Sunday, January 25, 2015

A weighty matter

Julie writes:
Pip and Joey weigh 1 lb., 9.3 oz and 1 lb., 9.5 oz, respectively—what Herbie weighed a week ago. Herbie is still trying to outperform his sibs and weights 2 lb 2 oz. Pip had them both beat with opening her eyes a day earlier. We are making sure that if Pip looks out the window, she doesn’t see any birds. You need to be here for that.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


All photos by Ágnes Szilágyi

The Great Expectations litter at 3 weeks

Photo by Ágnes Szilágyi
Agnes writes:
The Great Expectations kids turned 3 weeks young and are a total amusement. They started walking and even barking a bit. Their tails are wagging and are being very social. We started on music lessons and are doing great. Next week we are starting them on other lessons, Julie wants it to be a surprise.... So here they are...

Photo day!

Pip at Three Weeks
Pip at Three Weeks
I get so excited and antsy on Saturdays, wondering how much Pip has changed over the week. Ágnes Szilágyi sent me a sneak peek preview of what's to come this week!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pupdate: 3 weeks old today!

Pip at 2 weeks
Pip at 2 weeks.
There will be more photos this weekend, but for now, Julie writes:
The puppies are getting more mobile. While  looking for mom they stop and look up and seem to be interested in our endless cooing and telling them how pretty they are. Especially Pip. I have a fondness for girls and she is definitely my little princess and I have such hopes for her and joining your family . I have such fond thoughts of what a good dog she is going to be. 
I keep telling myself that patience is a virtue, but I'm coming to realize I'm not very virtuous--I'm just so filled with great expectations!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What color will Pip end up?

Havana Silk Dogs, and their AKC parent breed, the Havanese, can be just about any color or combination, and some of the colors of puppies don't remain as pronounced as the dogs mature. The genetics of dog coloration is very complicated—you can read an excellent overview at this Dog Genetics website. It'll be as interesting as it is joyful to watch Pip's development over time. Julie and Agnes, the breeders who own her parents, will also enjoy tracking Pip's development.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Julie's 2-week Update

Julie writes on the Thunder Road Havana Silk Dog webpage's Nursery page,
The Great Expectations kids turned 2 weeks old and their eyes are now wide open, staring at the world. They are getting more active and are starting to explore their surroundings. 
Mama Jane is feeding them well, they are little plump pups. And did I mention very calm too?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Puppies never stay the same.

Pip is already a day older than she was when Ágnes Szilágyi took this photo. By next weekend, she may be walking well!

Pip at 2 weeks
Pip at 2 weeks
Pip one week old
Pip at 1 week
Pip at 2 days

New photos!

More of Pip's nose is growing black, and her eyes are open. She and her brothers are doing puppy exercises with Julie, and getting stronger. It's still three weeks until I meet her, and nine weeks until adoption day. I must keep reminding myself that patience is a virtue.

Pip at 2 weeks
Pip at 2 weeks; photo by Ágnes Szilágyi
Pip (lower right) and her big brothers
Pip (lower right) and her big brothers Herbie and Joey. Photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Two weeks old!

Every day I get more excited!
Photos by Ágnes Szilágyi

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A whole new world!

I just got a note from Julie, Pip's breeder:
Letting you know that Pip’s eyes were open this morning. They start out squinty and have  a blue cast which is normal. She was definitely looking at me and curious. What a sweet little girl!  
I chose Julie as a breeder and Jane as the mother dog quite a few months ago now. It's been a long, long wait, first for Jane to go into heat and then for her to have her puppies, and now I've still got over 9 weeks of waiting before I bring Pip home. But despite my impatience, this has definitely been the right way to go. I know I'm going to look back on this time with great fondness, being so very conscious of the presence on the planet of one particular little puppy from the day she was born. And Julie is so wonderful to be keeping me up to date with news!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Photos by Ágnes Szilágyi

Somebody's little eyes will be opening soon!!

Late this week or this weekend Pip will start seeing the great big world!

Photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

A lovely lullaby I'll be singing to Pip

After a day of birding, I bet I'll be singing this to Pip, or playing Josh Woodward singing it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A week old!

Julie writes, "The Great Expectations Pups are a week old already. They all doubled their weights and are doing really well. Poor Cara [one of Julie's other dogs] thinks they are hers and keeps close watch. Jane is not ready to share yet." Pip weighed 5 ounces when she was born. Just a week later, she's at 13.2 ounces!

photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Havana Silk Dogs originated as a breed in Cuba. Does that mean Pip will understand Spanish?

Basic dog commands in Spanish:

Sit: Sientate 
Down: Echate 
Stay: Quieto 
Come: Ven aqui 
Heel: Junto

Sunday, January 4, 2015


photo by Ágnes Szilágyi
Has there ever been such a perfect puppy? She's 2 days old in these photos.  I'm wondering how I'm going to survive the next 10 1/2 weeks.

photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

photo by Ágnes Szilágyi

The Great Expectations Litter

photos by Ágnes Szilágyi
Charles Dickens had a Havana Silk Dog, and Pip's breeder liked the idea of naming this litter of puppies for characters in Great Expectations. Herbie is named for Herbert Pocket, Pip's best friend, who was ever sweet and affable. Joey is named for Joe Gargery, ever loyal and protective of Pip. And Pippi is named for, well, Pip!

Julie writes that the little family passed their vet exam with flying colors. The puppies are robust and healthy. I'm 500 miles away, and so SO antsy to actually see and hold Pip. How am I going to last two and a half more months?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Why a purebred, and why not a rescue dog?

Almost everyone who knows me knows that I have a very small income and, financially speaking, really should not be spending money on a purebred dog, much less one from a rarer breed, coming from a responsible and thus, by necessity, expensive breeder. So my choosing a Havana Silk Dog seems pretty bizarre. Why on earth am I going that route rather than getting a shelter or rescue dog in dire need of a home?

People have many reasons for wanting a dog. As a writer who spends long hours working alone in my home office, and traveling alone frequently while birding or on speaking gigs, I want a dog who can go anywhere with me, is a jolly and fun diversion when something I'm working on is very depressing, can be trained to be reasonably quiet and patient when I stop to look at a bird, can hike fairly long distances comfortably but without charging into the woods chasing squirrels and other animals, is small enough that I can scoop her up out of danger quickly or carry her when she does get tired, and would be welcome in most motels. I also want one who will be happy with being around me on the boring days, in the car or my office. I do not have a domineering, "leader of the pack" personality, so need a breed that is fairly compliant and agreeable by nature rather than one that needs me to constantly prove that I'm top dog. 

I wouldn't even consider some breeds--those with shortened snouts that so often compromise their health, terriers (it's SO hard to break them of chasing small animals and digging, because those are precisely what they were bred to do!), chihuahuas (simply because someone had a mean, nasty one that kept nipping at me when I was a little girl), or beagles (because we had one when I was a little girl and he just ran and ran and ran, and ended up getting killed by a car). It's virtually impossible to adopt a healthy little puppy 10 to 12 weeks old from a shelter unless it came from a puppy farm or utterly irresponsible breeder, and that can mean I'd be facing the kinds of serious health issues that arise from bad practices. The up-front expense of a purebred dog from a responsible breeder vastly reduces the likelihood of horrific vet bills and a dog whose life is tragically painful and/or short in the future. 

Researching small breeds, the Havana Silk Dog seems perfect. It has every good trait of the AKC Havanese breed, without the issues that arise when dog breeders focus more on pedigree than on the health records of the dogs within that pedigree. The Havana Silk Dog Association of America broke with the AKC over that very issue, and that appeals to me. My breeder told me she had a wonderful Havanese dog who died of heart disease when it was only 9—that's just too young! There are no guarantees, but choosing this breed of dog, and a puppy young enough to adapt to my weird lifestyle from the start, would give me my best chance for an ideal little birding partner, and I love supporting a breeder who is making a sincere and conscientious effort to bring only healthy puppies into the world and give them a great start in life.

I am in good health and have good prospects of being healthy and active throughout this puppy's lifespan, but neither I nor the puppy can be guaranteed a long, healthy life. If she does live at least as long as any of our previous dogs, I'll have her well into my 70s or even my 80s. At that point, I'd be ready for the quieter needs of an older dog, so that's when I'll start adopting older dogs in need of a good home.

I've rescued several cats over my lifetime, including the two I live with right now; I spent many years rehabbing injured, orphaned, and pesticide-poisoned birds; and I work tirelessly on issues of bird conservation. I'm glad that so many great human beings rescue dogs in need—that's an important mission in life. My mission is focused on protecting and teaching about birds. Having a plucky little sidekick that I raise from a puppy one last time in my life to add some sweetness, joy, and energy, is something I badly want and will try to deserve. And that's that. I'm not willing to enter into  discussions about what anyone thinks I should have chosen instead. 

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