The beginning of this story is not one that we can put a particular date on. It’s a while. Years. It’s one of those things that we felt was right and started looking into but it wasn’t a guns blazing decision. It all started for me when we met Sly. Sly was our friends boxer (get it? Slyvester Stallone was a boxer in Rocky?) and he was one of those dogs that just seemed perfect. I’m sure he wasn’t…he probably did annoying things at times…but in my interactions with him, he never shoved a wet nose in your face or dug his head into your crotch or was overtly aggressive. I gotta give Sly credit because he is the first dog that made me fall in love with the idea of having a dog inside the house.
Growing up, we had a dog….Barney Bear….he was a black and white Australian shepherd rescue that had no tail and long shaggy hair. He lived outside and I really wasn’t his caregiver AT ALL or even really played with him. He was so cute as a little puppy…like a little black bear as he ran around the back yard. I would watch my brothers play with him and my parents always took care of him. I was always just the observer. Or the one that liked to brush his long black hair. As he got older, Barney had a very strong protective instinct….and there was a group of neighborhood boys would be abusive toward him as they rode through our yard on their bikes. They would take sticks and hit him and we found out later when he had little cuts. I remember crying about him being hurt. At first we didn’t know what the cuts were from….a wild animal? another dog? Then later we found out.
I remember the time that we were in the driveway and we actually saw the neighborhood boys were coming down…ready to cut into our yard to go past where Barney was hanging out. There was only one path to the woods and it was in our yard. My dad saw the boys had sticks in their hands, he ran down the hill, caught one of the boys just as the teen lashed his stick at our barking Barney….and Dad took him by the shirt up to his house to report him to his parents. I’ve never seen my dad move so fast and I was so proud of him….he was like a superhero protecting our family. It was also one of the few things that I remember thinking “this is truly evil”. Hurting this innocent creature.
In those weeks, Barney got more and more aggressive….he didn’t like us kids playing with him and would start to growl at us little ones. I would go to brush him and he would growl and bite at my hand and the brush. I’m sure it probably didn’t feel good to him but as a small girl, I didn’t fully understand…and I just got scared. Looking back, I’m sure that my mom and dad felt terrible about the entire situation – this tragic thing happened that we couldn’t control and they had to make a responsible decision for our family and for Barney’s well being. Soon Barney was gone…my parents found a family that had more land and no young kids. It was a good decision for Barney but we all cried. Even me….and I didn’t even play with him. It was just that he was our dog. And then he was different. And then he was gone. We never got another dog after that.
Years later, I met Sly. He was an inside dog (which was a fairly new concept to me. Barney only ever came into our garage.) and he was so gentle and sweet. He never growled or invaded personal space. He was good with kids and loved cuddles. It was very different than I remember Barney and it proved to me that things could be different. Forgive me if I sound like a crazy person….it’s just that when you only know annoying dogs or aggressive dogs, it just really sticks with you to find a well adjusted family pet.
Over time, I met more and more family dogs…inside and outside pets…all of who were sweet and gentle. It changed my heart about dogs….that not all dogs had sad stories…and also made me realize that I wanted a happy family pet for my own boys. Then when Will turned 2, he started asking about ‘our dog’. We casually started looking at local rescues. Years went past and three kids later, Will and Weston were both SO adamant about getting a pup. They would talk about what they wanted….a fast dog, a big dog, a little puppy, a dog that would chase them, a dog that slept in their room. At the beginning of 2015, we amped up our search for a rescue. We asked around to friends. All of my siblings have dogs and they all have opinions about the types of dogs and where to get them. It became our ‘search’.
After talking to basically everyone that we ever met with a dog, we came to realize a couple things. We wanted a dog that wouldn’t shed (we don’t have time to vacuum everyday guys), one that had a temperament that would be good with kids (can’t get rid of them!) and one that would get big enough (bigger dogs apparently are more likely to be calm). We started looking for a doodle – either a labradoodle or a goldendoodle and there were so many times we came close to finding the dog. We looked at rescues in neighboring states, dogs of all ages, and Craigslist. But it seemed like every time we got close, we didn’t qualify or something happened (some adoptions require you to have a fence, some require you to not have really small children, some that were literally adopted out from under us, etc.). We talked about expanding our search to other types of dogs, but every time we came back to this idea that it should be a puppy and it should be a doodle.
Finally last year we began looking at goldendoodle breeders. If I sound disappointed that we didn’t find the right rescue….I was. In my mind, a rescue is the way that we were going to find ‘our dog’…but it just didn’t happen. It’s not that we are opposed to responsible breeders necessarily….quite the opposite…we think that responsible breeding is an awesome way to have healthy, well adjusted dogs. But we understand that rescues exist because you can’t always control circumstances. Rescuing in our mind is born of compassion. To clarify – we don’t support puppy mills or folks that breed dogs that have no way to care for the puppies and dogs as they grow. That’s not responsible.
So after researching hundreds of breeders….we found a breeder almost two hours away that has golden doodles that fit our ‘want’ list. They are born and raised indoors, around kids, and they can help us with getting a second generation doodle (an F1b) that has the probability of shedding the least. That was the last thing on our list…but if we could choose, we would want that option because the dander and saliva have the potential for allergies the most…and since a couple of our family members do have allergies (hay, pollen, dogs, cats, insects, etc.) we wanted to limit that exposure. It’s not a perfect hypoallergenic solution…but it’s as close as we can get.
We found MustardSeed Ranch breeders and chose to have a male puppy hopefully with a red coat (all our boys tend to have a ginger phase and when presented with the option…that felt like red was our fur baby the most). Our little guy was born November 19th…the day after Weston’s birthday…and we received a bunch of photos of our new little guy from the breeder. I gotta tell you…it felt like I was pregnant all over again and was full-on in that nesting stage. I couldn’t wait till he was big enough to bring home!
At Christmas, we told the boys and they were so excited. We wrote a letter from Santa telling them that their ‘paw-some’ new friend was delivered to the wrong house and we would have to go pick him up. Of course, the boys thought we were getting a possum….which was hilarious 🙂 In January we were finally able to bring him home. Best day ever.
I know that some people will feel like we should have waited for a rescue…and I totally understand. Remember I was disappointed too. But I also feel like everything happens for a reason. Please understand that I don’t think our dog-story is over. We want to adopt a rescue in the future and give Bear a fur-sibling. There are so many dogs out there that need a forever home. I hope that you also see that our situation is that we have four small boys ages 6 and under…and before our newest family member, they were terrified of dogs in general….and getting a puppy – they were excited and brave to hold him (of course, Weston still had the longest adjusting period – that photo of him with Bear in his lap was a milestone!) and now, they are able to be bolder and accepting of other breeds and other friendly dogs. Sure – our friend’s great dane is still a little intimidating – but they don’t scream and cry and run away in terror anymore 🙂 So we do feel like we made a great decision and imagining our life without Bear is heartbreaking. The moral of the story is that supporting rescues and supporting responsible breeding – they are both good things…and at the end of the day, you have to make a decision that is best for your family.
So how did we decide on the name? Well, the first one that Jeremy wanted was Eddie. Get it? Eddie Bower? 🙂 And I wanted Bear for my old dog Barney Bear. We also tossed around the idea of Brooks, Demo, and Noodle. In the end, we went with Bear because 1. it’s the one we could agree on. and 2. the Breeder calls the dogs by animal names and our little guy was dubbed “Bear” on his listing….it was fate 🙂 Technically speaking, Bear is MY dog – we made that clear to the boys so that it squashes fights and already, we have seen indications that I am his alpha…which drives Jeremy crazy 🙂 His nickname is Chewbacca Sugarbear. You know. Because Star Wars everything. I call him Bear, Boo-boo, Chewy Bear, Sugarbear, and Bear-bear and pretty much any combination of those things 🙂
He should grow to about 55-65 lbs when he’s full grown and is already so patient with the boys. He is definitely in that puppy stage where he is putting his sharp little puppy teeth on everything….and we are teaching the boys to cry/squeel like a mama dog and hide their fingers in their armpits. It seems to be the best deterrent right now. He is terrified of the rain and will not go to the bathroom outside if there is any wet weather….so that’s our biggest obstacle for house training. We will stand out there for twenty minutes under the umbrella with him sitting on our feet crying and the moment we go inside, he squats. But other than that…training is going really well. Oh and he doesn’t like ducks. We found that out at the park 🙁
Other than that…he is just the friendliest little guy. He LOVES new people, his stuffed beanie babies and sneaking off to chew on our sofa. And he is sleeping from midnight till 6 in his crate like a champ. Bear is still learning to run fast – which is hilarious to see because his little legs get tangled up sometimes. And I love that he is such a serious looking boy….it’s like him and Will both have the same temperament 🙂 OH and his tail! He has the curliest tail that wags fiercely at all the boy’s friends. He is learning to socialize with other dogs….it’s been one of those slightly terrifying things because you just never know how they will react….but so far, so good. He loves playing chase and is a master at figuring out how to nap under furniture 🙂 He loves nesting in a pile of my clothes….so I keep teasing Jeremy that I don’t need to clean up because it’s Bears bed.
Overall…we are just so in love. He really does feel like our family member! Like we were always meant to have him. And I’m sure all you other dog-moms are probably just nodding your head knowingly 🙂 I know it seems dramatic….and in some ways it is….I never saw myself as an indoor pet person…or someone that would be able to ignore the dog-toots…I was scared that he would hate us or the boys wouldn’t adjust….but he is such a comfort to me personally….like this long-lost friend….in the form of a baby dog 🙂 I love him so so much. And that my friends, is our story about our newest boy Bear and how he came to be a Bower 🙂
p.s. A reader had a great suggestion of what to do if you do have little ones and have a heart for rescues….call a local rescue in your area and ask if they need item donations or any other things your kids can get at the store….it will teach the little ones to have a heart for the dogs still waiting for their forever families and rescue centers always need help! And if you are local to us, Walton County has a list of ways you can help. This is the website we used to make donations 🙂