What kind of dog do you get when you cross two Labrador Retrievers, an Anatolian Shepherd, and an Akbash?
A really cute, extremely energetic puppy.
I’ve mentioned before that Diana and I are animal people. For 19 of our 23 years together, we’ve had at least one animal in the family. She came into the relationship with a cat, and it snowballed from there.
I grew up with a dog around. We had a dachshund until I was about seven. I carry a permanent reminder just over my left eye of an argument we had over a bone. After Pezel passed away recovering from back surgery, we went a couple of years without, then adopted a poodle. Suzie hung around for forever, it seemed. She was my best friend for a long time, patiently listening to me complain about the unfairness of life. My first wife and I always seemed to have a dog or two around as well.
After Diana and I met, a stray German Shepherd wandered into our yard and stayed with us for nine years until he finally grew too aggressive and bit one of the neighbor kids. We also had a chow-lab mix around the same time. Chaz and the kittens got rehomed when we hit the road though, and I’ve been without a dog for over five years now.
Eighteen months ago, we picked up a stray cat. Lady Sif has enjoyed being the queen of the house.
Sometime late last year, I began missing having a dog around more than I had been. I’ve hinted around several times since we settled in the house that I wanted a dog. But I was realistic about the expenses and time commitment that were involved, so I never really pushed the issue.
But I still missed having a dog around. I missed dogs enough that I started looking at the animal shelter’s Facebook page way more often than I probably should have. I noticed at least one that looked far too similar to Chaz.
Then in December, our charter school teacher mentioned having some puppies available. Mom is a cross between a Labrador Retriever, an Anatolian Shepherd, and an Akbash, and they worked on the assumption that dad was a neighbor’s black Lab. Angelia posted several pictures of the litter, and they were all adorable. I became smitten with the idea of a dog again, and it approached desperation for a bit.
Diana is not a dog person, for the most part. She tolerates them, but she would practically never go out and adopt a dog on her own.
She and I talked it over for several days, without involving the kids. We both knew they would love to have another dog in the house. The question as always was who would take care of any new pet. Diana has done the lion’s share of cleaning up after Sif, and she had done most of the care of the dogs and cats in the past. She didn’t want to be the only one taking care of a new dog. After some deep thought and discussion, I confirmed that I was able and willing to put forth a major effort toward training and keeping a dog.
We finally decided that I’d go down to Angelia’s to see if either of the two pups she had left really clicked with me. That left the theoretical possibility that I wouldn’t come home with a dog.
I didn’t tell the kids where I was going the day after New Year’s Day, just that I was running an errand. Angelia lives about 45 minutes away, and I spent about twenty minutes hanging out with the two puppies, both female. The blonde-furred one seemed more interested in me than her rust-colored sister was, which I thought was a good sign. After getting Celia’s blessing (Angelia’s youngest daughter, age 5), I carried the blonde pup to my car and headed for Petco.
We had nothing at the house for a dog. Part of me wanted to buy all the dog things, but I restrained myself. I knew our new family member would be tall, so a raised food dish seemed a decent idea, although that’s actually far from settled science. I also bought a harness, leash, and collar and food. I didn’t buy a crate at first, but went back several days later for one. It’ll help in the long run.
Bringing Her Home
I mentioned that we hadn’t told the kids what we were doing. Part of me wanted to be sneaky and surprise them, but part of me wanted to choose the dog myself. I knew that if they knew where I was going, they’d all want to come along, and there would probably be more than a little arguing about which one we chose.
Yeah, it was a little selfish.
The pup handled the trip well. Amazingly well. She yelped and whined for the first half-mile, which was a noisy gravel road, with lots of strange sounds and smells. Plus it was her first car ride, and she was away from mom and sister and brother for the first time, so it was scary. She rode across my chest for the first several miles, front paws on my shoulder, looking much like a baby in my arms. She settled down soon enough in the passenger seat except for an occasional whimper or whine.
At Petco, she rode semi-happily in the cart as we got her gear and food. I think she was just too confused about what was going on to be too upset. Plus, Angelia had given her her first vaccinations that day, so she was still processing that, as much as dogs do.
When I got home, I parked the car and tried to let her walk in, but she refused to get out of the car on her own. I carried her up the steps, walked in, and…
Four kids were in the living room. Ian saw me walking to the door and realized I had a dog in my arms, but nothing really clicked for him.
I sat on the couch, and she cuddled back up to me like she had in the first part of the car ride. The kids asked lots of questions, like “Why do you have a dog?” “Are we watching her?” “Is she ours?”
A surprisingly composed excitement settled over the living room as the kids all took turns sitting next to me and petting her. Mostly they marveled at how quiet she was, and how soft her fur felt.
The best part of the homecoming was Owen. He had been in his room getting ready for work, and missed out on our arrival. His siblings were doing such a great job of trying not to scare the dog that he didn’t hear any of the muted elation that followed.
Owen walked out of his room and came to a dead stop, staring at the new arrival.
“That’s a dog. Why is there a dog here? Is that our dog?”
I was so proud of myself for nailing a complete surprise.
Again With The Names
I had for some reason become fixated on the idea of naming her Royal. I have both of my dad’s Royal typewriters, and I thought that would kind of a cool homage to my dad and writing. But after I brought her home, it didn’t quite seem to fit. The kids weren’t thrilled with it either.
I thought too about naming her Pearl, for the dog that appears in Robert Parker’s Spenser novels, but fairly quickly discounted that one as well.
Marley was a front-runner for a bit, but I didn’t like that one because Marley dies in the end. I wondered about another superhero name, but female superheros seem to be in short supply. Rogue was suggested and dropped. Storm didn’t fit because she was blonde, and storms are grey and black and white and so forth.
Somehow, Athena popped into my head. I may have been channeling Rick Riordan, since the kids loved the movies and books. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom, craft, and war, and the mother of Annabeth Chase in the Percy Jackson series. That’s an appropriate name for a guardian dog breed, I think.
So now we have a dog in the house. She gained three or four pounds in two weeks; we expect her to be fairly large. Female Anatolian and Akbash dogs grow to about 90 pounds. Everyone seems to be happy with her except Lady Sif. The first few days were pretty tense for Sif, but progress is being made.
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