Before leaving the radio station Sunday I called Warren to see if he wanted to go with me to view the local litter of bichon frise puppies. He was really cranky on the phone. He sounded groggy and complained about having been woken up. Warren sounded like someone worth avoiding.
I went, alone, to the local breeder with the huge litter. She was actually in Campbell, which is right next to San Jose, but this was still way closer than Sacramento.
I found the house, knocked on the door (seems the doorbell didn't work), and the woman took me to the one-car garage, opened the door, and in it was a 3'x6' pen containing eight Bichon Frise puppies. She explained they were from three different litters, and that she and the pups came here from Oklahoma two weeks ago to help take care of her father.
Showing off a little, she then told me how one of the pups had been authorized to visit hospitals at four weeks old, called for "Sara," and this little mound of fluff emerged from the "puppy pile," swishing her tail back and forth, and sat in front of the breeder. This particular pup, she said, was her daughter's favorite.
I examined the pups. None of them had the same pretty face Fuzzball had. I then mentally slapped myself in the head, reminding myself I was getting a new dog with a new face and a new personality. The eyes in these pups were all expressive. I wanted that. I also wanted a mellow puppy.
I wanted to see whether any of the pups responded to me, so I stepped into the pen and was promptly descended upon by five of the pups. Several of them kept wanting to nip. This was when I started Personality Test #1: The "Puppy Nip Test."
How it works: Puppy comes up to you and nips you. You tap it on the nose (gently) and sternly say, "no puppy-nipping." Some pups grok this; others don't. I want a dog that can quickly understand the word "no" when said by me. This narrowed the field down to three pups.
Personality Test #2: The "Puppy Dominance Test." When choosing a puppy, you can go for an alpha, beta, or omega. The difference?
Alpha: The dominant one. This one will always test you. If you put two alpha male bichons in a room they'll merely spend lots of time trying to hump each other; with other breeds you can get a dogfight. Alpha bichons are desirable if you are putting the dog in a house where there are lots of larger animals. A small alpha dog will rule the house.
Omega: The submissive one. This one will automatically assume the rest of the world is the boss. An omega will see you coming and immediately roll on its back, often peeing in the process. The peeing, of course, is a behavior problem. If you are afraid of having anything that could possibly challenge the authority of you or anyone else in the house, an omega is your dog.
Beta: The middle one. This one won't automatically try to hump everything in sight. If you put an alpha and a beta together, the alpha will always be the dominant dog. If you put an omega and a beta together, the beta will dominate -- mostly because the omega will immediately roll over. Betas are great if you want a dog you can take almost anywhere you're going as long as you're within eyeshot.
Now...given this, you're probably wondering how to tell a beta from an omega. It's simple: When the alpha goes around humping the other dogs, the omegas roll over immediately, but the betas stay upright, holding their ground.
I stood and watched as one of the three pups came up to another one her size, started humping her on the side, and the pup being humped didn't buckle. The third pup was being insufferably cute. I knew it was going to be one of those two, but I couldn't decide which. I really wanted Warren to go with me to pick out my pup.
I told the breeder I'd be back tomorrow to make my final decision, explaining that I wanted to "puppy proof" the place (this is true) Monday. I didn't think she needed to know I also wanted to make sure my finances were okay before I spent bucks on a puppy, as I'm always edgy when spending more than $500 on anything. At this point I had pretty much decided to go with a local, less-expensive dog rather than a pricey one with a bad bite. I was also concerned with getting a puppy the night before an on-site job interview in the morning and a phone interview in the afternoon.
Rather than go home and wake up Warren, I called Diana because I needed to talk to someone and fast. We went to Pasand's and I told her about how Warren was threatening to stay away from my house if I got the dog and how I felt empty without one. I also mentioned how I feel strongly about never letting a guy choose between me and my dog. We agreed I should get the dog. Warren has been justifiably edgy because of possible upcoming brain surgery (his this time, not doggie's), which means the dog is needed that much more to hold me up.
I was ebullient at the thought of finally having a new puppy as I arrived home. Warren was finishing his dinner as I arrived. I was shocked to see this, as his gray food takes 1.5 hours to prepare. He gestured into the rec room, where, instead of my sofabed facing sideways (the wrong way for anyone other than him), I saw my two recliners and two tables. I was ecstatic.
It turned out the "tired and cranky" was an act he was putting on to keep me away so he'd have enough time to rearrange the furniture in the house to where I wanted it! My sofabed was finally in the living room, along with one of my tables and one of my bookshelves. He brought out my old shoji screen from Netscape and hid boxes behind it; it looked fantastic,
I then realized he moved the guest bed into the guest room (it, and he, had been in the living room since its arrival months ago). This meant I could finally get up in the middle of the night or wake up in the morning and not worry about waking him up. It also, conveniently, enabled me to put the puppy pen in the living room.
Warren was still adamant about not wanting a puppy in the house. I was nearly as adamant about wanting one. He said he'd leave if I got the puppy. My ebullience was suddenly turned to dread.