My dog who died several months ago was born on a farm several hours north of where I live. On Monday, when I was in Brainerd to give a talk, my husband suggested that we do a little detour on our way home and find the farm where we had found her and bought her. I quickly agreed.
On one level, our intention was purely to revisit a place of significance in our lives. A place firmly linked with a “golden memory” in the life of our family. Eleven years ago we had seen the ad in the paper, made the phone call, driven the three hours north, and turned off the dirt road to park between the farm house and the barn. To our right we smelled pigs and heard their snorts. All around us, however, we saw dogs running to greet us. Boxers of fawn and brindle coloring with tails wagging. As their need for hugs and attention began to subside and they turned to find other adventure, around the corner came the six-week-old puppy that we had come to take home. My little boys fell instantly in love, as did my husband and I.
The proprietors had handled their boxers with the enthusiasm and pride of grandparents. They looked us over, scrutinizing our ability to care for this puppy. They wanted to see how we would transport her home. They had us sit at their kitchen table and look through photo albums of all the boxers they’d raised and the families with whom they’d placed the puppies. They wanted us to know they took this placement seriously. Before we left, our picture was also taken to be added to these archives of their canine-extended family. I had always intended to send a letter and picture of our dog in later years to fill them in on how she was doing as our family dog but I regret to say that I never did.
On another level, a subconscious level, my husband and I probably hoped that by revisiting the boxer farm we would be greeted by another six-week-old puppy in need of a home. (We miss our dog.)
We drove around for a couple hours trying to find this farm. Our memories of its location were not as sharp as we had supposed. Because we didn’t think of this adventure until we had already left home that morning, we had not looked back in our records for the names and contact information. Fortunately, I remembered the woman’s first name. It was an unusual first name and so stopping at some farms in the vicinity and offering that name gained us some clues. When we finally had their full name and phone number and knew we were in a very close proximity to their farm, we called them and asked if we could stop in. They were thrilled and told us to come right over. Apparently we were instant family because we had raised one of their dogs.
Their farm was just as we remembered it minus the pigs and minus the multitude of boxers. They were retired from farming and no longer raised dogs. Sadly, there would be no puppy to tempt us. They still had one dog, however, a male boxer and the man went to get him so that we could play with him and watch him run. We were invited into the house, back to the kitchen table we had sat at eleven years ago. A photo album came out and once again we saw pictures of the boxers they had raised. The picture of my family and new puppy were not in this album but to be sure it was in one of the albums stacked in the other room. They sort of remembered us, thought I was familiar, thought they could picture our sons. They certainly remembered our puppy, remembered her parents.
We thanked them for giving us such a great dog. Thanked them for the joy they had given our sons, our family. Thanked them for breeding such a fine dog. I’m not sure but I think we may have caught them at a lonely moment, not surprising considering the isolation of farms. They drank in our visit and our thank you’s. But then who wouldn’t welcome the appearance of someone from out of the blue saying that what you did had mattered to them, that what you did had brought joy to their family for eleven years? All four of us were all smiles when we left. It had been such a fun unexpected reunion. I didn’t leave with a new puppy but I did leave with boxer pawprints on my skirt and a pint of freshly canned home-grown raspberry jam. And a phone number to the couple on the farm down the road who will have a litter of boxer puppies next spring.