When Bobo died, we couldn't cope with it. Not any of us. We didn't know what to do. We waited six months to get another dog, and that was too long. It was too long for poor, lonely Lucie, hiding under the kitchen table, and it was too long for us. This time we didn't wait so long. In fact, we didn't wait hardly any time at all.
We have always strongly believed that releasing our dogs from suffering is the final act of love we can show them. Accordingly, when it was obvious that Lucie's failing kidneys were shutting down, we watched her even more closely. When the morning came that she could barely stand or walk in the grass to relieve herself, we knew the day had come. We took Lucie to the vet for the last time. It was a very sad day for all of us. Here's the thing that was sad - and I want to be very clear about this - it was that Lucie had gotten so very sick, not that she was put down. That was a blessing. And I don't use that word lightly.
Ben and I had already been exploring the internet to see what it would take to get a new puppy. I thought to get a bichon, like Bobo, but Ben was sure another cockapoo would be best for us. Why waste all the research he had done before we got Rufus, he reasoned, and I had to agree. We knew things would be different here on the east coast, but even at that, I was not prepared for the prices breeders were asking for cockapoo puppies. The breed is not recognized by the AKC yet, so, of course, the dogs are not considered purebreds. In spite of that, breeders were asking upwards of a thousand dollars for a puppy (!) When I asked one breeder with whom I was corresponding if that price was the norm, she never even deigned to reply. Many breeders have months-long waiting lists, as well, with non-refundable deposits expected just to have one's name added to the list.
All this is to explain how I ended up at the Greenfield Puppies website. Greenfield Puppies serves as a brokerage for Amish dog breeders in Pennsylvania. Yes, that raised all kinds of red flags for me. I have read about the Amish puppy mills and wanted to avoid them at all costs. Still, this seemed like an outlet that needed to be further explored. I found a photo of an adorable female cockapoo puppy and called the phone number for her breeder. I found myself talking to what sounded like a very young man, who assured me that, yes, that very puppy was still available. Yes, we could come out and see her over the weekend. So I made an appointment, assuring Ben and myself that it was an exploratory mission, and that we probably would not buy a puppy. We were just looking.
That was how Ben and Julie and I found ourselves driving through the rolling hills of southeast Pennsylvania on a beautiful spring morning, through the heart of Amish farming country. Once we got off the highway, it was pretty clear we were not in Kansas anymore. Or perhaps we were. The large farms on either side of the narrow roads had horses in the barns and laundry hanging on the lines. A farmer tilled a field with a tiller pulled by three large work horses. Cows grazed near a small stream that ran through a pasture. It could not have been more bucolic. I have never seen the like.
We turned into the driveway of one of the farms, and drove slowly up a hill to a huge barn, with outbuildings and a farmhouse beyond. A dog barked, and a teenage boy emerged from the house, followed by a beautiful little Yorkshire terrier. From his thick, bowl-cut hair to his huge, bare feet, Jonas was the very picture of an Amish youth. We explained that we were there to see the puppies, and he led us to two large elevated cages (rabbit hutches perhaps?) right next to each other that held a barking mama dog (Darla) in one, and six roly-poly puppies in the other. The Yorkie and two other dogs followed along, all of them seeming happy and well-fed. One of them was Danny, the puppy daddy, who looked like he was wearing dark brown socks, but Jonas opined it was from getting in the manure behind the barn again. We were absolutely certain that this was not a place where animals were misused or mistreated in any way.
Then we saw the puppies. Who doesn't love puppies? There were two females in the litter, one of them clearly the puppy whose photo I had fallen in love with. Jonas got the girls out for us to look at, and we took them to a little grassy rise behind the cages so that we could see them romp around and interact with each other and the other dogs. All three of us pretty quickly zeroed in on "Lilly", the puppy I saw initially. I looked up at Ben from where I squatted next to the puppies and asked him, "What do you think?" "I think we should get her", was his reply. And so we did.
Ben handed Jonas a hundred dollars in twenty-dollar bills as a deposit, and we arranged to pick Lilly up the following Saturday when she would be eight weeks old. We did not receive a receipt nor give Jonas our full names, although he did have our phone number. We drove back down the rutted driveway, surprised and excited at having just purchased a puppy. And realizing we had a week to prepare for her.