“The scariest moment is always just before you start”. ~ Stephen King.

I was waiting on my driveway when Annemarie pulled up outside my house at 10 am on Bank Holiday Monday. It was good to see her.  Years before I had bought a small portable crate and it was now taking pride of place along the back seat of the car. With Annemarie driving, it meant that I could hold the pup on my lap during the homeward journey if I actually found the courage to bite the bullet and buy her.

I hadn’t told Annemarie that I was still feeling very nervous, despite our conversation two days before. She knew all too well how recent events had affected me and I really was in a bit of a sorry state.As we got closer to the farm, my anxiety level was increasing. As we pulled into the lane that led down to the puppies, I asked Annemarie to stop the car and told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.

This probably sounds stupid – who wouldn’t want a cute puppy? It wasn’t as simple as ‘wanting a cute puppy’ though. I didn’t know whether I could truly love another dog. I suspected I might be able to after meeting the pup two days before, but being ‘home alone’ with her would be a different kettle of fish entirely.
As we sat in the sun at the side of the lane, a robin flew onto a fence post near the car and Annemarie remarked on how beautiful the Cowslips were that were growing in large yellow swaths among the grass on the verge. My mum loved cowslips, but I had never seen them growing wild before. I have heard it said that a Robin is a loved one in heaven telling you that they are okay.

I mumbled something along these lines to my very patient and good natured friend, and then made a decision. “Let’s go”. Annemarie started the engine and we drove on to the farm.

We knocked on the door and eventually someone answered and invited us in. We were greeted by various Border collies as we made our way into a room where someone was making toast. It wasn’t a kitchen. I spotted the puppy I had reserved running around on the floor and bent down. As soon as I did, she came straight to me and I picked her up. Quite happy in my arms, I turned to Annemarie to ask her what she thought. “She’s beautiful” was the reply.

Pup had been separated from her litter mates as I had asked them not to feed her before the journey home to reduce the risk of her being travel sick. I handed over some cash which was thoroughly counted and checked, and I asked for a receipt. As I did, the woman that I had spoken to previously, started asking me for my name, and phone number and email address. I was told that they wanted to keep in touch with people that bought their puppies to see if anyone did anything fantastic with them. I was also told that as they were responsible. good breeders, that they needed to know where their puppies were going.

I was more than a little surprised at what I was hearing. I had not been asked a single solitary question about my lifestyle, experience with dogs – in particular Border collie’s from working stock, whether I lived in flat, had a garden, worked full time ….How odd that after I’d bought and paid for the puppy,  suddenly they wanted my address and phone number so they could keep in touch, and potentially use any future success I had with my pup, to further their own breeding business! My refusal to give them my phone number was met with stern disapproval and there was suddenly tension in the room. Wishing to get out of there as fast as possible, and keeping a firm grip on my pup, I shot a glance at Annemarie and felt glad that I wasn’t there alone.

Diffusing the tension I suddenly started agreeing with them and offered my phone number, well, a version of it anyway, and they were satisfied. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I left with just the pup, nothing else from these ‘good and responsible breeders’ (their words), not even a couple of meals of food that she was used to eating. Not that I would have continued with it anyway, it was just the principle…

Getting in the car, Annmarie helped me put several layers of towels over my lap I had brought with me, and Grace sat on top. I was feeling glad to have ‘sprung’ her from her birth place. She was being very good and quiet and not struggling as I held her.

Grace was surprisingly relaxed on the journey home and didn’t make any noise, or struggle at all. After she had brought up the inevitable vomit that contained all manner of things from bits of toast, to cotton threads and other unidentifiable things (so much for making sure her stomach was empty to travel!), she wanted to lie on her back on my lap. Not asleep, but so relaxed, she lay there with her completely naked, soft, pink tummy exposed to the world, and seemed not to have a care in the world. She was doing a good job at helping to make me think I’d made a good decision. Maybe she had truly understood when I whispered in her ear that if she was going to be my dog, she just had to be good, quiet and of course, eat raw vegetables…

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