I am responsible for three rescued adult dogs, a teenage son, and a pre-teen son both adopted from the foster care system. Added to the nuts and bolts of everyday life (house, yard, car, work), you might think this adequate to keep a person occupied. Truth be told, it’s often more than enough.
I’m not delicate like crystal; I’ve never been fragile. I’m more like the recycled green and blue glassware you would find in our cupboards - sturdy. I can withstand rough handling, even a fall onto the wood floor. But my sister’s recent death, piled onto the pre-existing drama that accompanies the raising of troubled children, changed things. This recycled thick and sturdy glass of a woman clattered onto the granite countertop. And shattered. I’m now gathering the pieces – large shards, slim slivers, tiny particles – to put myself back together again. Fragmented and disorganized, I know how all the king’s horses and all the king’s men felt.
I just want to take a nap.
So … it makes perfect sense that while trying to glue the shards of my broken life back into a usable vessel, while missing parent-teacher conferences and forgetting appointments, while failing to return phone messages and misplacing bills, I would agree to add caring for an elderly West Highland Terrier and two new foster puppies to my load.
Sometimes, life can’t get any messier.
Here’s the thing. The Westie is dapper as they come. Easy-going and confident, he gets along with our Pitties like water on a garden. And, as we learned with foster puppy number one just a few short weeks ago, there’s nothing better than puppy-love when heart mending is called for. The new babes drop me to my knees with their raw need and open-hearted trust.They jump on my shins, extend their little front legs as high as they can, keep their gazes steady on my face. My heart melts when bright round eyes and innocent short-muzzled faces trigger in me a spurt of maternal hormone called oxytocin. Understanding the science behind the warm-fuzzy feelings does not diminish my experience.
My younger son struggled with letting go of our previous foster puppy and we talked a lot about saving lives. The two border-collieand pitbull mix puppies we are nurturing now were pulled from a shelter. They will find loving permanent homes because we are willing to provide them a temporary home. We’re saving their lives, or at least participating in the effort. That’s cool.
I sit in front of my computer; a 10-pound milk-chocolate and white pup with a brown spot around his right eye like Petey from The Little Rascals snuggles on my lap. Miniature snores accompany the click-clack of the keyboard. During the recent tough week, this little guy has followed me everywhere, stared up at me with clear blue eyes, begged to be held, pressed his wet nose into my arm, my belly, my chest. His presence has caused rush after rush of affection to flood my weary body, finding empty spaces and filling them with puppy-warmth. This afternoon I sank into the couch with my feet on the ottoman and he and his sister nestled beside me. I read a good short story, a poem, and listened to an audio book.
I took a nap.
Make no mistake. A lot of extra work is involved in puppy care: midnight forays to the back yard for urgent pooping and the ensuing escalated clean-up duty, repeated dashes to nab shoes and socks and electrical cords before sharp puppy teeth rip render them un-usable, managing the utter circus underfoot in the kitchen as half a dozen dogs wait for meals. But these travails are endured without suffering. Soft steady gazes, sweet breath, hot-tongued kisses and the undeniable sensation of adoring and being adored – these are the payments for my efforts.
A lot of repair is needed in my life right now. But I don’t need all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Foster puppies are helping to put me together again.