This year, despite best efforts, we were not able to breed our own puppies. So I turned to friends and brought in new recruits who are similar in genetics to dogs already in the team.
From Luc Gaudreau in Quebec, came Joan Didion, Spiller, and Swamper! These three share genetics with both Ellie and Nibbler, as their father Dupa came from the same kennel in MN (10 Squared Racing), as well as with Wembley and Foreman, as their mother and grandmother came from the same kennel as Wembley and Foreman's mother (Tom Thurston).
From Ed Stielstra and Laura Neese at Nature's Kennel in Michigan came Flora and Fauna! These two share a family tree with Ariel, Hyside, and Vega, and Fauna is actually Ariel's niece, out of her sister Aurora. Flora's mom Maple is Laura's main lead dog and has led her through many race such as the entire Yukon Quest 1,000 and the Can Am 250, and Fauna's mom Ariel led Laura into Nome in the Iditarod last year.
Joan Didion, put simply, is a sassy bossy pants. Joan is a very serious puppy who prefers to learn adult behaviors from other dogs and is not quite interested in playing with them, and loves spending time with Ariel and Hyside. She is fairly fearless, friendly, and is showing that she does have a need for speed.
Joan Didion is one of my favorite writers, especially about grief and loss. I decided to get Joan when I was struggling with grief of my own, and thus Joan became this year's literary reference.
Swamper is Joan Didion's brother, a tall and gangly boy with the most hilarious ears. Swamper, just like Joan and Spiller, is incredibly well-socialized, and spends a lot of time leaping into my arms. Swamper is a curious and easy going boy, for which I'm glad because based on his size now, he'll probably be a beast when he stops growing!
Swamper is a style of axe, used to limb a tree once felled by the sawyer crew. In the pre-mechanized logging days, there would be entire crews dedicated to felling and swamping, and each of them had their own style of axe. An axe was precious in those days, and crews often slept with their axes by their sides.
Spiller is a sweet, petite, light-boned girl. She is the first to respond to my voice, and crawls into my lap. She is the more shy and reserved of the three pups, needing boosts of confidence to overcome new things. Swamper has been a good role model for her to help her take big steps. Her ears are the best, sometimes floppy, but also able to stand straight up.
Spiller was a family-owned axe company in Oakland, Maine, making high-quality axes in the early 20th century. Spiller himself was an import from New Brunswick, which is appropriate as Luc (where Spiller came from) is also an import from New Brunswick.
Flora is a very reasonable, focused team player. She is incredibly confident, and picks up new things very quickly. Flora's black coloring comes from her father, Sugar Daddy, who is not a black dog himself but somehow consistently creates black dogs.
Flora's mom Maple is Laura's main lead dog, and because of the special-ness of the litter, I decided to keep Flora's original name. Flora's siblings were named after the Andy Griffith Show, and thus include Opie, Bosco, and Juanita.
Fauna is mouthy: she bites, she screams, she howls. I picked her out of the puppy pack because, for whatever reason, she ran right to me out of the rest of the pile of puppies when I entered their pen. Her litter are a group of speed demons, and eat like piranhas. She is slightly less-sure than Flora, and will retreat and bark when meeting things she doesn't understand. Fauna is incredibly sweet and settles right in when you pick her up.
Once Flora's name was going to stick, I decided quickly on 'Fauna' as a match. This is both because of the natural (pun intended) pairing of Flora and Fauna, but also a homage to Fauna's mom Aurora. Aurora, or Sleeping Beauty for those into Disney princess lore, was attended to by her three fairy godmothers, who included Flora and Fauna (and Merriweather, and BOY was it hard to not bring home a third puppy to complete the theme!!!)