Katie and I drove home from a delightful ‘big girls’ lunch’ on Thursday afternoon. She talked excitedly in the back of the car.

“So, Mama,” she said – talking a mile a minute. “I can’t wait til we get to meet the dogs on Saturday! I mean, you have to figure we’re going to get one, don’t you, Mama? I mean, honestly, what are the odds that we go and see them and we DON’T get one? Right? I mean, right?”

“Katie,” I said, trying hard to sound like a grown-up, “I really need you to be prepared for the fact that we may very well walk out of there without a dog. We’re looking for our Charlie, honey – a very special little puppy. And if we don’t find him or her on Saturday, we have to be prepared to keep looking. I need you to understand that that’s a very real possibility, little one.”

“OK,” she said soberly. “I do understand, Mama. I really do. But I’m just telling you, if we DO leave without a dog, I’m probably going to cry. I’ll understand, but I’ll cry.”


“All right, Katie,” I said, “I’d like to try to look at this another way. I know it will be sad if we leave without a dog on Saturday, but we’ve said that we know that OUR Charlie is out there, right?”

“Right,” she said.

“Well, if we know that OUR Charlie is out there somewhere, then don’t you think that if we got a dog just because we wanted a dog, but it wasn’t the RIGHT dog, then that would be even sadder? Because then we’d be leaving our Charlie out there in the world without us. Isn’t that a lot sadder, really?”

“Yeah,” she conceded. “That would be worse I guess.”


On Saturday morning, we piled into the car and drove the forty-five minutes to the breeder’s house. As soon as we stepped out of the car, Brooke grabbed onto my leg and asked me to pick her up. “I would stay up on you,” she said. I wasn’t going to argue.

We walked into the breeder’s small storefront, out of which they run a small pet supply shop, a grooming business and a doggie day-care. Two of the three Cavies that we’d come to see were in open play-pens in the middle of the shop. The third had been adopted during the week.

From the moment that we walked into the shop, the older of the two puppies (a seven month old) jumped up and down. And up and down. And up and down. She skittered across her pen, climbing the walls, looking awfully close to making a break for it. She was a whirling, twirling, leaping fur-ball of unbridled energy. Brooke tightened her grip around my neck.

The little guy – an adorable twelve week old Blenham – followed the example of his older pal. He ran and jumped and bit at the sides of his pen. And, just for good measure, he barked. A lot. I leaned down and put my hand near the side of the pen. Little teeth dug into my flesh.

Katie didn’t move. She didn’t ask a single question. She made no move to pet a dog or to even get particularly close to either of them. Brooke simply held onto Mama.

Luau and I looked at each other. We didn’t need to say it. Neither of these dogs was Charlie. Not even close.

The breeder had picked up the phone. We murmured something about ‘high energy level’ and ‘thanks very much, but not really appropriate’ and headed for the door. Our visit had lasted approximately four minutes.


As we drove back home, I thought back to the rest of Thursday’s conversation.

We had driven quietly for a few minutes. And then Katie had broken the silence.


“Yes, baby?”

“I know our Charlie’s out there somewhere. I mean, every thing’s got to be somewhere, right?”

“Right, honey. Absolutely.”

I had peeked in the rear view mirror at my girl. I would have sworn I saw the corner of her mouth curl ever so slightly into a smirk as she said, “But Mama?’

“Yes, honey?”

“I really hope he’s not in China.”


There were no tears on Saturday, even though we came home empty-handed. It was just too obvious that neither of those puppies was OUR puppy. Our little family seemed to be at peace with knowing that we’ll find our Charlie when he’s ready to be found, and that it might take some time.

And according to Katie, a possible trip to China.

21 thoughts on “china?

  1. I love your blog and am very touched by it. I was just wondering if you ever considered looking through a rescue group? There are rescue groups for every breed of dog. There are so many wonderful dogs out there that deserve a home, and one of these groups may very well have your Charlie!

  2. Glad you got some answers to the puppy questions! Good luck in your search – your Charlie is definitely out there somewhere (close by) waiting for you!

  3. Why don’t you look in some animal shelters or a rescue league? It is a shame when people go to breeders when there are so many unwanted dogs out there. Many rescue dogs make wonderful pets since they truly are grateful to be adopted.

  4. Our “Charlie” came to us in CT from a rescue group in Tennessee. The woman we worked with understood our needs and we did, eventually, find the perfect fit. Our dog was a bit older (the vet thought 8 to 9 months old) and housebroken (bonus points!). Sadie has been with us for a little over three years and we still marvel at how perfect she is for this family.
    I have no doubts that your family will find Charlie…even if he’s in China!!

  5. Just so you know, a reputable breeder would never have 3 puppies available at once. They wait until they have deposits from approximately enough families and then they breed their dog. They would have a waitlist if they had more puppies than expected. Then they match each puppy with a family based on temperament. The way those puppies were acting is a sign that they have not had proper socialization. And when people don’t care about socialization they often don’t care about genetics which = major health problems especially in the more popular small breeds. Glad that you ran away from that one 🙂

    Depending on your experience with dogs – I might suggest an older puppy. New puppies are seriously like new born babies. An older puppy will be housetrained, will know some basic training, and will have an attention span longer than 1 second.

    If/when you do get your puppy I would highly recommend this book by a highly respected dog trainer who actually knows her stuff.

    Also thank you so much for thinking about this process and not just snapping up the first puppy you saw that gave you adorable puppy face! I’ve seen it turn into a nightmare scenario way to often.

    -Not trying to be snarky but involved in animal rescue and thus spend a lot of time educating people/seeing the damage done by bad breeders. Sorry for giving unasked for advice – I just feel so passionate about this that it is hard to mmob.

    • megan, i don’t see snark in your comment at all.

      we are learning as much as we can as we go along. as you say, we do take the process very seriously. i see adopting a dog as a HUGE commitment. we are bringing a new life into the family. that’s not something to do flippantly.

      my concern with a rescue is that quite frankly, i don’t think that we have sufficient expertise to manage both a dog with issues and a child with issues around that dog. although i’ve seen some wonderful rescue dogs, i’ve seen some really bad situations with them as well. friends of ours even made the heartbreaking decision to return their dog to the rescuer. i just couldn’t bear to face that kind of situation.

      for now, the process is on hold. we’ll continue to educate ourselves and remain open to charlie coming from any number of places/situations. (even china!)

  6. Our “Charlie” was not a puppy but a kitten. My daughter wanted a kitten once we got our own place, but it just never seemed the right time. Then I had my son and realized a pet – any pet – would be a challenge. We never had to go looking, our “Charlie” came to us. A friend’s sister had adopted him and couldnt keep him. My friend took him to her house and she told me how she felt he’d be perfect for our situation. Here we are almost 8 yrs later and he *is* perfect.

  7. Bravo for successfully explaining to Katie about who your Charlie will be. Bravo to Katie for accepting this. Bravo to Brooke for getting out of the car. Bravo to wise parents.

  8. Sorry it didn’t work out this weekend – I’m sure that was disappointing for all. But you’ll find Charlie, or he/she will find you.

    P.S. Nigel and Aidan have a black Spaniel named Charlie at their dad’s house!

  9. I have a Katie and she grew up with a perpetual little tiny smile at the corners of her mouth too. She always had an answer and was ALWAYS a step or two ahead of me. I guess turn-around is fair play.
    I want to hear about each and every time that she “handles” you.
    What a love she is….

  10. It could be the follow-up trend to the adoption of girls from China — finding “Charlies” in China. I guess to a kid’s mind that seems about as remote as could be! You’re right to take your time and help your family weather the waiting …. it will be worth it in the long run (I had to say “run” just in case Luau is reading!).

  11. where are the sleepy puppies? the low-energy, easy-going ones? charlie, charlie. he’s out there…right this second. probably taking a nap.

    you definitely need to procure a “charlie don’t surf” t-shirt. hee.

  12. I agree with what many have said here about rescued dogs. A puppy, by nature, IS going to have a higher energy level, nipping ( teething) issues, and need extensive training before he/ she becomes a model member of the household. The other, VERY important consideration is that you have less insight into a young puppy’s personality than you will a slightly older dog. Yes, you may encounter dogs with “issues” but not as often as you may fear. The rescued dogs ( from reputable agencies) DO test extensively for issues as they want their placed animals to remain with their new families. The reputable rescue agencies will do whatever they can to find the personality you are looking for. And like someone else mentioned, older dogs are usually housebroken- a HUGE bonus. Both of my dogs ( a Rottweiler and a black lab) came to me at a year old. I knew their temperments, they were calmer, had no mouthing issues( VITAL with dogs of any size- but especially with large breeds) and I was able to get a very real sense of how they would interact with my children. Both dogs adopted my kids instantly- and my two rescues ended up being the perfect fit.
    Just a view from the more successful side of animal rescue. You must do what is right for your family, but please don’t rule out a rescued animal based on another’s experience. Make you own judgement. A LOT of your success with any animal depends on the level of training YOU are willing to put into the animal. It sounds like you are well prepared for this new adventure. You will do well… good luck Jess!

  13. =). way to beat feet out of there! the image cracks me up. i know you’ll find charlie when the time is right!

  14. Pingback: a girl and her dog « a diary of a mom

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