January 20, 2017
Before I begin writing about this precious puppy who will soon be in our lives, I must preface this story for those who aren’t familiar with me. I have extreme ADHD, coupled with a tremendous amount of social anxiety, sprinkled with a dust of really poor impulse control. All 3 could be causes of one another, but I’m not going to waste your time on a chicken before egg debate about it. (Please stop reading if your attention span is anywhere near as short as mine… this gets a little rambly)
Meaty passed away on September 22, 2016 – which come to find out – is exactly 2 months from the day he came home from his 2-week stay at the Annapolis Pet ER Resort (see the Mighty Meaty blog for all the deetz). In the days following, Darren and I deliberated over possibly fostering a dog, or rescuing one (that is a subject for an entirely separate blog entry) to fill this immense void. We had multiple discussions on how special Meaty was, and how there was no way we could ever do another bullmastiff again, because it would never ever be Meaty. 4 days later (told you, poor impulse control), I started looking at breeder websites for another bullmastiff puppy.
A little back story… the 24 hrs after Meaty died were the most agonizing 24 hrs I’ve ever experienced. Mind you, I’ve lost people (including my father) and other dogs, yet nothing compared to the pain of losing my Meatball. Immediately following those 24 hrs…numbness. Just a gaping vacancy in our hearts and lives. We tried to surround ourselves with friends and indulge ourselves in copious amounts of alcohol in a half-assed effort to distract ourselves. But when it came down to it, our lives were forever changed. In the 9.5 years Darren and I had been together, 6.5 of them were filled with Meat’s giant presence.
As sad as I was, the sorrow Darren experienced was even deeper. Zippy didn’t quite know what to do with herself as we would just sit in silence in our living room, taking turns stealing away to other parts of the house to cry in secret. In my memory, it felt like at least a week but my records confirm, nope. 4 days.
More of the back story before I get to those 4 days later. Meaty had come from a breeder named Mai Conaway, owner of Accolade Bullmastiffs in Glen Rock, PA. I, as a naive 25 year old, had no idea there were varying characteristics of breeders, and was just determined to get a puppy. A few weeks before I contacted Mai, I had already put down a deposit on another puppy from a different breeder in PA. My boss at the time, had a passion for showing her dogs, so gave me all these questions to ask that breeder. Toss these odd questions about lineage, dog quality, etc. into a mixing bowl with my crippling social anxiety, and I’m sure I came off as a downright weirdo… which resulted in me spooking the breeder, and then them giving me some BS line about how the mom’s milk went bad… puppy didn’t make it… blah blah blah, here’s your deposit back. Fast forward to a few weeks and I find Accolade Bullmastiffs. Their website looked legit enough, and the pups were cute, so I jumped right in. Do I regret not doing more research and ending up getting a puppy from a disreputable breeder? Absolutely not, because Meaty was the most amazing dog… health problems and all.
Alright, so here we are 4 days after he passed. I’m scrolling through dozens of Google search results for trustworthy respectable bullmastiff breeders. Each one more generic than the last. Here’s a picture of this one, AKC Something or The Other, winning first place in this dog show. Yes, we have puppies, yadda yadda yadda. And then I stumbled upon a different website. www.bullguardbullmastiffs.com – This one is warm and inviting, even the font is friendly. “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth is cued up and playing as I lay my eyes on a picture of this enormous wrinkly head with the sweetest smushiest face. I swear, my heart skipped a beat.
I poke around a little on the website, and really appreciated the part about how all her pups come with health contracts. Back to my experience with Meaty’s breeder… our vet diagnosed him with severe hip dysplasia when he got neutered at 6 months. They said it was so severe for being that young. When I asked the breeder about it, she said something like “Well, I don’t know about hip dysplasia but I guarantee against cancer. If you have to put him down now, I can give you 50% off your next puppy”. Um, why the FUCK, would I ever buy another dog from you, you asshat?! Granted, it’s impossible to have a warranty against all ailments and diseases in the future, but a few of the other breeder sites I saw said they guaranteed against severe hip dysplasia in the first 2 yrs, and I believe, also against cancer within the first 5 (might be making this all up, as I can’t remember where I saw this). Responsible breeders don’t just breed pretty puppies. They go out of their way to research the lineage and breed the healthiest of dogs with the most desirable traits and temperaments. It was noted on the Bullguard Bullmastiffs site that there was a litter just born on 9/11/2016, about 2 weeks earlier.
Wielding my poor impulse control in hand, I send the breeder an e-mail introducing myself (that I redrafted about 57 times). I had originally planned to send the GoFundMe link and mention our Instagram, but then I didn’t want them to know about all the socks Meat ate (especially the few he ate only 2 or 3 weeks before he passed… while he was also undergoing cancer treatments, ugh), how bad he was… basically all the red flags which would pretty much label me as a horrible dog owner. So instead, I just said that I had just lost my bullmastiff of 6.5 years to lymphoma, and while it was way too soon to consider a puppy from her most recent litter, that I was interested to know if she had any upcoming litters planned. Seemed innocent enough. And send.
This was at 11am. I g-chatted Darren, so excited, and was met with a lack of enthusiasm. He was not yet ready and thought it stupid I’d even ask. The rest of the day dragged as I waited for an e-mail back. Every time my phone made a bleep, blip, or whistle, my heart would drop, and I’d check it… hoping for a response, but only to be disappointed and a little angry that it was just one of my nice friends checking up on me. What a bunch of assholes. I hadn’t felt these anxious feelings of anticipation in such a long time. It was sort of like when you go on a first date with someone, and then shoot the first text the next day, only to be left hanging with no response. Just awful. I hadn’t experienced it in 9.5 years, and still don’t know how you single people do it.
Around 4pm, still no response from the breeder. I thought, F it, what do I have to lose? I’m going to call her (like a complete stage 5 clinger/stalker). My cell gets shotty reception at work, so I used my work phone which shows up as an 800 #. The phone rings 4 times, she answers hesitatingly, probably expecting it to be telemarketer. “HELLO!”, I exclaim. “Um, hi?”, she replies. At this point, I wasn’t expecting her to answer, so I didn’t really know how to start the conversation (social retardation cue). “Ummm… what’s your name?”, I splutter out. “Excuse me?”, she suspiciously asks. “WHAT’S YOUR NAME”. She hung up instantly.
Lack of impulse control armed and ready to go? Yup. I call her immediately from my cell phone and cheerfully exclaim “Hi! I think we got disconnected!”. This call went a little better. I tried to sum up my e-mail, but still sounded awkward AF. She basically told me that out of this litter, there was only one boy, but she did have one girl still available. I said it was a little soon, and that my psycho Frenchie doesn’t really do well with girls. She gave it to me straight, asserting that she is all about quality, not quantity… that she only breeds once a year, if even that… and that the waiting list for one of her male puppies is about, oh, I dunno, 3-4 YEARS LONG. She was like… you can fill out a puppy application if you want, and then hung up, probably thinking “no chance in hell I’m ever giving this weirdo one of my beautiful puppies”.
Disheartened and defeated, I told Darren that the convo didn’t really go well. He tried to be supportive (even though he had no desire to bring another bullmastiff into our lives again), and asked if I could just find another breeder. But I didn’t want just ANY puppy now. I NEEDED one from her. It was clear how much she cared about her dogs. They were just as much a part of her family as her own children. At this point, I had rationalized in my head that the 3-4 year waiting list was how much time we needed to get over Meaty. I filled out the puppy application, describing Meaty vividly and how much I loved the breed. I think I might have even attached a few pictures of him. And send.
A few minutes later, I get a text from an unknown number. This is a truncated version of the exact conversation (I cut out a lot of my socially awkward filler).
Unknown: Are you the family of Meaty?
Me: Yes… sorry, who’s this? [your classic “new phone, who dis” text?]
Unknown: I had no idea… This is Brittney with Bullguard Bullmastiffs, just talked with you a few minutes ago
Me: Omg, hi! Sorry if I came off like a weirdo, I was so nervous calling you
Unknown: Yes, I have followed you guys on Instagram and shared your story the other day… my heart is broken for you!
Holy. Shit. Even in the afterlife, Meaty is redeeming me from yet another social situation I had failed.
Brittney: If you guys can hold out a little while, I can move applications and give you the first pick male from next breeding
Brittney: I have a girl due in season any time… I can’t promise success but we can hope like hell together
Me: I’m in tears right now… I hope you know how much I would love for and care for your pup
Brittney: It would be an honor for you to be a Bullguard momma
Me: So yes, we will wait. Fingers, paws, everything crossed!
Brittney: Everything happens for a reason
That was the last of the conversation around 5pm that day. My heart and mind were racing. I ran home and informed Darren of all the details and showed him her website. He likely won’t admit it, but I think I saw a little glimmer of hope or excitement from him right then.
Around 8pm, my social anxiety and lack of impulse control, once again, got the better of me. I composed another text to her.
Me: Hi Brittney, I just wanted to thank you… today was the first time we’ve felt happy in almost a week! It really felt eerie, almost like fate… like Meaty is smiling down on us and being his lil prankster self, answering our prayers! We don’t want to get our hopes up, but please don’t forget about us and we will keep praying. I promise I will train this puppy and never let him eat socks, and he will be so very loved the way every puppy should be!
And, send. No response. I waited and waited and waited. And then I went to bed, uneasy. The next morning, Darren asked how things were going with the puppy lady. I told him about my stupid text. His bewildered response… “why can’t you EVER just leave good enough alone???”. He was right. I had screwed up, yet another good thing, by probably reminding her of the socks thing, and I was back on the “NO PUPPY FOR YOU!” blacklist.
That day, I just kind of brooded around, dejected and crestfallen, yet again. I decided to look up the first breeder I had contacted. Yes, from 2010, the one that I had freaked out and who had rescinded my first puppy. I thought, I feel like I can try to act [more] normal this time, and voila! I will have a puppy.
I shot them a simple e-mail, comparable to the one I wrote Brittney, just asking if they had any upcoming litters or available puppies. They wrote me back a few minutes later, saying “Yes! Are you interested in putting a deposit down on one?”. Not even a minute later, my phone whistled. I had gotten a text message back from Brittney.
Brittney: I believe in fate myself… I have seen so many lives change through my dogs… You are a wonderful momma, Meaty will show you the way. I know you’re hurting, I was there 3 months ago and laid my American Dream to rest in the hills of TN. I asked God to give me strength to push through this! I know my boy is with me every step of the way. Not to preach to you but God sent you to me for a reason. ❤
Relief would be putting it lightly. Now, I am positive you are thinking… “Meyli, you are a total bing-bong. Not everyone is glued to their phones like you nor responds to every text within 5 seconds.” That is most likely true. But it really felt uncanny, that as soon as I had pretty much closed the door in my head on the possibility of ever getting a puppy from her… then contacted another breeder and had them respond, that she then texted me back that very instant. It honestly felt like Meaty from up above made her text me back at that exact time, as if to say, “NO, MOMMY. You need a puppy from HER.” Had she texted me back even later that day, who is to say that I wouldn’t have already committed to a puppy from that original breeder?! It’s just momentous to think about.
Over the next few weeks, Brittney and I exchanged hundreds of texts. She shared with me the story of how she had attempted two failed breeding cycles with her dogs Vanna and Bo, and on the third, decided to use a different stud instead of Bo. Bo, only two years old then, went outside for a few minutes one night to look for Vanna, and passed away unexpectedly. Although Brittney had been breeding bullmastiffs for quite some time, that was HER Meaty. He was her special ONE. After his death, she was so shattered that she no longer cared if Vanna’s third cycle worked out or not. She had lost her passion to keep breeding these majestic dogs. A few weeks later, it was confirmed. Vanna was successfully pregnant. And she went on to give birth to Brittney’s most beautiful litter to date. It was almost as if Bo was smiling down on her from doggy heaven, gifting her these little miracles, encouraging her to keep enriching people’s lives with these puppies.
Fanta was the dog who she had mentioned over text that would soon be in heat. Fanta was only 2 years old, and if it worked out, would be a mom for the very first time. It certainly felt a little bizarre, but I had never wanted so hard for any one’s (human or canine) pregnancy to work. The months went by, and although I’d hear from Brittney sporadically, there was no confirmation on if Fanta was pregnant.
And as the months went by, Darren, Zippy and I got better and better. Zippy was enjoying life as an only dog. We began letting her sleep in the bed with us every night. Darren took her on multiple long walks a day; she got showered in toys, treats, and an endless amount of attention. We even threw her a 6th birthday party that over 30 of her aunts and uncles attended (it had been over 3 years since we had thrown one of our infamous dog birthday parties… or any party, for that matter, because Meaty would always end up in surgery after each one). Our house was clean at last, devoid of drool stains and giant fur tumbleweeds hiding under every piece of furniture. We had money again! We treated ourselves to a fabulous new couch, and even went on a lavish vacation to Aruba. We went out of town periodically, and Zippy was so low-maintenance that we could easily leave her with friends, rather than paying an exorbitant amount of money for dog walkers. Life in our household was as peachy as it could be.
Darren and I then decided that it would be okay if Fanta’s pregnancy didn’t work out. That we would thank Brittney for her time and for thinking of us, and that we would let her know in the future if we would like a puppy from a future litter. Our life had become so simple, effortless, and easy, and we were extremely content.
December 22, 2016… With just a few days before Christmas, and exactly 3 months from the day Meaty had passed away, Brittney texted me a picture of a bunch of lil furballs in a pile. My heart leapt out of its cavity. Fanta had given birth to an exquisite red litter of ten – 6 boys and 4 girls.
We were so conflicted. Here, we had already mentally prepared ourselves for the news that the pregnancy didn’t work out, and envisioning our lives without a bullmastiff. We couldn’t really say “thanks, but no thanks”… this was a litter that she had JUST FOR US… Meaty’s litter. And now, our extremely simple, effortless, and easy lives would be disrupted with a crazy puppy. All the things that come with puppies… the destruction, the potty-training, the time and energy… we were just not prepared!
I think it was during an episode of “This is Us” (great show, btw) a few days later (probably 4 days later), that I was in the middle of a cry fest, when I glanced up to see the beautiful drawing of Meaty that someone from FB had done, and the family picture of us walking together that I had printed onto a canvas, that I just started ugly crying all over again. Reflecting on the day Meaty passed, and what a devastation to our world it was. Remembering his stunningly perfect face, that kept smiling, even throughout that fateful morning. And it was then, in that moment of clarity, where I couldn’t help but question how we had ever tricked ourselves into believing our lives could resume without a bullmastiff.
Brittney has been nothing short of spectacular. She texts me everyday, sends pictures constantly, and we talk on the phone at least a few times a week. Just a few days ago, she FaceTimed us so we could see the puppies interacting with her and each other. She has provided me with so much information, making it even more apparent how little I got from Meaty’s breeder. She has dealt with my neuroses and assuaged my anxiety in a way very few can. If you are planning on going with a breeder for your next dog, I hope you hold yours to this same standard. I don’t consider myself a spiritual person, or have any idea if there is a doggy heaven, but it really feels like Meaty and Bo are up there together, glad that they could get their mommies to meet and push on without them.
So here we are now… the puppies are exactly one month old today… and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome this nugget into our home in early February. Are we nervous? Scared shitless! But we’re going to try to prepare as best we can, and show this puppy the same immeasurable love we had for our Meaty. ❤
Here is Brittney sharing her side of this amazing story:
In June 2016, Vanna had started a heat cycle after two failed attempts prior with Bocha. My stomach told me I could not try this breeding again. I battled with the decision for 12 days as her progesterone raised. I knew I was forced to make the decision so I decided to use another male. Although my stomach was in love of my Bocha, for some reason, my heart told me otherwise. One evening, I let Bo out to potty. As he paced the yard looking for her, I never dreamed this would be the last time I watched this amazing creature cover my back yard. After a few minutes, I called out for him with no response. I started down the stairs, I called again… I glanced over and I saw him across the yard laying under the trees as he always did, lifeless.
My heart and soul were gone. I asked myself why? How can this happen? How can something so special to me be gone! I knew at this point, even though I couldn’t catch my breath, I asked God again, why? How could you take my future… something I had worked so hard for and searched for years for… Did you take him because everyone was always in his shadow? I asked everything. I was so angry in this moment. My pain had turned into anger; I didn’t want to look at another dog the next morning because my goofy boy wasn’t there. At this point, I had made the decision to no longer breed bullmastiffs. I felt if I couldn’t have Bo, my only decision was to give up. I asked again… Show me the way… What do you want me to do???
As Vanna approached her breeding dates, I didn’t care if it worked or not; I was still broken. I would usually be happy, counting the days until we could confirm the pregnancy. This time was different, I didn’t care, I was over it. I left it to God. I told him if you want me to continue, you must show me. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and 63 days approached quickly. There were no problems, it was an easy pregnancy for Vanna, but still I wasn’t excited. I was still broken from the loss of my heart and soul.
One night, labor started, so I loaded Vanna to go the vet for a C-section. As I made the hour drive to the vet, I felt a breath of relief. I remember tearing up on the way to the vet thinking I want to be excited, yet I didn’t know how to with such a loss. I didn’t want to take away from my grief of my baby boy; it felt guilty to love again.
As I walked into the surgery room, I laid my eyes on the most beautiful healthy and precious pups I had seen yet in all my litters!!! I knew at this point it was my boy, Bocha. He didn’t want me to give up, he didn’t want me to be sad, he wanted me to shine… so I took a huge breath and I heard him. “I told you mom, follow your dream and I will be here to help guide you!” To this day, even though he is not with me in life, I know he is with me in spirit. I was so lucky to be his momma for even such a short time. And the love we had for one another is something I can only hope everyone can share with a pet! Me and Bocha were a team!!
Right after Bocha passed, with my heart shattered, I would sit in the morning, listening to music, crying still over the loss of my boy, angry I couldn’t have him. Miles across the US, I saw a family battling to save a life of their heart, Meaty. I had followed his journey through social media, but never reached out to them. I just sent my condolences, shared their posts, and asked for everyone to think of them through social media. I woke up one morning, 2 weeks after the puppies were born, to see that Meaty had lost his battle and this family was feeling the same pain as I still had in that moment. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I remember I had done a feeding of my pups and thought I’m going run out for a quick bite of my favorite Mexican food. An 800 number came up on my phone, I assumed it was just a telemarketer but for some reason I felt the need to answer. I’m not sure why cause I never answer… On the other end of the phone, just some random person asking for a puppy. I said I’m sorry I have nothing available, fill out an application and I will get back to you (knowing I still was unsure if I would continue to breed). I finished my lunch and headed home to do another feeding. Looked in my email, I had gotten a puppy application from Meyli, filled with pictures of Meaty. Here again, I felt in this moment that my boy had sent them to me because he knew she was dealing with the same loss I was, and together we could heal each other. And so our journey started.
Everything in life has a purpose. We don’t know what it is but I know my boy shines bright through me and I won’t let him down. I have to make him as proud of me as I was of him! The love Meyli and I both share for our passed boys can only build a garden of love. Some call it fate, some call it crazy, some call it stupid… but to me, I call it love.