Why is there no Paleo Dog hashtag? Like, #paleodog. Are we the only passionate Paleo’s who consider our dog an intrinsic part of our Paleo lifestyle? Us, and Mark Sisson? Roxy, our little salt-and-pepper Mini Schnauzer has been with us for one year, and I want to celebrate.
Roxy’s arrival into our home is a bitter-sweet story that coincides precisely with our introduction to the Paleo life. We had nominated the 1st of September as the start date for our first Whole 30, and on that evening I came home to find my spunky black cat, Shanti, with her life-energy gone.
We laid her to rest deep in the Kitchen Garden. Throughout summer pink and purple Cosmos danced over her bones, and she sprouted a Pumpkin. A chapter closes, a new begining.
I had discovered the summer before that the only thing that really seemed to help my physical situation was walking. Not just any old walking, but walking up and down bush-tracks, on uneven terrain, where the feet have to rebalance on rocks with every step, and any number of micro-changes ripple through the pelvis and up into the spine just to keep the body upright and in motion. That summer, I was finding it difficult to get through a day without needing a lie down to relieve the pain, but after a good long walk, I’d feel okay.
‘Let’s get a dog,’ I said to The General, in the wash of Shanti’s passing. ‘It’ll mean I’ll have to walk every day.’ He didn’t say no.
We really thought about it. We knew we didn’t want to get a shelter dog – we didn’t want the risk of unpredictable behavioural issues. And we didn’t want to bring home a little dog, which turned into a big dog. We wanted a good degree of predictability, and to know that our puppy was coming from breeders whose priority was the health and happiness of their dogs.
I did online surveys to see what breed was most suited to our lifestyle. Barking? No. Grooming? A little. Inside? Definitely. Exercise? Moderate. Training? Reasonably commited. My surveys pulled up the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and watching Youtube videos of irrestible big-eyed cavalier puppies, I thought I could easily fall in love. The General wasn’t convinced. We need a smart dog, he said, and one that can go the distance when we take a four hour walk in the mountains. He kept suggesting a Schnauzer. He’d known one in the past. I resisted. And then one day, I went shopping.
Vicenza is a known as the city of Palladio, the 15th century architect who built the Villas for the Venetians as they translocated from their glittering, floating islands of mystery to the mainland. It’s an elegant and sophisticated city. Palladio’s impressive facades lend the streets a certain aristocracy, and the Piazza, with it’s boat-shaped Basilica and majestic clock tower, honour the great Italian history of design. It’s a city I love to roam in.
So there I was, heading towards Bennetton, when down through the shadows of a cobblestoned laneway I identified the unmistakable siloutte of a coated man and a stout black mini schnauzer. I stopped. They approached. The man was happy to chat, and the dog, Hercules, was happy to have a stroke. I asked questions, and soaked up this lovely, dignified character of a schnauzer. ‘Thankyou,’ I said to the man, and went shopping.
Well, you wouldn’t believe it. Things like this make me know that the Law of Attraction exists. Coming out of Bennetton, I saw a man pass by with two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. I upped my pace to catch up with them, and stopped the man. He was also happy to chat, and his dogs were likewise happy to have a cuddle. I asked questions, and observed. And knew that The General was right. Our ideal dog was a Schnauzer, there was no doubt about it.
I went home, and he was happy I’d decided. But there was more. I wanted a female, and he wanted a salt-and-pepper.
I found a couple of breeders online, and called them. Finding a particular kind of puppy, I soon realised, wasn’t as easy as just going to your local pet store. You don’t decide when you’ll bring the puppy home. You’ve got to be ready. One breeder was hoping to a successful mating in March, meaning the puppies would be ready by May. Another said, ‘A litter was born yesterday. Salt and pepper. There’s three girls and two boys.’
Five weeks later we went down to Emiglia Romagnia to meet the breeder, to see his set-up, and to see the puppies. Tiny little things, suckling. We left a deposit. And then I packed my bags and went to India for a two week course in Vedic Mantra. The weekend after I got back, we went to pick up Roxy. She was two months old to the day, and she slept on my lap pretty much all the way home, raising her head every now and again to look at me, and then The General, with curiosity.
How our lives have changed, and all for the good. I bought a book, The Happy Puppy Handbook, and read it twice before she came home to us, and we followed the advice as best we could. It was the best thing we could have done. She’s exuberant and joyful. Her enthusiasm to be friends with everyone, like, everyone, can be embarassing. She’s as comfortable with children as she is with old folks, at ease on trains and buses and vaporettos. She loves to promenade in the town as much as to dig molehills in the countryside. And she gets me out walking. Twice. Every single day.