What is it like to have puppies?

I have had the oddest feeling that time is standing still. The past is hazy, the present is somewhat overwhelming, and the future offers hope. But to get there, we have to negotiate an abyss filled with puppy pads, dog treats, bleary trips out into the starry night, immunizations, puppy food choices, and the all-important question, “Do you have to just let your puppy cry it out sometimes?” 

I’ll admit my perspective may be skewed. We have had Sadie and Teddy, our dachshund puppies, twenty roller-coaster days. That’s twenty days of interrupted sleep and not quite the seven hours I require. The underlying feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing surfaces several times a day, in spite of reading a boatload of material. (Don’t ever read a “how-to” book written by several experts in a field—especially if it has to do with dog parenting.) 

This morning I took a look in the mirror, and it was pretty darn scary. I’m sure my present wrinkles have invited friends from the future to come and visit. I just hope they don’t make my nasolabial folds a permanent home …

I want to tell you something that you may have heard that is absolutely true: puppies are like babies. They are adorable and mind-numbingly demanding. Each day is made of triumphs, sweet moments, and challenges. There is nothing more precious than having an armload of puppies cuddle on your chest and nothing more frustrating than petite canines tearing up their expensive pee pads—yet again.

Today presented a whole new experience: our first trip to the veterinarian for puppy immunizations and their first physical examination. This is where the pandemic met the new-dog experience. After the pain of losing Archie, this was a day I had dreamed about. In my mind, it was to be a grand reunion, and it was, but it also wasn’t. When we arrived at the vet’s, we called the front desk. One of the vet techs answered and said warmly, “We’ve been expecting you.” In a few minutes, she came out, oohed and awed, and finally scooped up the babies. We waited in the car while the pups were examined, immunized, and had their tiny nails clipped. 

During that time I thought about the many visits to this veterinary clinic: sad times, happy times, and miraculous times. Canine, feline, reptilian, and rodent memories drifted across my mind. Like how Archie would head for the liquor store across the parking lot as soon as we exited our car; how Tigger, the most amazing and sweet Siamese cat, would lose clouds of fur on the way here; and how perfectly an injured hamster was stitched up. 

After a while, John’s cell rang and we were told it would take longer because the staff were playing with the pups, and then, “We are all so happy for you.” I think they were happy for themselves too. There was not a dry eye in the house when Archie left us. And here we were, stuck in our car.

John’s cell rang a second time a little later, and it was our veterinarian. He assured us that both Sadie and Teddy were in the best of health. “You are doing good,” he said, and then he talked about the puppy’s future health-care needs, ending with spaying and neutering. The protocol has changed in the past twenty years. Spaying now takes place after the first heat. Neutering doesn’t happen until eighteen months, unless unwanted male traits appear. To the abyss, I added spaying and neutering and the accompanying logistics, since the first heat is around ten months away.

Finally, one of the long-time techs appeared with Sadie and Teddy in her arms. “Welcome back! These two are adorable,” she said as she handed over the babies and her eyes crinkled. I’m sure there was a smile behind that mask. 

Back at home the pups were pretty exhausted, but I was renewed.

These little celebrities get visits from friends and relatives. A present of hedgehog teething rings came today in the mail. I added that to their overflowing toybox.

Other friends of the canine-owner nation have offered advice and encouragement, and today … well, today there was healing in our hearts and the feeling of a new beginning. 

We will get through that abyss. We just have to remember it takes a village to raise a puppy. 

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