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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert, Furgus' first of three crates

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert, Furgus’ first of three crates

We’ve decorated our bedroom in the Early Crate Style—as in we’ve made a priority both to kennel/crate training and to having our dogs sleep in our bedroom, which is not easy since we live in a 1940s house with our two English Springer Spaniels.

However, I absolutely love what a crate can do for not only us but also for our dogs. We are true converts and will never go back.

Just under thirteen years ago, following the death of our elderly Springer, we agreed to rescue a rambunctious seven-month-old Springer. I’ve since learned that that is such a typical age for puppies to end up in shelters. And, our Springer was even exceptional for an adolescent pup—we were his fourth home!

Luckily, the wise rescue volunteer brought a crate along when she delivered him to us. That crazy kooky pup didn’t even answer to any of his previous names so we christened him ourselves with the name Fordham. That’s when our neighbor asked us, “As in I can’t afford ‘um?” How right she was.

Even though he was mostly outside when we were gone, we soon accepted our neighbors’ offer of a second crate—this guy was so active indoors that we needed a crate on each level of the house, just as we used to keep a crib on each level when our kids were newborns. He had the strongest oral fixation I’ve seen in our five Springers and it didn’t abate at all until after he was three. Despite providing him with a variety of chew sources, walking him regularly, and giving him planned kennel times, he still managed to rip the dust ruffles on our couch and love seat, chew on the piano and kitchen table, and destroy (only) one of the most expensive shoes I owned.

We were not going to be the fourth family who gave up on him, but that wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t had a crate—I just didn’t have enough eyes in the back of my head to watch him every minute of the day. When the rescue group had said he needed someone in the home with him, they weren’t kidding! I could not let down my guard at all until he was resting in his crate—the relief felt pretty similar to that I felt when I finally got my toddler twins down for naps in their cribs.

Once he outgrew his chewing habits, we ended up removing his crate from the bedroom and letting him sleep on the floor. His restless leg movements hitting against the crate—even with the door open—could keep us awake all night! I think he was happier for the nighttime freedom because he really was a restless sleeper.

We mostly just kept the downstairs crate because he liked to go in it when we watched movies—or if he wanted hide from us.

After we lost poor Fordham to bone cancer two years ago, we really wanted to start with a puppy who had just left his mama—no adolescence until we’d had time to give him some training! This puppy was going to start with a crate from the beginning.

Which he almost did. Christiana and I, along with a puppy-sized crate, took off with Furgus from Tombstone, Arizona one afternoon on our journey back to Colorado. I can show you on the map where he cried and yipped the whole route across the corner of New Mexico heading for Interstate 25. Other than that he did pretty well until we got to our nighttime motel. Even in a pet-friendly motel, I didn’t think the guests needed to hear the caterwauling that would have followed if we’d made him sleep alone in the crate—which meant in order to keep the furnishings safe from his puppy-sharp teeth, we took turns sleeping with him on the floor.

But the next night when he got home to our house, he started to learn that his crate was his sleeping home. He fussed a day or two, but that was it. Probably helped that a couple days later we introduced his buddy Sam, a rescue dog around two or so, who happily slept in Fordham’s old crate, and they both ate dinner in those crates at the same time, as suggested by the rescue volunteer.

The crate gave Sam a safe spot when he was learning to feel comfortable with us— maybe he had a touch of Stockholm Syndrome because he loved going into his crate just a little too much. The vet pointed out that his teeth showed signs of chewing on his crate due to being overcrated. We worked at coaxing him to spend less time in the crate while praising him for going to the crate on his own when he felt threatened by something that reminded him of past unhappy days.

These days we mostly just shut the dogs in the crates when we need to leave. Furgus has no qualms about going to rest in his space—whenever he hears me getting ready to go, he runs in. Sam finally does so as a routine also —for a treat, of course.

When I hear of my in-laws’ dogs’ near-constant destructive behavior and the numerous “accidents” in the house, I remember how our relatives seemed to think we were cruel to “cage” our dogs. (Just as with parenting philosophies, it seems as if every dog training choice has its detractors—read this Psychology Today opinion from someone more knowledgeable about both dogs and psychology than I am if you care to understand more about our choice.) However, I believe our lives and our dogs’ lives are more peaceful because each dog has a safe space to call his own.

The now grown Furgus has developed a habit of crying in the night—probably because he thinks we should make room for him in our bed as our son does. If he’s going to come back to us crying, we just shut him in his crate. Without a sound, he goes back to sleep—and so do we. Nonetheless, if he keeps this up, we might need to re-train him to respect the night before leaving his door open again.

We may have committed to a dog-friendly bedroom, but not to constant sleeping disruption. So glad we have a tool to aid in letting sleeping dogs—and sleeping humans—lie.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Ever wonder what happened to my doggie dancing with Furgus? Well, it went from focused to spontaneous when our family had some other obligations. Poor Furgus! He loves dancing so much so that every time I turn on rollicking music he starts leaping at me—which would be really bad form in competitions.

Once you fall off the horse it’s really hard to get back on—OK, I didn’t fall off anything and Furgus isn’t big enough to ride so that expression makes little sense—sorry! What really happened is I stopped cutting up doggie treats and making time to practice.

Now, I, at least, have to relearn some of this stuff—maybe if I treat myself to some chocolate, I’ll be inspired to get us back out more regularly on the dance floor that is our living room rug. Good thing I really did file all the class papers in a notebook—and I even know where it is.

So though I kept saying I was going to start again, I never did—until my neighbor came over to tell me that someone’s fanatical barking at squirrels was waking her toddler. And how do you get an energetic young dog to calm down? You give him something better to do that, with any luck, will also tire him out.

The great thing about doggie dancing is that it is a very efficient way to use up a dog’s energy. The dog has to apply both his body and brain in order to dance. A person can wear out a dog by dancing with him for only ten to fifteen minutes while the dog’s going to need 45 minutes or more of walking to reach a similar level of exhaustion. Given my dog’s still less-than-stellar walking-on-a-leash skills, especially when I am alone and have to walk him and Sam myself, I like the dancing a lot more.

Truth is I enjoy the dancing more anyway. This guy is smooth with his moves. As our teacher said, his tri-colored English springer spaniel coloring—with the white chest and mostly black coat—just makes him look as if he’s formally dressed and ready to glide across some ballroom floor. When Furgus and I practice when Sam is otherwise occupied, he is calm and focused.

I love Sam, but when we’re dancing he reminds me of the George Balanchine quote: I don’t want people who want to dance. I want people who “have” to dance. He wants to dance, but he’d be just as happy doing something else to earn his treats. He is more of an athlete—the kind of guy more attuned to the leaping and maneuvering of agility activities than dancing gracefully.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Don’t worry—I get that my dogs aren’t people. However, Furgus has always been that dog who “has” to dance. Wouldn’t I rather he be the dog dancing than the one barking at squirrels, even if those squirrels are why Furgus developed his ability to stand for so long on his back legs?

At this time I have no idea if we will pursue canine freestyle dancing in a competitive setting—after all I have not been disciplined enough practicing obedience training with him so that he is well-behaved enough to compete. If we’re going to get better at this, we’re going to have to leave Sam out of most of our dance sessions and let someone else in the family give Sam his focused play time.

One way or another Furgus and I must continue our return to dancing together because we both “have” to dance—and dancing allows us to be good to our neighbors at the same time. And that’s a win-win situation even if our dancing never wins us a thing.

"Beware of Dog . . . Dancing" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

We liked it, we really liked it! Yes, Furgus and I went to our initial dog dancing class this past Saturday. To tell you the truth, I arrived questioning the whole idea—after all he hasn’t even reached eleven months on this earth.

You see, when we’d last been to the dog training facility, he had been taking Puppy Kindergarten. No matter what he knew at home, he always acted wilder there because everything was just so exciting—people, puppies, treats, smells—yikes! He never even got to graduate or say goodbye to his furry puppy friends, thanks to the vermin brought by our rescue dog Sam. That makes Furgus a puppy school dropout who has only been homeschooled (streetschooled?) since then.

Our current instructor said he didn’t need to have been through a formal obedience class to participate. Still, I knew he had too much energy and got too excited about school, so before we even arrived for class, I made sure to take him on my post-physical therapy one-mile run and one-mile walk.

Though I brought him in the crate, he still knew where we were when we turned into the parking lot. After several rounds together around the parking lot, I took a deep breath and walked (well, tried to walk) him to the foot/paw sterilizing station outside the door. Just try to spray four moving targets . . . at least I got my two feet done well.

Yes, my dog was that dog—the one who put his paws on the desk, the one who pulled at his leash, the one who whined non-stop, etc. Once again in my life, I felt like the mother of the child everyone considered “bad” for having too much energy. (Sorry to my son Jackson, but it’s true! Parents of low-energy children often consider high-energy children to have been poorly-parented, at best—and the child also to be morally bereft, at worst.)

It seemed as if Furgus were just too young for the class. I kept us separated from all social interactions, human and canine, so I could focus on trying to calm my charge. It didn’t matter—he continued with the monkey sounds even as the instructor brought us together to tell us how things worked. Once again, it felt just like at soccer practices in the early years with my son who couldn’t listen when the coach began practices by talking—just to be clear, though, my son never made monkey noises.

Fortunately, the instructor was wiser than some of our first soccer coaches. When time came to demonstrate the first move, she looked at him and said to me, “Your dog looks ready to go. I’ll start with him.”

Once Furgus got to work learning, he calmed down. It was all about the doing—and the treats!—for him. In fact, he learned quickly and now I felt proud. (Again, another comparison with my son—I swear I don’t think of Jackson as a puppy, but he was puppy-like in enthusiasm many times in his life!)

Really, the only problems we had in class from then on seemed to stem from my inability to slow down and/or get treats moving in the proper direction with the proper timing. Yes, back to that “handler error” pointed out to me when I was training my Chelsea over twenty years ago—I’m still not sure if I am as smart as an English Springer Spaniel when it comes to training moves and consistency!

Oh, he still seemed to think we were working on adding singing to the dancing, but at least he focused on the tasks at hand.

Now we are practicing at home for our next class session. The tricky part is that although I couldn’t convince either Sherman or Jackson to bring Sam to class—they seem to think dancing with dogs is dorky!—Sam is quite interested in dog dancing. Takes a lot of coordination between all of us to work with the dogs separately.

Yes, Sam apparently has begun dog dancing homeschooling lessons because he’s not at all interested in remaining a spectator to our sport—unless I can convince one of the guys to join the class for his sake.

This morning I got the dogs to turn in tandem using commands only and no treats on the very first try. We did it several more times—they really do know what to do.

Out of our way, folks. We’re working on getting to appear on Letterman for a “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment. Guess I’ll just send the guys a postcard from New York City when we arrive . . .

"Furgus" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Our dogs have very different backgrounds, although they both came from old West frontier locales. Sam is a rescue dog who last year spent most of his winter days outside in Cheyenne, Wyoming where the winds never stop—brr. Furgus was born this past February on what I like to call a puppy ranch outside of Tombstone, Arizona where yucca plants were the main vegetation in those white desert lands. The little he knew of “winter” came from a short May Day pit stop on a snowy Colorado mountain pass.

Poor Furgus—his breeder had worried he’d catch a chill on a sunny Arizona day with temperatures in the mid-70s. She wouldn’t let us head back to Colorado with him until we put a sweater on him—we shed that thing by the time we’d made it back to Tombstone.

"Sam" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Of course, Furgus arrived in Colorado in the late spring when most of our snowy days were gone. However, from the beginning he didn’t mind the bitter cold May showers that delayed our spring flowers this year. Sam and Furgus couldn’t have been happier than when heading out into the rains for our necessary walks—if you want to keep a puppy from eating everything in the house, you have to get him tired!

Arizona Boy, as we started calling him, also loved lying outside on summer days, his black hair baking in the midday heat, while Sam preferred hanging out inside with the swamp cooler’s breeze blowing on him.

Come the first snowfall, Arizona Boy had forgotten about snow. Faced with a white world, he timidly approached the edge of the porch where his grass had changed—to what? Didn’t take long for Furgus to decide he liked snow—he really liked it.

Too fast for my camera skills!

Sam likes it, too, but he certainly acts concerned about how long he’ll be outside. I don’t think he’s forgotten those long hours shivering in the Wyoming winds. But Furgus craves his snow time—thank goodness Mother Nature has provided for him. Sam goes out to do his business and/or play with Furgus, but he’s not afraid to let Furgus stay out there alone running like a nut. He’s quite happy to rest dry and warm at my feet, thank you very much.

Last spring I was missing my Fordham and his larger than life Springer Spaniel ways. Despite how much cleaner the house remained with just one little long-haired dachshund, I vowed I wanted the chaos of another spaniel, no matter the mess.

Well, I’ve certainly gotten what I wanted—two loving, chaotic spaniels and a lot of mess. Thankfully at least one of them does not have larger than life Springer Spaniel ways.

"Furgus" (c) May 2011 Christiana Lambert

The other, though . . . could have gone head-to-head with Fordham. Furgus loves both the snow—and coming inside to see me. Despite the baby gates in the kitchen, I’m not winning the battle with his muddy paw-prints—yes, this is Colorado where our snows melt often—today is such a day. I’ve tried skating around on a towel, using a Pipi Longstocking cleaning-style to remove those paw-prints, but more keep appearing. Our kitchen floor is starting to look like our own personal O.K. Corral without the gunfight (and the outlaws and Earp Brothers and the cattle and . . .)

Arizona Boy does not need a sweater! No, what he needs is a personal butler. Or else I need a maid!

2011: Christiana getting some puppy love

My parents got me a puppy when I was four—even though that’s a little young. Of course, I wasn’t really responsible for her, but she was my dog—especially when she’d fall asleep snoring in my parents’ room and then they’d deposit her, still sleeping soundly, with me.

Mom and Dad did not give me everything I wanted, from that horse I never stopped requesting to large stuffed animals. But they said, as early as two, I was busy advocating for a puppy. I kept asking for something “soft and warm and fuzzy”—and though my stuffed animals were well loved, they did not respond back.

I won’t tell you the long sad tale of losing my puppy due to an accident through no fault of our own, yet it didn’t stop me from wanting to have other dogs.

I will tell you, however, that I still want something soft and warm and fuzzy. Thank goodness I live with two creatures that fit that bill! And I’m pretty sure Sherman doesn’t want to be known as soft and fuzzy anyway . . .

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Furgus and Sam share the Puppy Smackdown with one another, but with me, they share the Puppy Snuggle. Armed with my brother’s worn-out bed comforter from the 70s, I cover the big chair where there is just room for me and my two dogs. The Puppy Snuggle is not a time for play—if they want to wrestle, I push them soundly onto the floor.

No, the Puppy Snuggle is quiet time when I can sit with one or two dogs in my arms, flopped over my legs, or by my side. This is what all those studies mean when they say dogs can lower blood pressure—despite all the recent stress in our home, my most recent numbers were 112/72. Yeah—now can I deduct some of the expenses related with my dogs as medical care?

Probably not, but petting a dog or two a day helps to keep my doctor away.

Sam is sometimes vigilant, sometimes sleepy, and sometimes cuddled into me. But Furgus—he is a snuggler extraordinaire. I’ve never had a big dog so willing to be a lap dog, even now that my lap isn’t quite big enough for his not-so-puppyish form. No matter how Springer-Spaniel-wound-up he is in the morning, a moment on my lap turns him into the mellowest old soul you’ve ever seen.

Judge me if you will, but these cuddling sessions keep me from turning to anti-depressants or even to drink. Now this is the soft, warm, and fuzzy puppy love I’ve dreamed of my whole life.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

It’s almost enough to make me forget about the items “Goat Boy” has chewed or the not-so-great responses to commands. Almost, but not quite. Don’t worry, we’ll keep training Mr. Soft, Warm, and Fuzzy, but not so much so that he forgets that part of his job is also to listen to my heart as well as to my voice.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Lately I’ve been seeing stickers on cars that read “Who rescued who?” Of course, first I have to correct the grammar—“whom” I shout—but I still know what the sticker means, thanks to every dog I’ve ever had in my adult years besides Furgus, the puppy.

Just Monday our foster dachshund crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. We don’t know how old he was, but when the rescue group found him emaciated and wandering the streets three years ago, they thought he was twelve. Despite his sketchy background and his pronounced health problems, he lived a full lifespan.

We weren’t being totally altruistic when we let him come to our house—in fact, Christiana was convinced having a small dog, specifically a dachshund, was an anecdote to the sadness she felt late at night when Fordham, our love sponge of an English Springer Spaniel, had retired to his cushion for a long night’s sleep. And though Sherman and I weren’t looking for another dog—especially a small dog—we were in favor of anything positive that would help her through the night.

Besides, he wasn’t supposed to be our forever dog. According to the rescue group, we were just supposed to have him for a week or two. But the economy hit dogs and rescue groups hard—our contacts with the group became fewer and fewer, until we knew we must be his forever family—how could we break a heart again that had already been so broken?.

(c) 2010

Although he never won over the jealous Fordham, he did worm his way into the rest of our hearts, even if he could only give so much love before he seemed to need to retreat. Christiana was disappointed in that, but she understood brokenness enough to love him still.

I would not have chosen to bring home a dog with a small dog bladder or an enlarged heart. I had dealt with hypothyroidism in dogs before, but not in this era of constant expensive blood tests and not with a dog with such a resistant thyroid function—he ended up taking almost as much thyroid medication as I do even though his weight was about 90% lower than mine. And, I had never even heard of the dog lice that apparently arrived with him and required expensive treatments for both him and Fordham.

And, yet, there was something about how jaunty his short-legged run was every time we returned home. He liked us; he really did, just in a very different manner than a spaniel does.

(c) 2010

When Christiana left for college, he became our responsibility—a responsibility we had never pursued. But both dogs—not just “our” dog—were our comfort in those days when we learned to live and thrive in our empty nest.

Though Fordham’s possessive behavior and big dog klutzy ways made Abel nervous, he never stopped wanting to share his company. When Fordham’s final illness became evident, even Abel seemed stressed.

For about six weeks after Fordham was gone, when Abel’s thyroid level was ideal, he seemed just a little younger and a little more relaxed. If Christiana had not brought him into our home a couple years earlier, we would have really felt the emptiness of our arms after losing my mother and Fordham one after the other. Abel settled into the stillness that was that time and took care of us.

We are essentially people who crave the chaos and over-the-top love that comes from English Springer Spaniels, but we will always be grateful to Abel for helping us through our dark spring.

When I returned from my puppy fever road trip, I saw how much Abel had aged and just how late it was for him. I prayed he would not be too stressed by the newest family members and that we still had a few more months with him.

(c) 2011

In the end, Abel was a guy who rolled with life, accepting Furgus and Sam into what was now his home—and even acting a little envious of their young limbs and ability to play together. I’m so glad that Furgus calmed down enough in Abel’s last few weeks to begin napping and sleeping with Abel, giving him a closeness he had craved with Fordham but never experienced.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Abel required a lot of care in these past four months or so, but what I want to remember is his joy on car rides as he got to sit on my lap while the big dogs were confined, the excitement he showed on our mountain camping trip, or how happy he looked when he accompanied the boys on their walks—from the seat of a converted baby umbrella stroller. He longed to be part of a pack and to the end, he was.

Crossing over was hard work for him, but he did it here—in his forever home—with us all under the same roof.

In a year of so much loss, I know who rescued whom, even though loving him also added to my losses.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Ever wonder how that puppy thing is working out for me? Did getting a puppy allow me to feel confident to solve not only my problems, but also those of the world outside my home? Maybe not, but the puppy solution has had a lot of benefits for me.

I realize that you have not heard me at my happiest lately. It’s true. And maybe that’s almost totally tied to the fact that a Trina restricted in her movements is one cranky Trina. All problems appear bigger from the lens I can reach just sitting on my butt!

As Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure told Pee Wee, “Everyone I know has a big but.”

So instead of those buts, I want to talk about what’s really working. And that’s adopting our puppy Furgus and rescue dog Sam in the same week.

As much as I understand that my road trip to get Furgus likely is what stopped me in my literal tracks with the hip/back injury, I am pretty sure that I was heading toward that injury sooner or later. On good days I’ve realized that it’s positive that I became aware of the imbalances before I permanently damaged my hips or lumbar. I still have time to realign as well as adjust my gait—I have been able to do consistent short runs/jogs that always make my injury site feel better, whether right afterwards or later in the day. And that helps me to have more energy to share with my dogs.

Yes, dogs—puppies, especially—are a lot of work. We’ve had too many vet visits already. And the group and individual training sessions, as well as our own training, take a lot of time and effort.

Then there are the rugs and floors . . . the dogs don’t need to be brushed much because they roll off their extra hair as they wrestle. The daily puppy smack-downs between Furgus and Sam leave an incredible amount of hair, especially on the rugs.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

After that relatively brief eight week period this spring when I appreciated how little hair and dirt follow a 15-pound old dachshund—even a long-haired one—I still would tell you the mess and chaos of adding our English Springer Spaniels is worth it just to live in the presence of their happy natures.

Furgus, especially, is an optimist. He is the only dog we’ve ever had who has no trauma in his/her background. Duncan had open-heart surgery and lived in the hospital until he came home with Sherman. Chelsea was chained in her back yard and quite likely beaten. Fordham had been through three other homes before he made us his forever family. And, Sam? We don’t know. He left his previous family after six months and who knows what happened before then.

Furgus acts with the certainty that he is loved and that life will be good. As frustrating as that can be when I am struggling to instill who the real boss is, it is refreshing. He can’t imagine why a person or dog wouldn’t want to be around him. When he got his first ear infection, his howls at the vet’s seemed to be saying he didn’t think this sort of thing could happen to him.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

And Sam. Sam is cautious until we open our arms and then he runs full force into our love. We have encountered a couple surprising frustrations with Sam, but his essentially gentle spirit is well worth nurturing into trust. His joyful willingness to go along with all of Furgus’ puppy-like actions—and that’s saying a lot—demonstrates a pure acceptance of others’ foibles that he also shares towards us.

No, getting these puppies has been the exact right salve we need for healing from our previous losses, even though they add to our workloads.

I am happier for having them as part of our family. They’ve been here with me during some pretty dark storms and they love me anyway. How much more will we enjoy our time together when they discover the runs and long hikes in our shared future.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Oh no, in a year that so far has provided more loss than gain, my biggest gains have come from Furgus and Sam. While it’s true that puppies can’t end the effects of the U.S. budget crisis or even heal my hip faster, what they can do is allow me to grab my happiness minute to minute throughout each day, one or two close encounters of the canine kind at a time.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Sam, the two-year-old dog, has helped greatly with the puppy while my back has been acting up. Much as I’d like to leave Furgus’ training in First Samuel’s paws, he’s not quite Nana from Disney’s Peter Pan.

My baby’s growing up and needs more training of the human kind. So today Furgus began attending puppy kindergarten. I’m really the one who started puppy kindergarten—which is more about training the humans than the puppies. This time I have great hopes of avoiding some of the mistakes I made with my earlier dogs—errors that made it more exhausting for me or guests to be around them.

Look, if it were that easy for me to be consistent, I’d just read the books and be done with it. No, I do better in a classroom environment where I get to see examples and hear reminders.

Besides, there is no denying that grouping puppies together is pretty high on the cute-ometer. Who can feel grumpy in that setting? Might not bring about world peace, but it works well at lowering stress levels, especially when you get your often ornery rascal into an environment designed for encouraging good behavior.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Everyone’s puppy is adorable. Lazy word choice, I know, but really, it’s so true. In addition to my black tri-color English Springer spaniel, our cozy group includes a silky black German Shepherd, a very spotty liver and white Dalmatian, a fluffy Golden Retriever, a pointy-eared Australian cattle dog, and a little pug. Too bad none of us has much time to focus on the other pups!

My little food hound really, really likes the whole treat/training concept. Next time I better wear clothes with pockets so both my hands don’t smell quite so delicious.

Plus, thanks to Furgus’ growing up running around on a ranch with both his litter-mates and adult dogs, he is very social. He loves nothing better than being part of an active pack. Since he still has one more round of shots to go, he hasn’t been out much with other dogs besides our Sam and Abel.

Once it came time for free play time, it was easy to see which dogs had playmates at home. My guy, the shepherd, and the Golden were a busy threesome, happy to wrestle around with others just their size.

When I opened the door and returned the carrier to our house floor, Sam met me with his oh-so how-could-you-leave-me-behind eyes. After Furgus ran outside to do his business, he plopped onto the rug and fell into a silent and motionless sleep.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I don’t think Sam cares one iota that he’s far too advanced for kindergarten—all he knows is I left him home while I took away his puppy—his puppy!—and brought Furgus home too tired to play and smelling of all the other “kids” in the class.

That’s just the price he’s going to have to pay for being the older and wiser guy—who might appreciate a better behaved puppy himself.

Besides, there’s no way I’m going to get by with giving treats only to Furgus. Furgus and I will be working on the homework while Sam gets to join in at snack time for doing all the lessons he’s already passed.

Go to the head of the class, Sam—Furgus is following right behind your capable footsteps.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Here I am at just over a week since the end of the Puppy Fever Tour—Furgus is slowly (quickly?) integrating into our lives. But that’s not all—we’ve also added Sam—or 1st Samuel as he’s known here—since we came home.

Yes, we’re just that crazy for young life around here. While Christiana and I were out springing Furgus from Arizona, Sherman was at home walking and falling in love with Sam, a two-year-old liver and white English Springer Spaniel. He had recently arrived from Cheyenne, WY and was available from English Springer Spaniel Rescue of the Rockies, the group that brought us our much missed Fordham over a decade earlier.

Now, most people would have waited until they were not going to travel anymore before they welcomed another dog into their home. Sherman, however, is so tired of loss that he preferred to have in-your-face proof of life, even if it meant being squished in the 4Runner with two dogs, one puppy, one wife, one daughter, and a few other items on a 6 ½ hour (or more) road trip to take Christiana back to Durango for her summer work job.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Perhaps the need was made even clearer because we rushed home from yet another memorial service—this time of a longtime friend’s mostly healthy and active mother—to receive Sam into our home.

One moment we were saying goodbye, and the next, hello.

First, however, the rescue group wanted to have a behaviorist arrive along with Sam to assess how well the dogs were all going to mesh together. Happily, they all passed the compatibility test and before she left, we were “trained” a bit on both positive and potentially troubling body language signs.

Sam has been a wonderful addition to our family. Furgus can mostly turn his admiration and sharp puppy teeth toward Sam and leave Abel, the elderly dachshund, be. Abel is ecstatic about Sam’s arrival since Furgus was fascinated by his tail (new experience!) and didn’t seem to get that just because he was small didn’t mean he was young.

From the first hours, Furgus was happy to follow behind Sam as he secured our perimeter by marking every fence post, tree, and blade of grass.

Although not ideal, we did make it though our two day back-to-back car trips with few problems, other than discovering Abel has a tendency toward carsickness on long road trips. (Well, we still need to replace Christiana’s not inexpensive headphones that Furgus snagged when all but 1” of cord was tucked securely in her backpack—as responsible puppy owners, it is our duty since she was not being careless.) On the mountain passes, Furgus discovered that not only does he like snow, but he loves it! All in all, the dogs did well despite being bored.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Turns out everyone fared a bit better than I did. After all, I’m the only one who was in the car for a full 2,600 miles last week. Tuesday morning, for no obvious reason other than my week of inactivity, my lower back went out in a way it never has before. The irony of the timing is not lost on me. Surely my hubris and some poor timing plans led me to this place.

Nonetheless, I’m doing what I can to stay home and work on creating our new life together, even if Sam is going to have to wait for those runs I promised him. It has helped that Jackson arrived home for the summer on Monday and brought friends. It was love at first sight for both guys and dogs and helped me greatly since my back is limiting me—the dogs are going to be so disappointed to discover the friends were only temporary guests.

As tough and challenging as it is to integrate a puppy and young dog into our home, I can feel the healing already—even if my back can’t yet.

I am so much happier now, yet watching the dogs wrestle together surprised me with feelings of raw loss. One minute I was holding Abel, soaking in their complete joy and utter physical capabilities and the next I was thinking about how he was watching with pure longing—he was an old man (dog) wishing for younger days.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert

That’s when I saw them all—Duncan, Chelsea, and Fordham—all my dogs who had crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. That’s when I remembered my first baby’s brokenness near his end when I was steeped in my days with two preschoolers and references from our lives together. As Duncan’s hips refused to work together and sat down without his consent, I used to think of Buzz Lightyear, armless and falling, singing, “Clearly I shall go sailing no more . . .”

As I broke into deep sobs, steeped with my previous losses and Abel’s impending goodbye, Sam stopped his play and bounded to me. With another leap up, he was in my arms, straining to wash the tears from my face.

Goodbye/hello all rolled up together.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I’m back—and not from outer space, but from Arizona and New Mexico. That’s right—our puppy, Furgus, celebrated his nine week milestone right here in our Colorado home.

By the beginning of this week, Sherman and I had puppy fever—bad—and we were over waiting for the puppy transport company to bring us our puppy. He was signed, sealed, and . . . not delivered. This was supposed to be the first time we had a chance to start from the beginning with a puppy. I know these early weeks are the most influential for developing a puppy’s lifelong character—we were not about to let him grow old before he came home to us.

Christiana finished finals this past Monday, but we didn’t get the details until it was too late to find a good price on a flight for her. Since she is working at the college this summer, she only has one week off before her job starts. Both Sherman and I really wanted her to have a break first.

(c) Christiana Lambert 2011

But, why couldn’t I go get her and take her with me on a road trip to spring the little tike from his birthplace outside Tombstone, Arizona? We could take a classic southwestern tour through New Mexico and Arizona minus the dramatic Thelma and Louise ending—well, without most of the Thelma and Louise experiences other than the scenery.

Talked with his breeder on Monday and left first thing Tuesday morning. Despite not sleeping well the night before, I was relaxed and singing along with my iPod as I drove through the back and forth of spring and winter. I was on a mission: a mission for dog.

Following a late lunch with both Christiana and Jackson in Durango where we left Jackson to finish school and return in the car on his own later in the week, she and I set off toward the Land of Enchantment. With an exhausted former college freshman sleeping by my side, I drank in the wide open spaces and fought the winds with my hands firmly on the wheel.

However, once I discovered we were lost, I woke my navigator. Then we continued on in the right direction through a whole lot of beautiful emptiness, with the setting sun’s rays bending light into pinks and purples. Once the sun disappeared, we reached utilitarian I-25, turning south past Albuquerque’s erratic drivers and into a starlit night that made us feel as if we were on some long and lonesome highway heading for the Hotel California.

No, instead we were on our way to Motel 6 in the town of Truth or Consequences, with Christiana doing battle with the winds that threatened us and caused our gas tank to slip dangerously low while we dipped up and down through canyons.

The next morning, the early birds (outside in the tree and in the motel lobby) awakened me, even if my dorm-trained daughter slept through all the noise. Yes, I couldn’t wait to get back out on the road again—soon, with a full tank of gas and anticipation in our hearts, we were back to cruising speed.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

How often the landscape changed in this Wild, Wild West as we headed further south, then cut across to busy I-10, full of its semi trucks and fear-inducing dust storm warning signs. Across the border into Arizona, the rest area sported signs warning of poisonous snakes and insects. This was no sterile movie landscape, which we noticed even more with our first personal encounter with the Border Patrol on the way into Tombstone.

Once I finally deciphered the breeder’s desert southwest terms on the directions (wash does not equal a carwash and a mare motel does not have a neon sign), I was able to help Christiana navigate up a primitive road—as the sign warned—to a fenced-in house where English Springer Spaniels, big and small cavorted. We had reached the II Shea Ranch and Kennel.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

We met Sue Shea, who told us our puppy was inside. As I watched dogs taking dust baths, I realized why our freshly-washed pup remained inside.

Then we were inside, too. Finally, we got to meet the Bret, now Furgus, we had only known from the pictures on II Shea website. No doubt about it, Sir Furgus was worthy of our dog-seeking quest.

This would turn into an even longer post if I told all the tales of our return journey. Suffice it to say, the day we picked up Furgus, our traveling efficiencies decreased due to frequent stops at rest areas, beside the road, parking lots, etc. We learned to sing louder than the puppy whining in the crate and managed to keep ourselves from getting ousted from the motel only by taking turns sleeping on the floor with the guy to prevent him from making that very loud-monkey-like howl of his.

The next day, though, he slept like a dream on the road trip’s final leg from Bernalillo, New Mexico to our home in Colorado. We, however, had to work to keep our sleep-deprived selves from joining him.

We reached metro Denver just as rush hour was working toward the rush in the hour(s).

Furgus was finally home—and so were we.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

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