May 8, 2022 by Julia
In truth, I wasn’t certain I would write about Miles on this blog. When I started the blog my intent was to chronicle my dog training journey. In addition to the fact that I all-but-abandoned the blog after grieving Dash, Miles is also the first puppy for whom I have zero training aspirations. But he has played his own important role in my life and deserves an introduction.
The Dogs I Deserved
As I’ve mentioned before, Renee once told me that you get the dog that you deserve. The dog that teaches you or gives you what you need, which may not be the same thing as what you think you need.
When I got Xena, I didn’t really know what I wanted except a vague idea of doing some formal Obedience like I’d read about in books. The Universe said “Sure, but you’ll have to learn patience. And the realities of 4-figure vet bills.”
Then I got Dash and I had dreams of competing in Agility. The Universe said “Oh, he’ll be agile but we have much more important lessons for you to learn about yourself.”
Next I got Delta, my very first Performance Puppy! She was going to do ALL the things! And the Universe said “You can try them all but remember you named her after the mathematical symbol for change.”
When I decided to look for a puppy again – more than a year into the pandemic, feeling worn down and lonely – it was the first time I had no training aspirations. I told the Universe “What I really need right now is an easy puppy. A constant companion. Please?” And for the first time, I must have been right about what I needed, because that’s what I got. Thank goodness.
The Hunt Begins
I started asking around in mid-March 2021, knowing it might already be too late to get a puppy that year. Unless I was willing to potty train in the middle of winter, which I wasn’t. Still, I wanted to put feelers out and ask among all the friends and contacts I’d made through my competing years with Xena. After a few messages, I had a couple of leads to follow.
The one I was most excited about was a week-old litter from Schoental Boxers. Bobbi was the Trial Chair for Obedience at the annual Boxer Nationals and I’d admired her dogs since we first met in 2009. The litter of 8 was mostly boys and half brindles. Since Dash was a flashy fawn, I was hoping for a plain brindle boy this go around. Paint job is the least important detail but I had my preferences nonetheless.
I reached out to Bobbi. She gave me information on the litter and connected me with Gyleen, who was raising them. She also managed my expectations. She & Gy were hoping for show or performance homes for the 4 brindle boys, pet homes were ranked last in priority. It was a shot to the gut to hear myself put in the pet home category, even though it was entirely accurate. I promised her I understood. I would watch the litter with interest but continue to look elsewhere.
Oops, I Did It Again
Sure enough, as I watched the puppies grow in photos and livestreams, I did the exact same thing I had with Delta that you aren’t supposed to do – I became enamored with a specific pup. I looked through their first photos and saw a little ball of black-faced brindle mush. His purple ribbon collar caught my eye, my favorite color, but after a few weeks, his brindling kept it. He had even black striping over a rich fawn that was just a shade or two darker than his siblings. “He’s cute, but don’t get attached.” I reminded myself.
Over the next weeks, I happily watched live streams and scrolled through photos. As a whole, they were a talkative bunch and as they grew they became prone to boisterous puppy antics. From watching them on video, I saw they all had steady temperaments, generous appetites for play, and extensive vocabularies. From the bold as brass largest boy Toby to the smallest and less adventurous Mint (now Gus). Miles landed somewhere in the middle. He was not the first nor the last out of the whelping box. He was in the fray while they played, neither the toughest nor meekest.
It was about the time they began escaping the whelping box that I heard Gyleen begin to refer to him as Miles. They were playing music in the puppy room and Miles had taken a keen interest, paying attention to it more than his littermates. I loved this, both because of my relationship with music and Miles was a family name. It endeared him to me even more.
Everything Falls Into Place
I had kept my promise to myself and continued looking for other possibilities but hadn’t found any. I had made my interest in Miles known but had also assured Bobbi that I understood that they were hoping for show homes. The final decision of who would go where was made days before they turned 8 weeks. And to my surprise on Thursday morning, Bobbi sent me a message offering me Miles.
I was over the moon and in a panic all at once. I had managed to keep my hopes in check too well – so well that I was shocked by the offer. I asked her if I could think it over for a day. And then I started (over)thinking and consulting with friends.
I was nervous. Puppies are expensive. I had never raised a puppy alone! (The previous Boxers were raised by me and Aaron.) I had to find a way to get down to Maryland in the very near future and there were some workshops coming up that I couldn’t miss at work.
My best friends assured me that I was completely capable of raising a puppy alone. The expense was real but it wasn’t quite as bad as my brain was telling me. The few dog friends I told all had roughly the same response. Kelly said it simplest: “Life is short. Get the puppy.”
As I wrestled with the decision but began to lean in, something started to tickle the back of my brain. A memory, something familiar about the situation. I went to their puppy page on FB and scrolled to the birth announcement. They had been due on March 12th, Delta’s birthday. They were born on March 14th, two days later. It clicked – that is exactly how it was with Xena and Delta. Delta was due on Xena’s birthday but born two days later. Exactly 9 years and 2 days after Xena. And here was Miles, exactly 9 years and 2 days after Delta. (Dash didn’t fit the pattern but then again, he never fit any patterns) On another hunch, I looked up the distance between us – just about 500 miles. And for those who know me well, you know that is a song I adore. That sealed it.
Friday, when I told Bobbi that I would love to bring him home, she mentioned that she would be near BWI that Sunday, so we could simply meet at the airport if that was easier. I realized that I could use my long dormant Southwest points (thanks COVID) to fly down and back, one quick inexpensive day trip.
At the same time, I had just learned that my employer’s vacation days were “use it or lose it” by May 31st so I had a bunch of time I needed to burn quickly. I arranged with my boss to take half days the coming week and have the next week off completely to burn up the rest of my time. The half days would cover all of my commitments to our software training and rollout. I promised to be “on call” if things cropped up with the project, though we both expected it to be quiet so close to Memorial Day.
One Little Pup and One Long Day
After a brief flurry making arrangements, I found myself headed to Baltimore on Sunday. I had challenged myself to keep my good news under wraps – I’m terrible at keeping happy secrets – until I had the pup in hand. The few people I’d consulted knew to keep quiet about it as well.
I flew down to Baltimore with butterflies in my stomach. I met Bobbi at the baggage carousel and there he was in her arms – a little velvet mush calmly taking in his surroundings. We sat and visited briefly, going over his paperwork and his puppy goodie bag (including his very own embroidered Schoental’s towel, ooh la la). She gave the wee guy a kiss through her mask and we hugged a happy goodbye.
I don’t really buy stories where dogs “instantly” bond with their new humans. I believe it needs time to develop. But Miles had, at least, clearly decided I was his safe place. We had 6 hours to kill in the airport. Several different times, I brought him into a single bathroom and laid out a pee pad (thanks Gy). Each and every time, he marched up to me, climbed in my lap, snuggled close, and went to sleep. It was one of those moments that I took our first selfie together, which I used to spill the news to a few friends privately first, then finally blabbing on social media. (Thankfully, he chose to pee the moment I set him down in Portland. That’s a long hold for a little bladder!)
One Week Later
As it happened, I brought Miles home on a week where Aaron had Delta. This gave me a little time to figure out the whole solo puppy rearing thing before adding her into the mix. I got him set up in a proper crate, dug out my old baby gate, and “brought” him to a few Zoom meetings. I also acclimated myself to his potty signals, his chatty little conversations with himself, and his impressive vocal range when life was not going his way. Which, for the record, included almost any time he wasn’t in my arms or on his blanket nearby.
The next week, instead of picking up Delta as I normally do, Aaron brought her to me. The reasons were two-fold – an extra set of hands to manage introductions and so Aaron & his current wife could snuggle the little bugger too. Aaron and I owned 3 Boxers together and he’s always been a sucker for puppy cuddles.
He managed to snap a perfect moment of the meeting with Delta. The three of us in a little tangle as the dogs try to make sense of this new development.
One Year Later
It feels like it’s been a wild year but really, at least when it comes to Miles, it hasn’t. It’s been wonderful, easy, and full of laughter – with the occasional sleep-deprived, puppy fit-pitching detour. Oh and one incident eating a roomate’s used condom that will live in infamy.
True to my initial statement above, I have barely done any training with him. He went to one puppy class where I mostly focused on learning his name and settling nicely on his mat. He knows sit, down, high five, hand touch, and we kind of work on stuff like crawl, circle, and sit pretty when I feel ambitious. He has a recall command and he runs at me like a shot, but I haven’t really proofed it. He didn’t even own a collar until he was nearly a year old. Most of his walks have been schmooz fests down the aisles of home improvement stores with the occasional food truck fest, patio happy hour, or nature walk thrown in.
His companionship has been a balm during some rough moments. His antics – either solo or with Delta -brought me more smiles and laughter than I can count. I’m thankful to Bobbi & Gy and I’m thankful that for once, the universe and I agreed on what I needed most.