Some of you may have heard that Bossy only had her puppy Darla for five days. Here’s what happened.
When Bossy was a girl she lived on the 19th floor of a high rise that didn’t allow dogs, which led Bossy to leave handwritten notes for her parents along the lines of, “If I cant huv a puppy Im gone to huv a nervis brakdown.” Bossy was seldom without her Dog Encyclopedia whose pages were so obsessively perused, one could say they were dog-eared.
Bossy’s Dog Encyclopedia featured detailed breed information such as temperament, exercise requirements, and the likelihood one of these dogs would show up in Bossy’s local SPCA. Answer: frequently. Years before Bossy’s high rise abolished dogs — and decades before rescue groups began to comb dog shelters in order to move full-bred dogs into foster care — Bossy’s family filed past an Old English Sheepdog, then an Airdale Terrier, in order to reach the concrete dog run of their local pound which housed the adult Russian Wolfhound they adopted.
To watch the Westminster Dog Show with Bossy is an exercise in ridiculous — unless you also have a doctorate in dog. For instance Bossy is all, “The Chow Chow has a black tongue, while the Irish Wolfhound is subject to fits of depression.”
Once married and a mom, Bossy approached dog ownership very responsibly. She adopted older mutts and raised full-bred puppies. Of the full-bred puppies she’s raised, Bossy always developed relationships with the breeders in order to gain access to options within the litter — and Bossy has always deemed puppy temperament and disposition as the critical deciding factors. Although a breed has certain tendencies — and the dispositions of the parent-dogs play a significant role — there is still a wide variation of personality between the littermates.
While César Millán was still driving Jada Pinkett Smith’s limo, Bossy busied herself with dog training books and became adept at analyzing dog dispositions and administering temperament tests. The range from dominant pup to submissive pup becomes apparent at approximately seven weeks of age, but you’ll need more than a snapshot to figure out which puppy is which since they often temporarily trade personalities.
For Bossy’s first example, she will tell you the very detailed story of how she selected her English Springer Spaniel puppy!
The next puppy Bossy got was a Golden Retriever named Gracie. Before the internet, when dinosaurs roamed the gaseous silica that would become the earth, there was a thing called newspapers and people placed ads in them.
In no time, Bossy was sitting in a breeder’s family room with ten golden retriever puppies, evaluating their nuanced reactions as Bossy turned each on their backs, enticed them to follow, elevated them a few inches from the ground, and tossed a crumpled piece of paper to see which puppy it would interest and how.
Bossy always eliminates the, well, bossy puppies. The same can be said of the fearful puppies. Bossy selects the puppy who is neither too bold nor too afraid, and who shows signs of relinquishing its leadership aspirations.
The next puppy Bossy selected was her Dane, Stella, who wasn’t just Great — she was chosen because, while the other litter mates ran adeptly around the breeder’s acreage, Stella took turns napping under lawn chairs and tripping over flowers.
It’s been three years since Stella died, and Bossy gradually and persistently began thinking about getting another dog. For the last two years, Bossy has been frequenting adoption websites, is on multiple rehoming mailing lists, and beats a path between her front door and several area pet stores that feature shelter dogs — but nothing appeared that had the level of certainty Bossy requires.
Instead, Bossy did a lot of research and developed a relationship with a local breeder, choosing a Doodle breed with a fairly predictable tendency to be quiet and calm indoor companions while being great running partners. Bossy visited the breeder’s farm twice for very extended stays while she studied the littermate interactions and performed her typical temperament test tricks — and here is what Bossy noticed:
Which is to say Bossy noticed five extremely healthy puppies with near-identical personalities. They were cheerful and confident and not very interested in Bossy compared to the rolling Pennsylvania piedmont around them. So Bossy returned a separate day in order to study the puppies inside the breeder’s house and here is what Bossy noticed:
Which is to say Bossy noticed the same thing she noticed when observing the puppies outside: they were cheerful and confident and not very interested in Bossy compared to fjaHfoiehflkavnklsjvpeofjol.
It occurred to Bossy maybe she doesn’t want a puppy who pays too much attention to her since Bossy now works outside the home and the puppy will need to get used to other people like dog walkers. Bossy also thought the extremely confident trait would come in handy when training the dog in the middle of a chaotic urban neighborhood. And it was this entire train of thinking that prevented Bossy from a couple of warning whistles.
Once situated home, Bossy understood that her puppy was actually extremely dominant, and the more the puppy settled into her new circumstance, the more she exerted aggressive tendencies toward Bossy to get her way. This was unlike anything Bossy had experienced with all of her prior puppies who never had a quark of aggression. Darla’s unbridled energy was forced into the many confinement scenarios that not only accompany puppyhood, but necessitate the life of a city dog, and it was a setup for failure. Bossy quickly foresaw a scenario where she and the puppy would be stuck in a battle of the wills: Bossy always in a position of rebuke and the dog always trying to assert her independence.
Bossy did a lot of soul-searching about what she could and couldn’t handle, what she should try to handle and what was clearly a bad fit — and she called on a few professionals in the field of raising and training dogs for their expert opinions. It was Darla’s breeder and Bossy who decided together that Darla would do best if returned to his farm where he plans to raise her as a family pet. In fact he considered it a sign, since that was his original intention.
Bossy packed up Darla and all of her new, big city toys and drove her back to the rolling Pennsylvania piedmont where she was greeted by the breeder’s four children who closed a circle around her, literally and figuratively. She will thrive in that expanse.
The entire episode of Bossy and Darla together in center city Philadelphia was an exercise in knowing oneself. Bossy is grateful she knows herself well enough to be honest about her capabilities and her desires, and was able to reconcile all of it in a timely manner before both Bossy and Darla became irrevocably unhinged — and Bossy is forever indebted to Darla for knowing her puppy self enough to fight for her own happiness.