lundi 13 septembre 2010

Meet Fia Lux

Fia Lux de la Pellousery
4 weeks old
Born August 5, 2010

Labradors de la Pellousery
La Tonnelière
Charbonnières, France

If anyone still comes around here, I will tell you that things did not exactly work out as I had hoped, but simply as they did, but first, allow me to offer my apologies for a long absence. The longest ever.

I thought that last week, we would be going to pick up "Fun" from the breeder in Normandy and struggling to find a name beginning with F for her (2010 is a F year in France, where all registered dogs born in any given year must have a name beginning with that year's letter), but I learned the week before that what I had rather begun to fear was true. The breeder had decided not to sell us the young dog we had seen and with whom we had fallen in love back in the middle of August, just as we were preparing to leave for our three weeks of vacation. For once, I will not give any details. It was a very big disappointment, and I felt rather bitter and angry, but that was not going to change anything. All the way back from Brittany in the car I thought about it and winced when we passed the exit on the highway that leads to her home and kennel. I hardly spoke on that long ride, but that wasn't unusual; my husband isn't "un communicatif", as he says, to excuse his own silences. I was considering what to do. Should I leave it at that, or should I write and tell her of our disappointment, of my husband's for me, although he found her uniquely attractive, too, and my own?

He could still live very well without another dog, and having shared some of that with her might have been what decided it against us despite all she knew we had done for Baccarat, when we learned she had a tumor in her heart. I continued to think about it once we were at home, and then I wrote an email. I told her how we felt about her withdrawing her offer of sale, and I reiterated what would be our joy at coming to get this dog, should she change her mind. I have no pictures of "Fun", but the few moments we spent with her will be enough never to forget her. I said that there could be no question but that a dog is happiest in the center of the love of a family, and that it would be best to place her there earlier rather than later, particularly as there is a chance that she will not chose to breed her when it will be desirable, in a little more than 2 years. The breeder knew that she is considering retirement, and she will be nearly 80 then.

But, there was no reply to this email, nor to the one I sent to tell her that a contact had told us about a breeder in the not far away Perche, who had a 4-month-old male and female she had saved from a litter, one of which she had decided she should sell. We could have the female, if we chose, or a 4-week-old who would be available in early October. I told our breeder that we would still be happiest to come get "Fun", were there any chance she should yet consider renewing her offer, but there was no reply, and so I left for the Perche, ayant fait une croix sur "Fun".

Sam went with me on a beautiful September afternoon last week, except for when we drove through patches of rain, with big white clouds sailing in a bright, clear blue sky, the recently harvested fields shining, despite their stubble. We drove as we would do to go to my husband's parents' home, but turned onto the A11 in Thivars, just past Chartes on the route to Châteaudun, drove to the exit at Luigny and then along the country roads to the sign 6 kilometers from the church in Luigny. 2.5 kilometers later, we drove into the drive at La Tonnelière. Sam had already spotted the kennels, and the dogs came forward to great us in their little groups, divided by color and fraternity, in their large, clean cages under the trees.

The breeder turned out to be inside with another client, who had come to pick up the 3 10-week-olds in the fenced-in space in front of her home. They would eventually leave with a woman in a compact car for not far from our home.

"I wonder," Sam would remark, "how she is going to make it home with 3 puppies in that car."

I was, in fact, feeling rather proud of myself for having the wagon with a dog gate in the back, unlike 4 years ago, when I drove home with Rapide and tiny Baccarat at 8 weeks of age, held back only by the netting you can roll up and fix in place that comes standard equipment on a BMW wagon. Rapide hardly saw that as more than a minor discouragement to her panicked need to get the hell out of the back end and at least be with me, the closest thing to her old mistress that she could identify in that car.

It had not been an illustrious start.

It turns out these are the 6th, 7th and the 8th dogs this woman has brought home over the years from la Pellousery. Maybe gates aren't necessary, after all.

The breeder came out and we introduced ourselves and shook hands, and then she led us to the three dogs in a cage over to the side I thought might contain the 4-month-old in question. There was one of each color, and they looked to be the right size, and they were, let us say, energetic. She hauled her out of the pen and the little dog jumped and trotted around us, a whole other affair from "Fun". I spoke to her and looked her over. She had a well-formed head with a pronounced stop, huge paws and a promising tail, and when the breeder suggested to the young intern (everyone seems young these days) from the veterinarian technician program not far away that she show us how the puppy walks on leash, it was true that there was some reason to be impressed. She did not pull in the least, but she did cross sides.

That, I thought, is easy enough to correct.

We let her off leash and fell to chatting, while the dog played around us, the other client left, and so do the breeder's sister, and the puppy lay down to rest.

Well, I thought, she can do that, too, at least.

It occurred to me that I was comparing her to "Fun" a little too much, and doing it with a little too much disappointment. I longed to ask Sam for his opinion, and when I had my chance, he told me that he didn't "feel" her. I knew what he meant, and I asked to see the 4-week-old, who was brought out to us goodnaturedly, and she settled into my chest in my hands and hung on.

It was heaven.

I had never been able to hold Baccarat like that. She was already 8 weeks old and too wiggly. They grow fast between 4 and 8 weeks, and it's just not the same creature. This little one was just beginning to see better, her ears to detach, and to walk. She was hardly more than a newborn. She yawned over and over again before settling into a mewling cry, and we talked, and she was happy to lick me with that new pink tongue and puppy breath. She smelled of the litter in which she and her litter mates lay with their mother, like a hamster or a mouse. I offered her to Sam, who looked a little panicked and said that no, I could hold her. The breeder laughed. I leaned up against the car next to him, and we talked on, while I wondered what Sam thought.

An opportunity presented itself to speak speak together quietly, and he said the same thing I was thinking, the older puppy lacked a certain finesse that Baccarat had, that "Fun" had, too, I thought, and we'd have more time with this puppy to watch it grow and see what she would become. The breeder returned, and I handed the puppy to Sam, who looked a little consternated again.

"Prends-la pour que je puisse m'occuper de la plus grande," I said, leaving him no choice. The breeder understood what I was doing.

He hesitated but I put her into his hands and bent down to the bigger puppy. When I looked up, she had settled right into the open front of his zippered sweatshirt, looking right at home, and he was already looking as relaxed as she did. The phone rang, and the breeder went inside, but the intern was still with us, and when she came back, Sam returned the puppy to me, and got out his iPhone to take pictures of her. It seemed like as good a way to announce a decision had been made as any, and I told her that while the older puppy was wonderful, we had decided to start all over again from scratch with a little baby. She smiled, and the older puppy fell asleep at our feet while we went on talking about dog food, the growing number of cancers likely due to the quality of what we feed our dogs, the failure of her refrigerators during the terrible heatwave of 2003 and how she was expecting her last child then, when she had to empty all that rotting meat out of them, rags wrapped around her face to try to keep from smelling the stinking meat. Finally, it was time to feed the dogs, the older puppy returned to her brother and friend, and we went inside to do the reservation paperwork at her dining table.

Sam asked me to put her down on the table to see her walk, and she took a few steps before lying down and putting her head on my open hand and falling sound asleep. The rest of the litter mewled away in the next room, but a good bark from their mother silenced them, and we all laughed. The breeder's eldest son had come home by then, followed not long after by her youngest two and a downpour.

"Mom," said Sam with some urgency, "you left the car open."

"Yes?" I asked, wondering why he was telling me this. Why should I have locked the car at a breeder's in the middle of the Perche, not another soul in sight for at least 2 kilometers.

"Mom, the car. You left the roof open --" I must have still been staring with incomprehension, lost in the puppy in my hand, because he added, "It's raining."

"Oh! Can you close it, please?"

"I need the keys, Mom. The keys." I understood. He needed the keys. The keys, you know, to turn the ignition enough for a contact for the sunroof. Puppies make you as dumb as babies do.

We will return in 3 or 4 weeks, whenever the breeder, Florence Sivadier, feels that the puppy can leave and come home to us, but I might just have to break down and go visit her again between now and then. I know very well what she will be like in 3 weeks when she will be 8 weeks old, and I wouldn't mind having a few more moments of 5 or of 6 weeks.

In the car, Sam said, "It's a good thing we got the little one, Mom. Can you imagine if we had brought the older one home and she had gone crashing into Audouin's legs?"

I knew just what he meant. It would have been a little -- abrupt, shall we say? This should go down a little easier. Like Baccarat, she'll have more time to wiggle into his heart.

But, I still had a name to find. I had been through what seemed like dozens of possibilities and decided that F is tough for a girl, who might not be best suited by Frazier or Fillmore or Franklin. I got out the French dictionary and skimmed the pages and made yet another list, looked at the one I had made from my perusal of the English dictionary and returned to the dog and baby name sites. I asked friends whose taste in dog names I appreciate, and whose appreciation for dogs I appreciate even more. A few possibilities were starting to gain a foothold, and I went and looked again at one I had considered, Fia.

I looked up the meaning again, and I read, "Scottish, meaning 'arising from a dark peace'".

A dark peace. Yes, there has been a sort of dark peace in the weeks since Baccarat died, and we have begun to get used to life without her. Or, perhaps a new little dog to get to know and to love, a little black dog, is a "dark peace". Another meaning, going back to the Gaelic, can be understood as "the black fairy". I had been thinking of naming "Fun" Fay, or Fée, on the way home from Normandy that day we saw her, and Fia, with its pronunciation FAY-ah, went straight back to that first thought, which Sam had vetoed with a simple "No" when I suggested Fay on the way to see this puppy.

I thought about Fia again, and asked a few friends what they thought. Labradors have their origins in Scotland and England, produced in Newfoundland by the Scottish and English fishermen who went there to fish the cold seas and returned home to hunt, and so do I. It might become Feya, a version that tells you how to pronounce it, but we shall see. I like Fia, although someone said it made her think of Fiat.

We have one of those, too.

But, another friend (who really is Scottish) pointed out that it could evoke "'Fiat lux' rather than 'Fiat Panda'- a big bang from the dark rather than misfire from Italy". I have really smart friends.

Which made me think, why not add "Lux" after "Fia", or "Fia Lux" for "light from a dark peace"?

Coincidentally, or not, the older puppy did not share the same bloodlines as the littler one, who shares the same ones with Rapide and My Boy de Saint Urbain, Baccarat's sire.

So, here we go again! At least, I tell myself, I have the time to get some things ready. We will be eating lettuce, with rice and a little meat for my husband, who actually goes to work to provide for us, the rest of the fall to make up for this, Baccarat's costs having nearly done us in. It would never have been remotely possible in the States to consider the surgery we had done in the hope that her tumor was benign, but, even so, it was still more than we could absorb without a serious halt in expenses, and here I am insisting on getting another Lab.

I can't help myself.
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