May 28, 2006

Sam and I are getting a dog in September, and I am beyond excited.

I want a dog that I can take everywhere, and be able to trust around other people and other dogs. I want a dog that is very social, enjoys being a part of the action, and is great with kids. I want a dog who likes to play. I want a dog that looks great with a bandana around its neck.

I told all of this to Joan Armstrong, a Vancouver, WA trainer, and she replied, "Kerry, Chinooks come out of the womb wearing a bandana." This totally cracked me up, and so I started doing some serious research into the breeds that she recommended (Chinook, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and Border Terrier). The more I found out about Chinooks, the more it seemed that this would be a great dog for us to adopt. They are very social, love to work and to play, are great with kids and other dogs, have a good health history, and have excellent dispositions. One of the breeder's websites called them "the biggest lap dogs in the world." To read more about them, check out the Chinooks Owner's Association website.

Sam and I were originally going to get a shelter puppy, but then we realized that we wouldn't be saving a puppy from being euthanized (puppies get adopted) and we also weren't interested in getting a Pit mix, and it's very difficult to tell what breed you're getting when they're puppies. So, while we will definitely adopt an adult dog from the Humane Society or a rescue group at some time in the future, we wanted to stack the deck in our favor this time around by getting a puppy from a breeder.

So today I drove up to Washougal to visit Susan Fletcher and her Frontier Chinooks. Though Susan is not expecting a litter, I wanted to meet the dogs and make sure that the breed is a good fit for our lifestyle. Also, Susan is a very reputable breeder, and was able to recommend other breeders who might be expecting puppies this summer or fall.

After a long, windy, and absolutely beautiful drive through the southern Washington farmlands, I arrived at Susan's house, a cedar home with a windowed prow like a boat. Susan has nine Chinooks and three Chihuahuas, and they all exuberantly heralded my arrival with barks, woofs, snorts, grunts, and whines. I knocked on the door and there they all were, red and yellow dogs, tails wagging so hard their entire bodies wiggled. Susan opened the door and yelled over the din, "They'll quiet down in a minute! Come in!" and so I wended my way through a sea of dogs, each one fighting for my attention, until I made it across the room to the couch. I had one dog on my lap and about five more poking me with their big black noses. I was in heaven.

I spent a delightful two hours playing with the pack and asking Susan all about the puppy adoption process. Since Chinooks are a rare breed, there is a rather extensive application process with all breeders, ensuring that the right people adopt the puppies, and that the right puppy goes to the right person. Susan gave me tips on questions to ask breeders, and ensured me that Chinooks are the dogs for us.

Hooray! Now it's time to do some research on Chinook breeders in the US…