Arrival of the Beloved Dog, Bramble Berry

We picked up our labradoodle Bramble Berry three years ago this week, on April 16, 2018. He was just 8 weeks old. He arrived at a difficult time for us, with several challenges initiating me into overseeing everything my husband Donald used to do as his health declined.

Donald and I drove to Fair Oaks, California, to pick Bramble up. We had had to fill out forms that would rival any human child adoption process; the breeder chose which puppy would best suit us. She said Bramble Berry was the calmer of the puppies, liked to cuddle more than the others, and had wavy, versus more course hair, suitable for the ranch and foxtails.

We met the breeder at her door. Bramble’s mother met us as well, leaping almost to eye level, the breeder commenting she was usually not like this. There was one other puppy left. The others had been homed the day before. We played with this 7 pound, wavy-haired pup for about 15 minutes as the breeder gave us an amazingly effective schedule for feeding and toilet training. We were to put his sleeping crate right next to us the first night, take him out to pee at 2 am, and then, over the next week, slowly move the crate. As it happened, that crate has moved no more than 18 inches.

Donald held Bramble Berry on his lap in the front seat during the 2 1/2 hour drive home. Bramble yipped pitifully. I felt like we were dog-napping him. When I glanced over, he was always watching me out of the corner of his eye. His eye color is unique. In some light, his eyes are golden; in some light, green. Even the puppy class teacher remarked on this. He is called “chocolate,” although, at age 3, he’s more like his mother, “lavender.”

We drove to our ranch, where my grandsons Wesley and Sabien, aged seven and five at the time, were waiting. Bramble was ready. He chased them around their yard until he collapsed asleep. This was the end of the pitiful yipping— except he still cries when he rides in the car. Still, Bramble is always ready to go but then accentuates whines with sharp barks the whole time the vehicle moves. This disturbing behavior increases when he anticipates that I am about to get out without him. The trainer we got when Bramble was a year old suggested we get a calming hood, which helps some. He can’t see to bark at dogs and bicycles that we pass. But he still whines unless Donald constantly offers him treats.

He jumps at feathers, frogs, lizards, and anything else novel, including, after this pandemic isolation, anyone he doesn’t know. He’s afraid of snakes, as I am. Yet he also is one joyful beast, happy, an alpha (yes, I know, it doesn’t sound that way, but he is.) His best dog friend is my son Jesse’s dog Toby, whom Bramble loves to stalk and wrestle with and chase. Bramble is the fastest dog I have ever seen.

He’s smart. I like a smart dog like I like a smart goat. This is a challenge for me as I am not a gifted trainer. That is why Bramble spent two weeks in a boot camp two years ago at Fit and Furry, a program with lifetime access to his trainer Jen by phone or e-mail, which I take full advantage of. He loves my grandsons, his feeding time, butter, and his ball. Honestly, I think that’s the next hurdle: he’s become obsessive about his ball. (Note to myself: e-mail Jen about this.)

And then the butter: he’ll do anything to get it. The first time I knew he was thieving butter was when a friend Jimalee was fixing dinner for our writing group at our home and accused one of us of using it. It turns out that Bramble ate it, paper and all. He then learned to remove the china butter dish’s cover and lick it clean without breaking anything.

But he is our beloved dog, an intelligent, high-strung companion who arrived at just the right time in our lives. Bramble Berry reminds us daily that life is also full of pleasure and intrigue and can be very, very funny.