After sending Bet back, I felt quite blue and at a loss, but in a bit I regrouped, and contacted the owner of the next-most-interesting litter I had been considering, Joan. Did she still have pups available? Yes.
This litter was in Alberta. Much too far away to go look at, especially now that I had spent all the travel money and time I had on a different litter entirely. I had never seen either parent work, had never met Joan except via email. So, all those resolutions I had made about never buying a dog whose parents I didn't know were out the window. All I had actually seen were the dam's close relatives, who were California dogs. They were impressive: biddable, wide, keen, and instinctive, the lot of them.
The pedigree of the sire was unusual in that it consisted of once-famous old working lines no longer easy to come by. Clint was getting on in years, had only been bred once before, had never been trialed or even worked a whole lot, but his genetics were gold, and Joan felt strongly that they had to be preserved.
She had only males left. She sent photos of the ones she thought I would be most interested in, including the one she called her pick male. She called him Tyson, after a Canadian country-western singer of whom I had never heard (unsurprising). When I saw this pup's face I felt a slight chill, a kind of stillness. This was going to be an impressive dog. But more than that, I felt something magnetic click inside me: I had seen my dog. I never had this feeling with Bet, even in person, but I did with this dog, just from a photograph. I wrote Joan and told her I wanted that pup.
Air-shipping a dog from a foreign country is not particularly simple or cheap, even from Canada. I had already discovered, from sending Bet home, that airline cargo facilities do not have much resemblance to the slick, upholstered, color-coordinated passenger services. Nope, they are grimy, dim, cavernous warehouses designed with gigantic trailer-trucks in mind, not small, soft, frightened puppies and human beings. And international airports in general remind me of the kind of science fiction films where robots have taken over the earth and the few human beings left lurk in the debris and eat rats. That is, I don't like them.
Air Canada Cargo at San Francisco International is easily accessed by correctly exiting hundreds of branching offramps at speed in heavy traffic. I was approximately as nervous as if I were meeting my mail-order spouse. What if THIS dog didn't work out either?. After interminable delays and passing papers around, I was handed a small dog crate with a shadowy object in it. I couldn't quite figure out what to do with it, since there couldn't be a less dog-friendly outdoors than this concrete landscape decorated with overpasses. It was a typical San Francisco summer afternoon, overcast with a strong freezing damp wind. I carried the crate out to my car, set it down on the asphalt, and opened it. A lanky blue pup with shockingly large paws immediately crawled out of it and into my lap. He sighed with relief and gently chewed my hand. "You're home, Ty," I said. "Sort of."
I hated to put him back in his crate, but I had to. I threaded my way out of there and headed south on the freeway, looking for a place to stop and let my pup out to relax a bit. I pulled off at a scenic overlook, which turned out to have a nice wide trail into an Open Space Preserve. Bonnie, the ever-patient, was happy to get out and stretch her legs, and Ty followed the both of us without hesitation.
Qualities I could immediately see: he was resilient, he was easy-going and affectionate. Not much fearfulness in this boy. He was also a knock-out, beautifully put together, with stunning merling, like a gray-and-black leopard. He looked like a throwback to those old photographs of cattle ranch dogs. So far so good. Bonnie sniffed and then ignored him.
Ty came home and acted like he'd always been there, and had always been my dog. He loved my family, and within a couple of weeks he had melded seamlessly with my other dogs as well. He even got along with Luke the corgi, who is socially graceless. Just as his first photo told me, he has a thoughtful self-confident presence remarkable in so young a dog.
No telling what kind of a stockdog he will make, but we're keeping him regardless.