Cozy Tales: 2. A Pup Chooses Us

As the weeks went on, the pups grew and grew, progressing from the little black potatoes we first saw into fluffy bright balls of energy hell bent on discovering, chewing, and otherwise making a mess of everything with which they came in contact.

We went back often to play with the pups and watch them grow. Since the pups would be ready to leave their mothers at eight weeks of age, time was running out for us to make our choice. Since all of the male pups were spoken for, we were excited to learn that we had the pick of the four females in the litter. This narrowed our listed choices down to two: the blue and the white collared puppies. They were both very energetic and both seemed very bright, but how to choose?

Katie, the pup’s mother, now adored us both, her distrust of all things male long since forgotten. She was a very affectionate girl who nudged us when she wanted attention, which was roughly all the damn time. When a little dog pokes you with its nose, it’s cute. When a fully grown Newfoundland dog flips your arm up and over her head then lays her head on your lap it’s hard to ignore her. Katie got lots of love from us, though I’m not sure we had any choice in the matter.

The pups were seven weeks old and with their age and maturity now had the run of the entire back yard. I could have sworn that they were twice as large and had twice as much energy, while their curiosity and propensity for mischief seemed to have increased on a logarithmic scale. Of course, neither of us thought to extrapolate that growth into the future, blind as we were from their overwhelming cuteness. The yard was overflowing with puppy shenanigans, and as soon as we entered we were the new center of attention.

When we got there I put my camera bag down and pulled out the camera in an attempt to capture their exuberance on film. Mere moments after walking away I turned and saw three puppies furiously pulling at my bag trying to rend it to shreds. It was adorable, mostly due to the fact that their little teeth caused no permanent harm to the thick blue canvas. The stains from their puppy drool were permanent, though I supposed that was OK since the bag had served its intended purpose. I decided that I preferred having drool on my bag than teeth marks on my equipment. I would later caption the picture with:

Now being tested in Northern NJ, the Newf-proof camera bag. Initial testing indicates that the bag is indeed drool-proof, and the strap-to-bag stitching can withstand up to a three puppy assault. Further testing is pending, however results thus far are promising.

As I sat down on the curb that surrounded the patio, I felt a small nudge on my right elbow. It was similar to Katie’s nudge, but tiny, like the nudge a bunny or a gerbil might make. I looked down and there was the little blue collared pup, looking up at me and smiling. So help me she was smiling! The message was clear: Pet me, dammit! As with Katie, I felt that I had no choice but to obey because if I stopped petting her for even a second I would be nudged again. If I got up and moved, little Blue would follow me and nudge me some more. With all the excitement of the yard, this blue-yarned pup had eyes only for me.

Of all the pups, only this one had come right to me and nudged me with her little nose. The other pups had come and sniffed, but they would then run off and play, explore, or work on their plan to compromise my bag.  Little blue had a different agenda, and it seemed that I was somehow involved. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just been introduced to the idea that most of the important choices in my life were not mine to make. We had come with the intention of choosing a puppy, and the puppy who obviously didn’t care what our thoughts might have been, had chosen us, or more accurately, me.

After talking it over, we told Linda that we wanted the blue pup. She looked at us long and hard and finally said “Are you sure you want THAT one?”

“Yes — why is there a problem?”

“That one’s a hellion” she replied.


“The little blue pup you’ve chosen is headstrong and might be hard to handle. She’s the one that pushed all the other pups off of Katie’s nipples, remember?”

I remembered, but I had pretty much stopped listening because the pup had chosen me and she was suddenly all I could think about. We were getting a dog! Besides, how could a six pound sweet ball of fluff be hard to handle? We told her that yes, we wanted the blue puppy. No doubt questioning our sanity she agreed to our choice after which I made a point of taking the first official photo of our new dog. We then said our goodbyes to Linda and then to our blue puppy who wagged and yipped in reply.

* * *

Lauren and I went home and focused on naming our new addition. It was such a responsibility! We had only ever named two fish (Lancelot and Guinevere), and an iguana (Otto), all of which seemed easily named by comparison. Another breeder had told us to use the Jewish Mother Test. The Jewish Mother Test, as it was explained to us, was comprised of the simple act of yelling the name from the kitchen window. For example, if you were considering the name “Bob”, you would go to the kitchen window and yell “Bob! Dinner’s ready!” By performing this act, we were told, we would know instantly if we had chosen the right name.

We wanted our pup’s name to be something special. We had thought for days, weeks even, until one day I had an idea. My wife and I were both avid fans of Broadway and our favorite musical at the time was Les Miserables. The leading lady in the story is named Cosette, so we would name our pup Cosette! We ran to the kitchen window and screamed “Cosette! Get your butt in here!” It just didn’t feel right. Still, we were sure we were on the right track, and that’s when I had an epiphany.

When naming a thoroughbred dog, you actually get to come up with two names; the registered name (the one that goes on the paperwork), and the call name (the one you actually use to call the dog). The registered name of a dog is pretty long, and usually starts or ends with the kennel where dog was bred. For example, the winner of the coveted best in show title at Westminster in 2004 was registered as “Ch. Darbydale’s All Rise Pouchcove”, but his call-name was “Josh” (Ch. is short for Champion).  The kennel from which we were getting our pup was named “Zambuca”, so her registered name would begin with “Zambuca’s…”.

My epiphany came in the form of clever semantics. In the play Les Miserables, the love song between Marius (the young rebellious student) and Cosette shows the audience the depth of love between the two characters. A third voice, that of Eponine, joins in lamenting that she too loves Marius, but that he has eyes only for the beautiful Cosette. The song is about love on many levels and is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

We decided that we would register our pup as “Zambuca’s Heart Full of Love”, for the very thought of her filled us both with love. We decided that her call name would be Cosette, but we would call her “Cozy” for short. The double meaning appealed to us instantly; she was Cozy — short for Cosette — and she was a cozy little ball of fluff. Perfect!

We ran to the window like a couple of idiots to see if our name passed muster. “Cozy! Get in here!”, “Cozy! Stop that!”, “Cozy! No!”. Wow – talk about a perfect fit! Little did we know how well this test worked, for we would spend years yelling such things, often from that very window.

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