Eight State Road Trip & A Puppy Muse

We are back from our three week road trip from Oregon to Wisconsin and back. Because a 33 hour road trip wasn’t crazy enough, 8 hours in we picked up our puppy, Hinter. Multiple people, including our vet, suggested perhaps we should pick the puppy up on the way back. They were worried about a puppy keeping us up at night, and all of the potty stops and the threat of contracting Parvo by taking an unvaccinated puppy across country and stopping at all sorts of public spots. But, as I’m sure you guessed, we didn’t listen. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Our puppy never made a peep the first night on the road and slept 7 hours overnight, curling up next to me in our tent. He never cried for his mom at all. He bonded to us instantly. We learned camping with a puppy is the best way to work on potty training. It’s certainly easier than having a puppy in a house and constantly heading outside and waiting around for him to do his business.

New German Shepherd Puppy
Front seat rider.
Sun Bathing German Shepherd Puppy
Pint sized sun bather.

At just 8 weeks old our puppy traveled through 7 states. (The eighth state in the road trip was Washington, which we had already gone through by the time we picked him up in Idaho). We took Hinter into the chapel of a shrine, a Shopko, and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Puppies can go anywhere. People don’t kick a puppy out, they just smile and ask if they can pet it. Which Hinter gladly obliged. He loves meeting people. In Casper, Wyoming he took a spin through Lou Taubert’s Ranch Outfitters. In Western Wyoming he watched as the Grand Teton’s came into view, he even saw his first moose. He was the reason I got to hear a bull elk bugling down the mountain at 5:30 in the morning under a pink-tinted sky. Left to my own devices, I still would have been snuggled in bed instead of outside on a bathroom run.

Corn Palace Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson depicted in corn at, where else, the Corn Palace.
German Shepherd Puppy In A Bag
My Paris Hilton moment with Hinter riding in my bag. This is how I snuck him into the chapel.
Virgin Mary Of The Holy Turquoise
Someone gave their turquoise bolo tie to the Virgin Mary at the chapel. I liked the sentiment.

We are hopeful that Hinter can be used for therapy. He seems to have the affection for people and is quickly learning his manners. Connor had the affection for people, but had poor manners. Shelby is incredibly obedient and could have passed the test with flying colors. The only problem is that she doesn’t care for affection. Her idea of affection is a drive-by licking while you’re napping, waking you up in the process and making sure you’re still alive. Then as quick as she descended on your face she’s gone. She doesn’t want many pets, just treats and for someone to throw a ball. Nope, not a therapy dog at all in that one.

Tetons Coming Into View
Hinter watching the Tetons coming into view.
Wilson Wyoming Bull Moose
We stumbled on this guy while on a walk down a gravel driveway. We quickly backtracked and gave him some space. Of course after collecting ourselves I had to pull out the camera and long lens.

But Hinter shows great promise. He is wickedly smart but mellow for a Shepherd. Even if we never get him to the point of therapy, I think he might already working magic on my heart. You see, I had a pretty hard time after Connor’s death. Nothing I realized, just a listlessness. You can see it in my blog posts. It took me months to write something funny. Even the number of blog posts suffered. Right now I am strapped for time with waking up overnight for potty breaks, getting up early with him, then driving him to my mom’s for doggy daycare. The evening is consumed with rushing from horse care, to dog walking, to puppy training. By the time I sit down it’s usually after 8 O’clock. And yet, the writing is coming a little easier. The valve has been opened a little wider. I don’t want to jinx it, don’t want to scare it off, but puppy joy seems to be an antidote to writers block.

German Shepherd In Summer
Sunshine and puppy cuddles are good for the soul.
German Shepherd Puppy In A Planter
The most adorable garden accessory.

One last shot from the road, not a puppy photo but a shot of rain moving off the mountains as we were driving south toward Jackson Hole. I love the misty wonder of this photo. Driving 4000 miles is hard work, but seeing the vastness of our country, the beauty in the changing scenery and the cultures from place to place makes me appreciate our wonderful country.

Rain Storm In The Tetons

Promising To Treasure The Heartbeat Moments

When Connor (rest in peace, buddy) was a puppy, still toddling around on too big paws and unbalanced legs, we took him to a friend’s house to visit. Our friend’s had a three year old daughter and the mom guided her daughter’s small hand under Connor’s front legs to feel his puppy-sized heartbeat. I remember it clearly because I felt foolish for never having previously stopped to appreciate a detail so small yet powerful. Throughout Connor’s life I remembered that moment and occasionally would pause to slip my hand under a front leg and onto his chest to feel that solid thumping. I had no idea one day I’d be slipping my hand under his leg and onto his chest for the last time to feel the absence of his heartbeat.

German Shepherd Dog Great Beyond RIP
Oh rest in peace sweet being.

The night Connor died we had been checking on him but giving him his space as we waited outside for the vet to arrive. When the vet finally did get to us and we took her inside, Connor had already died. But I was in shock. I didn’t believe that he was dead. I put my hand on his chest, grasping for that reassuring thumping of his heart. I’d felt it so many times before, was thankful for it, and for that friend in the beginning pointing out the magic of it, I was sure it would still be there. It wasn’t. I only felt the pounding of my own heartbeat against his rigor-stiffened ribs.

Those heartbeat moments have been on my mind lately. The special ones at the beginning where I realized I needed to take time to appreciate the small miracles of life, and that final time that I felt his fur against my hand and the absence his heartbeat. They are on my mind because we are getting a new German Shepherd puppy. I am beyond excited. But the excitement is tinged with sadness. If our sweet dog hadn’t died so young, we wouldn’t be getting a puppy.

German Shepherd Long Hair Puppy

I know that when we pick up the puppy, the first thing I’ll do (after crying my eyes out) will be to put my palm against his small chest and feel the power of his heartbeat against my hand. Our new furry family member will be named Hinter. That’s not a typo. Hinter is short for Hinterland, one of the defitions is “an area lying beyond what is visible or known.” I think that is perfect. There is so much we don’t know, certainly we never expected to lose our young dog so soon, nor to expect another new spirit in our lives. Hinter also mean’s “after” in German, which seemed a fitting honor for the dog who is coming after Connor.

There is much to be sad about in the world, the ailing health of family members, strained relationships, changes in jobs and income and careers. But if we can find the little moments in life that give reminders of the wonders of life, the miraculous in the common as Emerson put it, we can remind ourselves about the joy in the world that is present in the small things.

Appreciating the heartbeat of my new puppy will not take away the pain or the memory of losing Connor. But will instead remind me to appreciate all of the little, special moments that makeup every day. I am trying to take my own lesson of gratitude that I talked about earlier this week to heart. Being thankful isn’t just for the month of November, or a series of Facebook updates. It’s a choice we have to make every day to remind ourselves how fortunate we really are.

Without further ado, please meet Hinter…

Long Hair German Shepherd Candle Hill Shepherds

All puppy photos are courtesy of Candle Hill Shepherds. If you are looking for a German Shepherd breeder, I highly recommend checking them out. And if you want to know why, feel free to contact me so I can let you know why I’m such a fan.