• Mary K. Armstrong

Choosing a Pup

It was time to get another dog. I’d recovered from the trauma of the previous rescue canine (a story for another time) and I was looking for a gentle, friendly, easy-to-train puppy. My 75th birthday was coming up, and when my husband asked me what I’d like for a present, I immediately replied, “a black female poodle pup.”

This would likely be my last dog. After all, I was turning 75 and the poodle could live 17 years. I hoped not to abandon the dog. That meant staying alive until 92. The death of loved family pets was just too painful. If anyone had to die first, it had better be me. Maybe we’d both end at the same time. The problem was, there was only so much planning one could do around such arrangements.

I started researching breeders and one warm spring day, we were invited by the breeder to meet the pups who would be ready to leave their litter mates and their mother’s milk in another month.

How, I wondered, could I tell which pup would make a manageable, easy-to-train companion? I wasn’t getting any stronger as the years passed. I needed a dog that would attach closely to me and accept me as the boss.

I went online to learn how to pick the right pup for my needs. Here’s what I learned:

Interact with the puppies you are considering one by one.

1) Pick up the puppy. Hug and cradle him. If he reacts by squealing and wriggling, this is not a good sign. You may have behavioural issues with a pup who is squeamish about being picked up. But a small struggle at first, followed by quickly settling down and looking at you is a better sign. One good trick is to pick up the puppy. If it immediately rolls over, that is a great sign.

2) Touch the puppies on the paws and mouth and ears to gage their reaction. A puppy who has been handled from an early age won’t mind.


I’ll never forget the warm spring day we travelled to the kennel to have a look at the pups. A huge number of tiny, furry creatures were crawling about over the green lawn. There were black ones, white ones, black and white ones, and brown ones with white spots. I was there to select an all-black female. Each pup wore a beaded collar of a different colour.

With so many squirmy pups on the grass, I reminded myself that I knew how to choose my easy-to-train black female. I spotted one especially sweet little black pup and zeroed in on her. I turned her over and she accepted my dominance. She also let me run my fingers over her mouth and nose. Great! She passed all my tests!

Joyously, I lifted her tiny body up over my head. I was smitten by her brown eyes. This was my dog! But …. Wait a minute! I drew in a sharp breath. She had a penis! She was no female. My little black poodle turned out to be male.

Mary's black poodle named Sammy!

It was too late to change my mind. My new dog was a lovable little male with big brown eyes that melted my heart. This was Sammy who, as I write this, is my loyal, six-year-old canine companion. And yes, he turned out to match all the criteria of the puppy testing exercises. Sammy likes everyone and has a friendly greeting for most dogs. He’s affectionate and fun loving. What’s best, he’s loyal and loves me unconditionally. What would life be like without Sammy? I won’t even think about that.


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