When puppies are very young, they don’t really bark. They squeak.

Once a week all throughout December, my boyfriend, Snickers, and I made trips out to see the Sheltie litter at Merlyn Kennels. Very soon, the two female puppies knew that we were there to see them. They would jump at their pen and lick our hands while the boys in the litter would continue falling on top of each other and knocking over their water dish. I felt like a proud parent– They are just so smart! We knew from the beginning that the breeder would be keeping one of the female puppies to become the next matriarch in her line of show dogs. Essentially, whichever puppy best represented what the Sheltie breed aims for, in looks, personality, etc., would be the one she would keep.

I’ll be honest, I had fallen in love with the other female puppy. I’d tentatively named her Bianca, from Disney’s The Rescuer’s. Eva Gabor does the voice for the character, a Hungarian mouse who works in a mouse-version of the UN. (If you have never seen this movie, please do) This puppy walked around like she was the prettiest thing ever, and she was always posing. The other female puppy seemed to have little interest in me–she’d rather play with a toy by herself than let me pet her. The breeder explained that just like human kids, puppies can go through awkward phases where they are emotionally ‘behind’ or have little interest in humans. This was hard to accept when Bianca seemed genuinely interested in interacting with me (and Snickers, despite the many growls and snaps that came her way). I crossed my fingers, hoping for Bianca.

Finally, right before the puppies’ 10 week birthday, we stopped in for our visit. “Here’s your puppy!” the breeder greeted us. I studied the puppy–which one was it? Looking quickly, it could be tough to figure out who was who, their colours and markings were quite similar. I remembered that Bianca’s feet were white only on her paws. This puppy’s feet, legs and chest were all pure fuzzy white.

I asked how she made the decision of which puppy to keep. She explained that “my puppy” was beautiful, and had perfect markings for a show dog. In fact, there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. Unfortunately, the markings that would make her a great show dog carried potential problems for her future puppies. If my puppy were bred, there was a risk that her puppies could be born with all white faces, or large amounts of white in their fur. Not only would this disqualify them for showing purposes, but the genetics that cause white faces in Shelties often cause blindness or deafness. So, while puppy Bianca was not as “technically” beautiful in the world of show dogs, she was the more ideal candidate for producing show quality puppies.

Hiding my disappointment with a smile, I reached out for my new puppy, unsure of what to expect from her, let alone what to name her!

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