "Through the efforts of a dedicated group of American Havanese breeders, who were determined to simply produce a more sound and healthy animal, the Havana Silk Dog reemerged, a breed of Cuban origin that was popular some one hundred fifty years earlier and long thought to be extinct."

I wrote to several breeders, and heard back from two. The closer, in Chicago, turned out to be a good match for me. She didn't have any puppies available right then, but said she was going to breed her dog Jane, a.k.a. CH Hurricane Ridge's Thunder Road Jane, as soon as she went into heat. I was hoping I'd get a puppy in mid-late November, meaning she would be born in September, because I had a long stretch of free time between speaking gigs and trips over the winter. Meanwhile, my husband was hoping the puppy wouldn't be born until winter so the weather would be nicer when we got her. He apparently had more influence than I over whatever cosmic forces affect dogs, because Jane didn't go into heat until November. I heard on November 20 that she had been bred, and was due to deliver puppies around January 1. The sire is CH Berrill Canis Minor's Berry "Buksi."

I got an update after Jane's final prenatal visit that three puppies were in the cooker. Official "puppy watch" began on December 28. I was on pins and needles. And then, voila! The little pups—two males and a female—emerged around 3 a.m. on January 2, 2015. And the female would be reserved for ME!

One of my favorite high school teachers was a Cuban refugee named Pedro Foyo. I considered naming the puppy Pedrocita for him. Russ put the kibosh on that. (Believe it or not, he'd also put the kibosh on our naming our first born son Pedro.) Fortunately, the breed's history also includes the lovely fact that Charles Dickens had this kind of dog, and since Great Expectations is one of my favorite books, I decided to name the puppy Pip.

So now, she is born. As of today, these are the only photos I've seen. Her mother and the litter have a vet appointment in the afternoon--I'm eager to hear how that goes. I'm headed to Chicago to meet and photograph her on February 7, and then I will be doing a program for the Chicago Garden Show on March 21—I'll pick her up as soon as that's over, and spend the first night at my sister-in-law's before heading home with her.  Meanwhile, I'm going to be getting the house ready and planning for introducing a new member into our household. And then we'll have such larks, Pip! Such larks!

In this photo showing Jane nursing her puppies right after they were born, Pip is on the left.
Photo by Ágnes Szilágyi 

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