At my feet, a puppy. Sleeping soundly after an anxious first night away from the pack, legs twitching ever so slightly deep in dreamland.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. There were supposed to be two, curled up next to one another; the old girl and the young pup, side by side.

A few weeks ago, when Zabeth and I went to Chicago for Ben and Irene’s wedding, Ketzl stayed with Lee & Mike and their dog Red. And had a great time: she clearly enjoyed having a dog buddy around. When we got back home, you could tell she missed him, missed the sense of purpose correcting him had brought.

So Z & I talked about it, and decided that we’d get another dog, a puppy, for Ketzl’s sake and for ours: some overlap to brighten up the girl, give her a chance to pass on whatever knowledge she cared to share, to carry on the traditions she’d established, to boss around a bit. And, for us, transition—fur to cry on when the inevitable moment came.

The original plan was to do this next Spring, ten years after Ketzl first came into our lives.

When we got Ketzl, it took nearly 6 months, maybe more, of research, visits, discussion. This time, we planned to go back to European stock—to try to improve our chances of getting a dog without the health problems we’d run into with Ketzl. But, hopefully, to also get a dog true to the Bernese spirit, true to what made Ketzl so special.

Soon after our decision, Zabeth ran into a client at the hospital who had actually imported a wonderful dog from Germany. And, with the name in hand, a few days later I gave them a call.

We had a nice talk, got a good idea of their goals in breeding, the experience they’d had—a hundred years of breeding BMDs in the family, at a farm in Western Germany, among horses. True to the tradition. And shockingly, a litter was just becoming ready—and a puppy from it could be ours.

Six months last time. Six days this time. We were shocked. But it meant that Ketzl would have a companion, in just a week.

Incredible timing. We jumped.

And last night at 11:15pm the puppy arrived, German passport in hand. A wonderful male, bright and playful.

Alas, a day too late. Even after an incredible run, at the end we stretched, reached, but couldn’t hand the baton cleanly, couldn’t give Ketzl this last gift. But her smell is still here, her bed, her toys—a handoff of sorts, her presence in every corner, pillow, rug, surface, clearly detected by the new (still unnamed) puppy.

A puppy who’s ready, we hope, to be true to Ketzl’s memory: a valued companion, a loyal friend. Not just the farm dog, but the farmer’s dog: the one that came into the house, sat with the children...and whose presence and unconditional love made everything a little bit better.