Puppy Love: Adding A Dog to Our Family {part 1}

Our pup, Buddy, is now just over 9 months old as I write this. Now that he is part of our lives, it’s hard to imagine a time when he wasn’t.

If you have been to my site or social media before, you know this had been our sons’ dream for years. Having a dog was something that came from their heart. Having a dog wasn’t because their friends had a dog, or because they just wanted a furry pet they would outgrow. They pleaded with letters and small notes and many conversations about their love for dogs and the dedication they would have to care for one.

For years, the running joke was the wall in my son’s room. We have always allowed the boys to plaster pictures and posters on their bedroom walls. Anything that means something to them goes up and they design the whole thing. So, they usually choose pictures of their cousins, the five of us together on vacation, and beautiful landscapes of Europe we have visited. But, one of my sons only placed pictures of dogs. If someone else was in the picture too, that just happened to be a bonus, but really it was all about the dogs.


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My husband and I both grew up with a dog as a pet (among other animals in my home; bunnies, birds, hamsters) so we knew the work required to care for this furry friend. Even though we were young, and we were absolutely not the main caregivers to our dogs, we knew what our parents had to do. There were many early morning walks, in good and bad weather, as well as lots of cleaning up and consistent training. But we also remember the love and happy memories that a dog gave us in our families. We loved having a dog and appreciated our four-legged companion in our lives growing up. We knew we would want to include a dog in our family one day, because we knew how much joy it truly brings.

Many friends reminded us the job to take care of the dog would land on us, but in our hearts, we were ready and excited to have a dog for the boys and for us! After many private talks with my husband, and no joke, talking as if we were bringing another child in the home, we made the decision to add a puppy to our family. The planning started over a year ago, when my husband and I started researching breeders, rescue centers and the SPCAs near us. Even before that, the boys had narrowed down what kind of dog they wanted through an dog encyclopedia book they had. With so many pros and cons for each breed, and post-its coming out of many pages, they had narrowed it down to a few exceptional family dogs. After lots of considering, attending dog fairs, watching numerous dog videos, and speaking to many experts and friends with dogs, my husband and I leaned toward the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

Tollers, for short, are a medium-size dog, with a ginger coat and the majority have white marks on their paws and face. They are a type of retriever, so they love playing fetch. They are high-energy dogs that are extremely intelligent, so they need an active family that will keep stimulating them in physical and mental training. They adore swimming, as they were originally bred to help with duck hunting. Obviously, that was not going to be part of our lifestyle as I am against hunting, but as you can imagine, a dog with all these characteristics lends itself to become a fun, playful and loyal family dog.

Finding The Pup for Us

Gone are the days of heading off to a pet shop and buying “that doggie in the window”. Most children see buying a dog portrayed in films and cartoons, where families go to a pet shop, or a stray just lands on their front porch. Alternatively, many families believe in finding a rescue dog for their family, allowing them to love a dog that was abandoned in some way and giving them a forever home. We had considered that option but had also heard stories of dogs that had come from unknown situations and ended up not connecting with the children of the home and worse, becoming aggressive. One of my biggest fears was having a dog that was also unwell, and not knowing what health situation they had. Bringing our first dog home had been made into such a momentous moment for our boys, I knew our pup had to be well taken care of before it came home to us.

We searched for a professional toller breeder near us. Because they are unique, there are not many breeders in Canada. In fact, during our search we drove as far as five hours from home just to meet a breeder. As much as you are searching for your perfect match, make no mistake, many breeders are vetting your family, just as SPCA and animal rescue centers do. It’s a very odd feeling, but one I can understand since breeders feel an obligation to find a good home for their puppies.


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During the start of our search, we met Helene Mousseau of MadRiver Tollers. She was the first breeder we met. We immediately clicked with her personality, and we saw how she cared for her small pack of tollers. Helene invited us over to meet her tollers to see the breed and ask questions, but we let the boys know there were no puppies available for us right now.  We made the visit into a birthday experience gift to our son, the ultimate dog lover. The boys played fetch with the lot of them, and it was so special to see the interactions. Helene had a toller that was going to have a litter of pups delivered soon, but she explained to us that the pups were all accounted for and that it would be over a year before another litter would be born. Again, because tollers are so unique, there is a waiting list of people wanting to bring a pup home. She assured us she would let us know if any families changed their minds. It was a long-shot but still nice to know it was a possibility. Helene was clearly not in this to breed lots of pups. She has a protocol for the health and age of her tollers before they can and should be bred, and that is why she could tell us upfront how long it might be for us.

Given that we were ready to have a puppy, we decided to continue our search, knowing we were still connected with Helene should anything change. In our search, we met some very nice breeders, and some sketchy characters that made us lose hope. When we felt like we had to just leave this search alone and explain to the boys we had to take a break from puppy dreaming, Helene gave us a call.

When the time is right, you’ll know

It’s something we say often, “if it’s meant to be, it will happen”. This was the long-shot call we were hoping for. It turned out one family had to back out for family reasons, and suddenly there was hope when hope was lost. Helene, being a mama herself, told us not to announce anything to our boys until we were sure there were enough pups in the litter. She informed us her sweet toller was going to have a x-ray and then we would know.

What came via email next was nothing short of an unbelievable gift. Helene sent us the x-ray and told the boys to count how many pups they could see. Sure enough, there were enough pups and it confirmed that we would be part of this amazing toller family!


To read the continuation of our puppy journey, you can read part two here, where I share bringing our pup home and how it has changed our family for the better. Get ready to see puppy pictures I have never shared online. You heart will burst!!

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