Six weeks ago today, our cocker spaniel had three healthy puppies. For weeks, she fed them and cleaned up after them and rarely left their side. But now them have teeth, wagging tails and their own personalities. It feels as though, overnight they went from being dependent, immobile babies, to becoming mini dogs who are now pleased to see me when I get home from work and who are no longer satisfied to exist in the utility room. Their world has grown larger, as this last weekend they sampled life in the snug and the back garden too, now there is no turning back. They have met Joshua and their Dad, Kevin the jack russell, and have even come face to face with the cat, so they have experienced our whole family now.
Thank goodness human beings do not develop and become independent this quickly, as it already seems to have happened in the blink of an eye, that Joshua has turned 18 years old. The gestation period for puppies is just 9 weeks rather than 9 months and they are ready to leave their Mums from 8-10 weeks. While Ruby still feeds her pups as a snack, they are no longer reliant on her milk as they are enjoying solids. She is already happy to leave her brood alone, so she is preparing them for an independent life without her. So the canine world appears to be much better at transition than I am, as it is the natural order of things. In the animal kingdom, if Joshua had been born into a pack, with his difficulties, he would not have survived. While we tend to nurture our weakest family members, the harsh rule of ‘the survival of the fittest’ in the wild, would definitely have worked against Joshua in the wild, as he would have been the runt of the litter.
We have often supported the underdog: I can remember when we bought our first cat from a pet shop, excited to have our first rented home together. In those days, pet shops were allowed to display kittens in the shop window and we spotted this black and white litter one weekend, while we were viewing rental properties in a new area. We found a small terraced house to rent in a village and one of our first purchases was a kitten. My husband went to work and was to collect the kitten, but rather than the feisty, boisterous one that we had chosen the week before, he came home with the small runt of the litter, saying ” Well, nobody else would want this one, so we have to take care of it!”. With love, feeding and encouragement, Harvey grew to be a strong cat who lived all of his 9 lives. Our first dog together, only had three legs, but he lived life to the full and was always ready to play. After he had been run over and the vet had removed his damaged leg,I would visit him at my mother in laws house, where he lived while I was at university. She was protecting and nursing him through his recovery, but he expected me to play stick with him, much to her horror, as he quickly adapted and bravely triumphed over adversity.
With hindsight therefore, I can see that perhaps through our early pets together, we were gaining valuable insight into our future outlook for parenting Joshua, more than ten years later.