Some more photos from "The Daily Coop" (as my buddy over at The Next 100 Pounds has dubbed my tendency to post pictures of the little guy on Facebook):
I promise that he isn't really a stuffed toy even if he looks like one! Baby Beardies are unspeakably cute - puppies for this breed (which of course look nothing AT ALL like their adult selves) are hard to ignore. This is, in fact, one of the reasons the breed society is so outspoken about the demands and challenges of this breed once they reach adulthood, so that people aren't seduced by The Adorableness and wind up with an adult Beardie who they can't handle. While they are indeed wonderful family dogs and beyond friendly, they do not stay fuzzy little fluffballs for long and grow into big, high-energy, long-coated dogs who need a lot of time and energy to be happy!
Since this is our third Beardie, we knew exactly what we were getting into, even though it's been a while and it's only now I'm remembering how time-intensive puppies are! It's like having an infant and a toddler all rolled into one.
It's been fascinating, though: our three Beardie boys have all been incredibly different. Watson, our first Beardie - and the last time we raised a puppy- was sweet (none friendlier!) but not always the sharpest tool in the box and, although there wasn't a mean bone in his body, he was pretty much entirely ADHD! Beau, our rescue boy, was a hairy saint and the sweetest, kindest, least-reactive Beardie ever born. He was happily saved from a kill-shelter thanks to the vigilance of the Beardie Rescue coordinator in Massachusetts, and came to us as a 2-3 year old when our daughter was only a toddler; he lived until last summer and the ripe old age of about 13. He was pretty much the other end of the spectrum: calm to the point of couch potato, happiest at home (he never did get used to happily riding in the car or come to terms with Terrifying Manhole Covers), and his only goal in life was to feel secure and loved.
Cooper is a different Beardie entirely. Sweet and affectionate yet very independent, alarmingly intelligent, and with a noticeably strong herd instinct (his favorite game appears to be, "I know - let's play herding! I'll be the sheepdog and you can be the sheep. Tag, you're it!!"). This is a little dog With A Mission. Now, granted, this is our second Beardie puppy so we have a little more experience, his breeder started him off magnificently, and, thanks to the internet, we've had some wonderful Beardie people riding alongside and ready to offer tons of valuable advice and suggestions for the inevitable challenges along the way, but even so - what this guy has learned in the three weeks since we got him amazes me every day. It's taking a lot of time - which is why we planned this for when we knew I'd be at home and not on the road! - but the effort is truly paying off and he's already well on his way to becoming a civilized member of society in what seems a ridiculously short time.
This morning was close to magical: he was quiet until I got up, and we went outside in the still-cool morning. Our mulberry tree has gone slightly mad this year; I wasn't going to bother with them since we still have plenty of the mulberry-port jelly I made two years ago, but the abundance of deep purple fruit is just too good to ignore and I'm toying with the idea of making mulberry wine this time. Cooper had discovered the fallen berries on the ground a few days ago (fortunately not toxic - although apparently if they eat the fermented ones they've been known to get tipsy!) but was fascinated by watching me reach up and collect them straight off the tree into a bowl, particularly as so many kept dropping on his head! He went off to do Important Puppy Stuff like check out his Frisbee and the fence-line, but kept coming back to join me up on the deck, every inch the "bonded dog". Curious, content, and quietly enjoying being with his human pack. A beyond-satisfying way to start the day.
In the meantime, my brief two-week break is over, and I'm back not only to summer teaching commitments, but launching into a new production in a week or so. I'm always a bit ambivalent when I accept a G&S role - here in the US, sadly, often seen by the operatic community as "lesser" work - but I invariably have a good time when I do it, and this production of Yeoman of the Guard looks set to be particularly enjoyable. The cast is full of old friends, it's the first time in a long time that my daughter and I will be in a production together, and the approach the director wants to take will give a lot more substance and dramatic weight to my role than is often the case, which will really give me a chance to dig in and enjoy! It should be a lot of fun.