Athena’s puppies are almost 4 weeks old. For the first 2 or 2 1/2 weeks, they develop at about the same rate. While some might be smaller than the others, it doesn’t really matter. They sleep and nurse. Mama handles all of the cleanup. But when their eyes open and they begin to hear the world around them, they start to show us who they are.
And at this point, they develop at very different rates. Nature/Nurture – I do not know what is the cause. But I do not that the effect is that I need to stay on top of my game in order to provide each of them with exactly what they need, when they need it.
For example, at 3 weeks old, I offer solid food. Usually, every pup is interested for meal #1. During meal #2, NOT A SINGLE PUP is interested! No matter how many times I foster, this disinterest in food devastates me. You’d think I was Italian or something ‘mangia i miei bambinis!’. Food equals love.
But, this litter is full of surprises. Zeus LOVES his meals. Every.Single.Meal. This puppy will eat no matter what. And you guessed it, this baby-dog already has my heart…
So, besides food, what else is there to notice? One puppy was a real whiner, until they opened their eyes. Now, she is content and interested in the world. Who knew that sight would bring such relief.
One puppy, (not the smallest!), is having a hard time with new experiences. His default behavior is to head for home-base (the nesting area) and fall asleep. I’m offering him extra support, first, by recognizing his need for comfort, then by becoming his comfort, and then by introducing him to the new thing, while keeping him close. So far so good.
What all of this means is that I need to be observant and present. I need to meet each puppy where they are and provide them with whatever they need to challenge them, but at the appropriate level.
Tonight, it meant carrying a puppy or two (individually), into the kitchen. Minds blown! Their little noses didn’t stop taking in the new smells. It meant feeding the pups in different groups so that they could be the most comfortable and get some experience with solid food.
Then there’s mama’s needs. I fall in love with every mom dog I’ve ever fostered. The shared experience of raising pups brings us close. But today, I saw Athena meet some new people and tune into what they each needed. The connection was palpable.
Dogs. Baby-dogs. Every moment spent in their presence is a gift.