When 8 become 6. I’ve been fostering this mama and her litter for some weeks. I guess it’s been 5 or 6. I could consult a calendar to be precise, but since Covid hit, time has changed. Today, I actually asked someone what month it was. We both hesitated. Her frame of reference was around her son’s school schedule and ability to attend in-person classes. My frame of reference is how dark it is when I let the pups out at 6am. And how it’s getting darker, earlier in the evening. So, maybe my rhythms are returning to some sort of nature-calendar…
But I digress, I avoid. Every time I foster a litter of puppies and their mom, we go through a similar cadence, and we learn new things. This litter, Journey’s family, weren’t born here. They came to us at about 4 weeks old. On their 2nd day, they ate solid food, and were scrambling to get out of the baby pool enclosure. On day 3 or 4, Journey insisted on taking a walk around the neighborhood. Was it their advanced stage that prompted me to give them all kinds of independence? Or is this ‘2nd child syndrome’? I’ve fostered many mamas and puppies, all different, all able to teach me something, and what is it that I learned from this batch? Or what is it that I was reminded of?
1. The importance of letting them call the shots. While dogs thrive on a schedule, they are all individuals. Moms and puppies have unique needs and are pretty resilient. I’ve been busy with work lately, so when the pups had to wait an extra 30 minutes for their lunch, they were just fine. Each one had a different comfort timeline in terms of venturing out into the yard. Aretha, adventure girl, was first and perhaps that confidence propelled her to take all kinds of other first steps. She’s grabbed my heart and the good-bye will be rough.
And there I go again, digressing and reminiscing. Two of the puppies went to their forever homes today. It’s a little quieter, I had to prepare a small dinner for the bunch, the dynamic has changed.
2. The importance of community. When I foster, I rely on my friends and neighbors to help introduce the pups to new experiences in a safe way. With Covid, it’s been a little tough having visitors. Last weekend, we fenced off a section of the cul-de-sac. A bunch of adults hanging out with puppies is really pretty fun, but the newest generation of our neighborhood family joined us. How is it possible that the neighbor kid who used to sit in my lap, is now a father with an amazing son who was giggling about being inundated with puppy kisses? Another family had just returned from the college drop off trip. As i looked around that group, I could feel the support and wisdom. The love that holds us close, through puppy-time. Time does not stand still.
A couple more pups will go home with their forever families tomorrow. The house will be quieter still, my own dogs will get more attention, adoption focus will shift to Journey and Josie – two of the most awesome dogs you will ever meet, by the way…
3. New is good. New is necessary. With this litter, I connected with some really cool kids. Many years ago, my sons went to summer camp run by their parents; these boys wanted to know more about puppies and I was more than happy to make that happen. They visited often, entertaining us all with the things kids do: making a blanket-bed for the pups and then snuggling in themselves, running around the backyard to entice the pups to follow, moving slow and steady to gain the puppies’ trust. It was magical and so heart warming. But the other day, they had to say good-bye, knowing that some puppies were going home. The raw emotion was refreshing – so articulate about feelings, so comfortable with tears – I thought about my own sobbing and wailing in the comfort of my car, windows up, radio blasting, when I have to drive away from a puppy-go-home delivery.
And so, the world evolves, with puppies and boys, in the comfort of our community, whatever that means, in our little town, one town among so many in this world.