Tam Lin’s Journey Home

Back on May 4 I announced that I’d sent off my deposit for an Alaskan malamute puppy and concluded: “By the end of this month the pup will be in residence, and for sure you’ll be among the first to know. Watch this space.”

If you’ve been watching this space, you’ll have noticed that this space has been blank for a couple of weeks, in part because the pup has been a Vineyard resident since we rolled off the 10:30 p.m. boat on Sunday, May 19. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve already seen multiple photos of the new arrival, but here in a nutshell is the story of how he got here.

Papa Fly and Mama Anuk

Tam Lin’s parents: Papa Fly in front and Mama Anuk in back

“He,” by the way, is Masasyu’s Tam Lin. He’s descended from several dogs with magical names: Anuk, his mama, is Masasyu’s Enchanted Hammer (her dad is Masasyu’s Mighty Hammer, whose wildly appropriate call name is John Henry). Papa Fly is officially Masasyu’s Magic Carpet Ride; his mom, and also John Henry’s mom, is Masasyu’s Let the Magic Begin. This got me thinking of ballads with magical connections. At the top of the list were “Thomas the Rhymer,” as sung by Maddy Prior and Steeleye Span, and “Tam Lin,” as sung by Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention.

Unbeknownst to me, Lori, the pups’ breeder and proprietor of Masasyu kennels, was already calling one of the four Tommy, a natural nickname for either Thomas the Rhymer or Tam Lin. Upon learning this I had a strong hunch that this was going to be my puppy. I brainstormed other “Tommy”-related names, ranging from The Who’s rock opera Tommy to Thomas à Becket to Thomas Edward Lawrence, a lifelong hero of mine whose family and friends called him Ned, not Tom, Thomas, or Tommy. Tomfoolery was suggested and rocketed into the top 3, for its allusion to Tom Lehrer and because malamutes are good at tomfoolery.

But as I woke Tuesday morning, with the puppy curled up on my bed, my mind settled on “Tam Lin” so Tam Lin it is. Here’s his song:

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Saturday, May 18, I made the long but uneventful drive from my brother’s in Stow, Mass., to Canandaigua, N.Y. — a drive I’d made 11 years and some weeks before, to pick up the little guy who became Masasyu’s Fellow Traveller, aka Travvy. Around 3 p.m. I rolled up the dirt drive at Masasyu, which looked both familiar and different: the horse barn was the same, but house and kennel had been rebuilt after the disastrous fire of November 2012.

Susanna holding Tommy

Me and my puppy

Lori and I caught up while watching the pups play on the kennel floor. She’s so pleased with this litter that she’s keeping two of them: Crow, the only girl, and Hawk, one of the boys.

My Tommy was the first to leave home. He seemed not a bit distressed about this on our long journey to the Vineyard. Letting me out of his sight now that we’re home — that’s another matter. We’re working on it.

In the photo at right I’m wearing the same flannel shirt I wore to pick Travvy up. I didn’t realize this till after I’d left home on Friday, but of course I had to wear it to my first meeting with Tam-Lin-to-be.

To my consternation, the motel where Trav and I spent our first night had a NO VACANCY sign on the white picket fence. My consternation grew when the other two nearby budget motels that accepted pets also turned out to be full. Lori called around: seemed there was a big golf tournament in town and everything was full up.

My smartphone came in handy: There was a room available at the Super 8 in Bath, N.Y., about an hour away. By now it was after 6 but there was plenty of light in the sky to enjoy the gorgeous drive down the west side of Canandaigua Lake on State Route 21. We got to the motel well before dark.

I’d bought a puppy-sized travel crate at the thrift shop, but puppy showed no interest in it, either in the car (where he rode mostly curled up in the passenger seat) or at the motel. This was not unexpected. I’d borrowed a crate for puppy Travvy, thinking it would be safer than letting an eight-and-a-half-week-old puppy loose in a motel room, but once closed in the crate Travvy wouldn’t stop shrieking. Given a choice between waking all the other motel guests or taking my chances on a loose puppy, I went with the latter. All went well. I didn’t even try to shut my new guy in the crate. All went well with him too.

I’ve been reading up on the importance of puppy socialization, not just with people and other dogs but with various experiences. At the motel I had my first opportunities to watch my new puppy getting to know the big world beyond his home kennel. He was fine being patted by complete strangers. He was curious about our room but apparently at ease. He was surprised when his water dish slid a couple of inches across the bathroom floor while he was drinking from it, so I put it on the rug instead.

puppy on green grass

Puppy checks out the grass and dandelions in front of the Super 8.

We played on the grassy area between the parking lot and the main road. Sirens went screaming by; he listened and watched but didn’t seem startled.

He was initially reluctant to venture across the asphalt — evidently his paws liked the grass better — but he quickly got used to it.

He was seeming a fairly resilient guy: taking note of new sounds and sensations but willing to check them out. This has turned out to be pretty true. He’s startled by clanging metal — something I noticed when we were sitting in front of the grocery store and someone wiggled a shopping cart loose from its fellows. He also wanted to bolt when a saw started whining at a neighbor’s, but with a couple of treats he was willing to sit still and take it in.


Tam at Fallengutter, with Jan’s hands

Sunday morning we headed for Peekskill on Interstate 86. Sun beating through the windshield made the seat uncomfortably warm for the pup, so he curled up in the passenger foot well, on top of my backpack with a couple of squeaky toys. This wasn’t the most direct route home, but we were going to have lunch with some friends I’d never met in person before. Susie and I had met years ago on an e-list devoted to malamutes, then continued the acquaintance on Facebook. Her partner, Jan, is an Episcopal priest, and I wanted to meet both of them, and their current malamute, Luci. Luci was a tad overbearing and had to be banished inside, but the rest of us had a delightful lunch on the front porch, watching the neighborhood pass by.

Sunday afternoon traffic had been heavy coming into Peekskill, so — mindful that I had a 9:45 boat to catch — I left promptly at 4, fortified by lunch and the travel glass of brewed iced tea that Susie gave me.

My thought was to take Interstate 84 across Connecticut till it intersected I-495, then follow my usual route to Woods Hole. GPS warned me that traffic was heavy on my chosen route and could it offer an alternative? Mindful of the heavy traffic coming in to Peekskill and the fact that the 9:45 was the last boat of the night, I said OK.

Big mistake. GPS routed us through backroads and small towns whose names I can’t remember. Was this going to get us to I-84? Did GPS know I had a boat to catch? The directions were less than precise, I had to make a couple of U-turns, and my bearings were slipping away. Finally I saw a sign TO I-95 — the shore route that would get me to Woods Hole a lot faster than the winding roads I’d been on. Once on I-95 I let GPS calculate my drive time to Woods Hole: it had us arriving between 8:30 and 8:45. Whew. No rest stops for the puppy, but the puppy was fine until we rolled into the Steamship lot and he finally got to pee and drink some water.

One of the Steamship crew on the freight deck was so taken with the puppy that he asked to take a photo. Sure, I said.

sleeping puppy

Tam Lin chills on the boat while I drink my beer.

Since it was the pup’s first trip to the Vineyard, it didn’t seem right to spend it all in the car. Besides, I wanted a beer. Dogs aren’t allowed in the lunchroom, but no one minded that I bought my beer with a puppy in one arm. Quite the contrary. The big challenge was getting money out of and into my wallet one-handed, but the cashier helped.

At about quarter to 11, we got home, safe and sound. I was ready for bed, but Tam, having slept most of the day, wanted to play. After a short stroll around the neighborhood, he settled down.

It was so good to have a dog sleeping on my bed again, though it was strange having one who took up so little room. Looking at these photos from barely 10 days ago, I can’t help noticing how much he’s grown.

Next post: Settling In.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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7 Responses to Tam Lin’s Journey Home

  1. Karen Ann says:

    so happy for you! What a lucky little guy! Love his name, too.


  2. David Fielder says:

    We’re waiting to meet Tam Lin. Libby needs a puppy fix.


  3. Susan Robinson says:

    Off to a good and interesting start.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mvobsession says:

    Can’t wait for the next installment. What a cutie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a cutie! Definitely one you will have to watch around the ladies…canine and otherwise, as he is a heart-melter!


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