Long time LabTails readers know that DH and I love Labrador retrievers. Over our 37 years of wedded bliss, we’ve enjoyed the faithful companionship of nine Labs: Stoney (black), Strider (yellow), Baxter (black), Ridge (fox red yellow), Elsie (cream yellow), Kenya (black), Pinot (fox red yellow), Tuc (black), and Chessie (chocolate). The last six Labs from that list are pictured here. And with the exception of Ridge, who came to us as a four-year-old, all of our Labs joined our family as either seven-or-eight-week-old pups or as fresh-from-their-mommas’-wombs neophytes dropped during whelping into our waiting gloved hands.
We love Labs.
How in the world did we end up with Merlin, the non-Lab, then?
Born September 12, 2013, the then four-month-old part-English-bulldog-part-pug-part-beagle mutt came from a pet store.
Yes, you read that correctly (much to my embarrassment and shame). This literal doggie-in-the-window enchanted me into bringing him home after my DTS and I stopped at said pet store (where he was on display) to look at the Oscar (a large cichlid fish) she was preparing a tank for at her home.
I stopped to look at a fish. My sister’s fish.
I came home with a 4-month old puppy. From a pet store.
[Disclaimer: Do not try this at home. No. No. No. Not. Ever. Avoid pet store dogs like the proverbial plague; never buy them (unless they are there as part of a reputable rescue program). You’ll see why if you read on.]
To get just how insane buying a puppy from a pet store was for me to do, you have to understand a few things:
- We already had, at that time, five Labradors of our own. We didn’t need another dog.
- We’re firm believers in and ardent supporters of reputable rescues. We advocate for adopting from rescues and no-kill shelters.
- Because we know, from experience, that not everyone will consider a rescue, we also ardently support reputable breeders, whether hobby or professional, who use responsible, health-conscious, breed-improving practices and who are committed to their dogs for life. We were one of those breeders once.
- Conversely, we strongly oppose backyard-breeders and puppymills. Since most pet stores procure the dogs they sell from puppy brokers, and puppy brokers get their dogs mostly from puppy mills, that makes me anti-pet-store dog sales.
- I had stressed both in person and online at LabTails, numerous times over the years, the risks and dangers of buying a pet store dog because of stores’ lack of screening, their dogs’ lack of reliable history, the unknowns of the dogs’ early socialization, heritage and temperament, the lack of any health guarantee, and the lack of store follow-up and after-purchase support. My mantra was “just say no” when it came to pet store pups.
You should also know that DH and I are best friends. We talk about everything. We make decisions carefully, weighing pros and cons together, then come to a mutual agreement. We’re not careless or impulsive. It’s how we roll.
Yet on that day in January 2014, I bought a pet store dog, likely procured by the store from a puppy broker, with an unknown history and no guarantees.
And I did so on my own without telling DH.
I could, I suppose, claim temporary insanity. Or mid-life crisis. But, as I stood there at the register paying for said pup, I remember thinking, even saying aloud, I can’t believe I’m doing this; I shouldn’t be doing this; I tell people all the time not to do this; my husband is not going to be happy. I can’t be buying this dog. Why am I doing this? Don’t do this, Joan.
Yet, like some out-of-body observer, I watched myself fill in the paperwork and pay the clerk despite my inner protestations.
Ai yi yi.
To this day, five years later, I can’t explain what happened.
All I can say is that some compulsion drove me to give the stocky fawn pup with the lollipop-guild grin a chance. It was a compulsion I’d never experienced before then, nor have I since. But it was, by every definition of the word, a bonafide compulsion.
Still, I felt this settled assurance that this mutt was supposed to be ours. I didn’t know how or why or what the bigger plan was, and I knew DH would be upset with me (he rightly was); but something inside compelled me to take this dog home. Something told me this was the right thing for me to do. That I had to do it.
So, in January of 2014 we welcomed a mutt to our Labrador pack, naming him “Merlin” because his wizarding skills are the only thing we can come up with that made me buy him.
Go figure: the Lab lady comes home with the very antithesis of a Lab.
Later on, after I’d made the decision to buy the pup, I learned that this had been this particular dog’s fourth store. He’d been unsellable through the previous two months in three previous stores. If he didn’t sell here at this store (where we stopped to see my sister’s fish), the manager told me the pup would go back to the broker who would likely then have the dog put down. Like, four strikes (four stores, four months old), you’re out.
On the days I feel the need to self-justify, I like to think I rescued Merlin, that I saved him from certain euthanasia (which is likely true). Or at the very least, that he hadn’t previously sold because a greater plan was reserving him for me.
But that’s not why I brought him home that day. I did so because I felt compelled to do so. Period.
Can’t explain it; don’t understand it; but that’s the way it is.
And as it turns out, Merlin is a great dog — a little guy with the heart of a Lab who holds his own, and then some, with the big dogs.
And the little wizard is a snuggler extraordinaire.
And he wiggles. You’d think he was a Lab with the way his whole body moves with his tail wags. We don’t, however, call him “wiggle butt” but rather “button butt” because his natually stubby tail looks like a button. And it’s that button that makes the rest of him wiggle.
Oh, Merlin. Sweet little boy with an impish grin.
It’s been five years since I brought Merlin home that January day. DH long ago forgave me. He and Merlin are snuggle buddies.
Merlin is the Hospitality King in the Lab pack, always making sure someone is groomed or snuggled or loved on.
And he makes me laugh, perhaps even more than my Labs ever did.
So there ya have it. How the Lab Lady ended up with a mutt.
And because of Merlin, we’ve made friends we never would have without him, we’ve connected with friends from my youth, we’ve been introduced to a different kind of life with dogs than we’d ever known. Merlin brings much to our world, most of which we didn’t even know we were missing.
Maybe that’s why I was compelled to bring him home. Who knows?
All I can say is that the little Button Boy, the Wizard, our button-butted imp, changed our lives for the better. And we’re both glad we have him.
I suspect that was his plan, all along. The little Wizard.
Until next time,