On April 1st, 2017, I drove to Welcome, MD to pick up Ayla.
My breeder lived in Delaware, but she had been willing to drive a few of the puppies to the Maryland breeder whom I had first visited, and so I picked Ayla up there.
Having read The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete, I knew their advice was not to crate your dog during your drive home, but rather have a companion whose lap your pup could sit so that you didn’t stress your new puppy out too much. However, I did not have that companion. I texted my breeder and asked my best course of action, and she said it was always safer to crate your dog when driving. So I loaded my crate into my hatchback, put a soft fleece inside, brought along a tiny collar, and drove over. I signed the paperwork, received an even tinier cat collar, a microchip with instructions to have my vet insert it, and Ayla’s medical records for up to that point. I asked about how much food I should be feeding my puppy, and then we went out to the mini-van and Ayla was placed in my arms. I chatted briefly with my breeder whom I had been texting with back and forth pretty regularly to that point, but then someone else arrived and I headed over to my car to leave.
At that point, I knew Ayla had only ever spent one night in a crate. So I held her in my arms while sitting in the backseat of my car and tried to comfort her as I put on her cat tiny collar. She was thrilled to be in my arms, until she realized she wasn’t going back to her litter mates.
It actually makes me cry writing this because she got so upset and then I had to put her in the crate to drive home. It was an hour drive and she just cried and cried, and it broke my heart listening to her pain. I know, of course, that all puppies go through this and it was not just me. Pearl had been extremely recluse and hidden in her crate from us for two days. But my drive home with Ayla was tough. It’s hard not to feel like a horrible person when you have a baby puppy wailing in your backseat for their family. For me, the first 48 hours of owning Ayla were extremely brutal emotionally. I knew I might be in for it when my godmother sent me a booklet published by The Seeing Eye dogs and there was a chapter titled “Don’t Despair at the 72 Hour Mark.”
However, I will note that those first two days aside, I was actually in better emotional shape than I expected. Three weeks later when a friend visited for dinner, I told her I was actually surprised because I thought it was going to be a lot harder. I had even warned a long-distance friend of mine that I expected I was going to be a basketcase. I told them, “I need you to help me survive April. I might cry, but I need you to be there to listen. I can’t back out. If I back out, I will never be able to get another dog. Just help me get through April and I think I will be able to stand on my own feet after that.” April was not without tears, but once we got into a routine, it did get easier and I blessed my foresight to drop all after work activities. Those first few weeks I spent a lot of time outside lying on my back deck with my puppy lying on my chest because it was something we could do together.
As I started spending more time outside walking Ayla or playing with her in my backyard after work, I got more into gardening because I was outside all the time. This was also about the time I discovered that 3/4 plants in my backyard were toxic to dogs and more than once I caught Ayla trying to graze on the laurel bush. So I did a bunch of googling on shade perennials that were non-toxic. I discovered heruacha and bought half a dozen. I severely pruned back my laurel and rhododendron and then surrounded them with astibles and heuracha. I got most of my plants from a website called ilovehostas and a few of my heurachas from Walmart. The heuracha were my smartest move. I routinely see Ayla outside eating them like lettuce.