Adopting A Pregnant Dog - One Year On

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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Adopting A Pregnant Dog - One Year On

A few weeks ago now our pack of 4 puppies reached their one year birthday. Not that they especially marked the occasion, of course. They just continued to do the things that they like to do: running, jumping, playing, tug-of-war, sniffing and sleeping (although not necessarily in that order). However, for us humans, the one-year milestone did give us cause to pause and take stock of just how different our lives are now compared to the same time last year. I, for one, certainly never imagined that we’d go from adopting a stray dog, to discovering she was pregnant, to deciding to let her have the puppies because she was already so close to birth… then still having four of them living with us 12 months later. The year has gone by so fast it’s almost like I’ve blinked and woken up in a different life.

Obviously, I’ve kept a bit of a running record of the ‘puppy progress’ on this blog, so if you feel inclined to go back to this time last year and look at cute photos of wriggling, blind, deaf, squeaking bundles of fur then you can (I sometimes do). Thinking back myself, however, and I can scarcely believe that those little, moist, demanding tubes of noise that Leela pushed into the world have turned into the four loving dogs that I can currently see jostling for space while sleeping on Esther’s lap in the afternoon sunshine, with Leela in prime position of course.

I’ve often said in my posts that we feel grateful for the pups coming into our lives and that we’ve learnt a lot of lessons as a result, which is true, but I’ve never really been that specific about it. Partly this is because it’s very easy day-to-day, with 5 dogs in our lives, to get lost in the busy-ness of caring for ourselves and them while having fun and working on other projects we care about. It’s all too easy not to think about the “how” and “why” of the changes that have taken place. And that is why I decided, a few days ago, to make time to sit down and reflect on the past year and how I feel about it, looking back and comparing then to now, but not really in a practical sense but in terms of how I ‘feel’ about having 5 dogs.

The first thing I want to say, not because it is the most important but simply because it’s something I haven’t given a lot of time to over the past year, is that it’s not all been wonderful walkies and playful puppies. As far as I know, people like to look at cute pictures and hear about the good stuff, and so do I, but there have been tough times as well, and I’m not just talking here about getting up in the middle of the night to do toilet training trips or cleaning up doggy diarrhoea from the motorhome floor. That’s all part of it, I suppose, but the truth is there have been lots of times in the past 12 months when we’ve questioned our decision to keep 4 of the pups, or even questioned if it was an actual decision or something we just sort of ended up doing through inaction, by default if you like.

One of the things we found ourselves saying quite a lot last summer, when we felt tired and overwhelmed by noise and that our day was just a series of dog-related chores (training walks, wee-walks, tick-checks, grooming, feeding, cleaning-up ‘accidents’, talking about dogs, having meetings about the dogs, reading books about dogs….), was “I don’t want 5 dogs….but I love them all.” In hindsight I suppose this was like our coded way of saying, “I regret what we’re doing, but I can’t bring myself to change it”. Truth is, as much as we loved fussing puppies and feeling them falling asleep on our laps, part of us also missed the unbounded freedom and carefree simplicity of our life 12 months beforehand. Suddenly, we had responsibilities!

Naturally this was the basis for one of the biggest lessons the pups have taught us, that is how much we used to take our lives for granted in the past. Being academic types, it just seemed to be in our nature to overthink things and get a little serious, rather than revelling in the gift of simply being able to tour in a campervan with enough financial security to buy what we needed as we went along because we had simple tastes. Keeping the puppies has definitely changed that. As our recent experiences here in San Jose have shown us, getting an “afternoon off” while family or friends dog-sit so we can go out and get more than 2-3 hours to ourselves has really hammered home how much we took our time together for granted in the past. As we had decided not to have children, without the dogs we may not have ever realised this.

Another thing we’ve realised is that, although we weren’t necessarily selfish or antisocial people, we did enjoy being able to retreat into our little bubble for much of the time. Whether it was parking in a deserted car park halfway up a mountain, or restricting our interactions with other nearby campers to a simple nod and smile, we were usually more than happy to keep ourselves to ourselves as we bumbled around. Except now the pups have changed that as well. There’s nothing like a sequence of brown-and-white bundles emerging from our rolling home, probably barking and bounding as they go, to draw attention. At first I couldn’t work out why I hated this so much, I mean they’re only dogs and most of the attention was positive, with plenty of smiles and compliments, but I used to feel awkward and on display. More recently, however, it has become fairly obvious that what we both used to hate about this part was feeling like the centre of attention.

Probably this is a result of our respective childhood health problems, but we both hated being a spectacle and so would go to great lengths and get really stressed about parking up in new places without making a scene. Now, however, we worry a lot less. It’s been good for us really. Not that we don’t try and be respectful of others, just that we are more able to get into the mindset of “it’s okay if people look at us, or comment, because we’re okay with who we are and what we’re doing”. Another positive, puppy-related change.

Going back to that statement of “I don’t want 5 dogs….but I love them all.”, and the inherent contradiction in the words caused us a lot of problems for a long time. Every time we said it out loud to each other, or to other people, we were basically saying “I’m not that happy with how things have turned out”, and that resistance was like a downward spiral. For me it went something like this: “Okay, so I don’t want 5 dogs….so why do we have 5 dogs?....because we didn’t rehome them….so let’s rehome them now….but which ones…. I love them all individually….but I don’t want 5 dogs….” and so it would continue until, eventually, I just felt angry and trapped and would lash out. Esther, likewise, was feeling restricted by our new commitments and would also feel unhappy and so we’d sometimes clash. This then increased the amount of dog-related activity in our lives, because we wasted time arguing and discussing them, which then made it worse, and so it continued.

By the time we got on the road last August, in our new motorhome, things got a little better because we were at least distracting ourselves with big cycle rides and driving to new places, but we still had our flare-ups about “why do we have 5 dogs?” Sometimes we even resolved to rehome some of them, and worked out who we would call to do so, but we never got round to it.

And then something changed. To be honest it’s only a very recent change, probably only in the past 2 months since arriving in San Jose, but it’s like we stopped resisting having all the dogs in our lives, while our oft-repeated statement of “I don’t want 5 dogs….but I love them all” disappeared from our vocabulary. Not that we don’t still, occasionally, question if we’re doing the right thing ‘for them’, but it’s far less about us and how it’s affecting our lives.

Now, I can’t say that anything specific happened to bring about this change. Yes, our routines for managing their needs and still do the things that we want to do have become more efficient. Yes, now that they are older they need less regular ‘interventions’, meaning that more of our interactions with them are simply fun and play. Yes, having people to dog-sit occasionally has helped. But that’s not why I feel more relaxed in having them ‘all’ in our lives. It’s much more like I’ve crossed a mental hurdle and just stopped resisting how things are, right now. My attitude has gone from “I’m not sure I want them here” to “well, they’re here and they’re a lot of fun, and if anything changes I’ll worry about it then”. It feels like a very healthy change that can have an impact on other areas of my life as well.

At this point you may be thinking, “wow, he’s really overthinking this, they’re just dogs”, and perhaps you have a point. But the point is precisely that I’m really not thinking about it that much at the moment, even though I used to. I used to focus on the negatives, now I just go with the flow. The dogs are here and I just enjoy them, while for their part they seem abundantly happy as well. In the past year we have seen that they can fit in with our lifestyle in the motorhome and in rented accommodation, which pretty much covers most eventualities for us. What more could we ask for?

Most mornings we get out at around 8ish for some morning walkies. If we have nothing planned our walks might be quite long or, if we want to get out ourselves, they may be shorter with an intention to do longer walks in the afternoon. Then, throughout the day, we pop out for short wee-walks every 3-4 hours and enjoy watching the pups tussle about the place. But the real treat is the evenings, when they start to get tired and fall asleep, en masse, on our laps. It’s a golden time of day…We also laugh a lot more, do silly voices with dogs and, if we're honest, probably get more done because of the structure the dogs impose on our day.

….and if you’ve somehow managed to read this far then here are a few pictures to say how grateful I am.

Dan x

1 comment

  1. Always love your posts. Well done keep it up! Such an inspiration to us all.


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