Growing Up: Just Right and Too Fast
“Now you know why Peter Pan never wanted to grow up.”
I read this quote recently and somehow it resonated anew with me. As I care for, nurture, visit with prospective families and, yes, worry about the puppies, I realize deep down there is a bittersweet feeling. It is a choke in the chest that brings tears to my eyes. I take the stewardship of these little lives very seriously and earnestly pray, hope the best futures and do everything in my power to give them a good start in their life. This is a critical time in their lives, and I had a hand in bringing that life into this world. It is an awesome responsibility.
Having never had children, the rearing may have a stronger pull on my spirit. I can imagine that growing up may be one of the hardest things about being parent; that, and the letting go. Being a teacher, I have seen it on the parents faces and the misty eyes, particularly at the high points in their child’s academic career: pride and bittersweet letting go.
The puppies are evolving from little dumplings who simply nursed and slept to little puppy dogs. They can now both see and hear, although the clarity of both is still developing. The only vocalizations they made were to solicit attention. Now, at just 21 days, they growl, bark and make a variety of endearing sounds. They explore their siblings and surrounds by scent, sight and by chewing & mouthing. Still, the boys are sumo wrestlers in their play and the girls a bit more refined, like the ballerinas I imagined.
Personalities are beginning to emerge. Little Bowtie is a “go-getter” and is often the first to explore a new toy, as does her brother, Arrow. In fact, this littlest of girls seems to prefer to play with boys, but snuggles with her sisters. The blue merle girls, Fancy and Blue, are already big time tail waggers. Both are often the first to crawl into my lap when I sit in the weaning pen with them. Socks loves his food and is the first & last to leave the food dish. His gaze seems to look right through me to my heart. Stormy, first to open his eyes, is an observer. I think he is just waiting for the right moment to pounce, and chew on a sib’s ear, which he does with gusto.
This last week, the transitional period, was all about textures. Each day they were offered a developmentally appropriate novel item. Pups got to feel and explore a tub mat, baking sheet, a crinkle elephant rope toy, a pillow case filled with wadded up craft paper, a fleece braid, my slippers and Bill’s toes.
They began climbing out of the whelping box a few days earlier than I expected or have experienced in past litters. At day 18 they were just about up and over. The area was changed up to accommodate their mobility, and wobbly but stronger coordination. With each developmental period, their environment is changed to offer more space and stimulus. I offer learning opportunities to the puppies at just the right time. It is, for me, the challenge of observation and the wisdom to move with the puppies at their pace as they mature. That is the beauty of Puppy Culture, the program I following when raising my puppies.
Their teeth are erupting too, a bit earlier than my wheaten terrier litters. So today was first gruel, which was eagerly devoured with zero hesitation. Rose happily cleaned up afterwards and offered dessert, mama milkshakes.
This third week, socialization truly begins in earnest. I will be continue offering a novel item to explore daily and introducing sound protocols. I used a habituation recording, played low, this morning. It had sounds of fireworks, trains and a lawn mower. As the week progresses, they will also hear me vacuum, use blow dryer and watch Antiques Roadshow & Endeavor Masterpiece Mystery with us.
We will also offer the puppy some of their first challenges. We use some infant sounds mats in the weaning pen for pups to step on, and some soft low obstacles to climb over and a wet feet exercise. The latter, is simply a wet towel in a cookie sheet for them to walk on. It is important to note that it is the puppies decision whether to interact or not with the challenge or novel item. We also want to make sure the puppy is steady enough on their feet to move off the object, if they find it unpleasant.
Friends are also starting to visit. The puppies love climbing into and over laps and legs. They most often return the many kisses given. Smiles abound.
We have snow on the Sangres. I admit I am not ready for Fall. Yet, change is the only constant. May I always grow alongside it, and savor each moment offered.