I may be starting to get a handle on this dog-mom-as-pack-leader business. As you may recall, we adopted two Lab-terrier puppies earlier this month. Almost three weeks into it, I feel much more relaxed about the whole business. We’re falling into a routine. I feed them breakfast, take them out, stash them in the laundry room while I shower and have my breakfast, then we all dash down the hall to my office, where they munch their rawhide chews and fall asleep.
Every hour or so we have to go out because their bladders are small. I still pack one under each arm to carry them out because I don’t trust them not to pee in the house, especially when they just woke up, but that’s 27 pounds of dog now. It’s a race between housetraining and dog growth.
Eventually they have lunch, they potty, Fred and I have lunch, and we all go back to work, stopping every hour or so for a potty break and playtime. We repeat the routine until they fall asleep for the night and peace finally reigns over the kingdom.
As for training, it’s coming along, most of the time. They sit, they come, they bite less, althought they’re still better paper shredders than the machine in Fred’s office. When they’re not eating, excreting or sleeping, they’re usually wrestling. It drives me nuts. But I think I had a breakthrough this morning. I actually got them to separate and sit perfectly still for at least a minute.
What’s all this got to do with childlessness? Lots of things, actually. These are my baby substitutes. There is no denying it. I know they’re dogs. I know they won’t take care of me in my old age. I know they won’t give me a party on my 80th birthday. I know they’re animals that will kill smaller animals, given the chance. I know that all of our conversations are one-sided. They are not people.
I think the puppies become so significant because I don’t have children. At 56, this is the first time I have ever cared for a baby anything longer than a couple hours. I am learning lessons that mothers of human babies learn much earlier in life, especially this: the child’s needs come first. I’m struggling to spread my attention among the pups, my husband, and my work. I’m losing work time and spending tons of money on these little guys. These are all experiences that are familiar to women with children, but they’re new to me.
Yesterday, when my husband and I had to go out of town, I took the puppies to daycare. I’ve never done that before. Our other dogs have stayed in the yard or gone to a kennel, but these guys are too small. They can squeeze through too many openings in the fence, they need to be fed often, and they wreak havoc in the laundry room when left there very long. At $20 a pup, it was worth it for the peace of mind. I’m assuming that within a few months, they’ll be self-sufficient enough and big enough to trust on their own, but not yet.
Dogs are not children. But look back a post or two, and you’ll see my friends gave me a puppy shower. Now I’ve taken them to daycare. And God help me, every friend who calls or visits gets called Auntie or Uncle so-and-so. I can’t help myself.
I think the puppies fall somewhere between the dolls I used to play with and the children I never had. They’re kind of like toys, but they’re also live creatures for which I’m responsible.
Back in the real world, I’m working on my chapter about the psychological effects of childlessness. If we don’t become parents, are we perpetual children? Opinions vary, but I’m leaning toward yes.
And now I have to go because the dogs are fighting again–just like my brother and I used to do. My poor sainted mother would spank both of us, saying, “I don’t care who started it.” Next time we got within punching or kicking distance of each other, we’d be at it again. Ditto for the dogs, except I can’t spank them. Corporal punishment is no longer acceptable in dog training.
Have I lost my mind? Or are dogs a healthy substitute when you can’t have children? What do you think?