Saturday, May 19, 2012


A few years ago I had the privilege of fostering some puppies for One of a Kind Pets.  To be very clear, I’m not a big dog lover, but who in their right minds does not love a cuddly puppy?  Or three?  I did this a few times and every time I fell in love with the puppies before having to give them back.  I was, however, dubbed the queen of “love them and leave them” for a while.  Perhaps I am the only foster parent that doesn’t actually end up adopting one of her young charges.  I went through the foster process for them three times and it got a little easier each time to say goodbye.
At 5 weeks old, these were mighty big pups!

My favorite batch was three sisters. Ranging in size from three pounds to seven pounds, these puppies were fresh from their Mom, just weaned and awaiting their forever homes.  Three bundles of wiggly black fuzz happily eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and jumping for joy to be alive.  Oh, such energy! 

Every day I would go off to work leaving the puppies in their pen and every day I would come home for lunch and after work to find pee and poop everywhere.  Sometimes I didn’t even get the papers all changed before there was a fresh “present” for me when I turned around.  It was non-stop poop patrol from the moment I entered the house until I left again. 

Bundles of puppy energy
For the first few days the puppies would follow me around when we ventured outside and we ran and played in the yard.  After a few days, the puppies became more curious and less attached to me and began running off in different directions with me chasing behind trying to keep track of all three at once.

The fostering didn’t last for more than several months before I became overwhelmed with the responsibility of coming home twice a day to clean up after them and chase them around the yard. It was great fun and great sadness when the pups were returned for adoption and I’m glad I did it, but I was happy to know enough to say “no” when the call came for the fourth time.

So for some reason the puppies came to mind Friday night when I arrived home.  You need to know that I’m an organizer and planner by definition.  Not always much on execution of those plans, but a big planner none the less.  I like things orderly and to go according to how I’ve laid things out in my head.  You might correctly assume then that puppies were a huge variation on my normally regulated life. 

Susie running down the drive to greet me
Advance three years and now you will find me with two elderly parents and their dog living with me.  Believe it or not, the dog is more predictable than my parents.  Every night I pull into the drive and the dog comes racing down the driveway to greet me.  I stop, open the car door, she jumps in and we take a “ride” into the garage.  This is becoming routine now that the weather is nice enough for Dad to be sitting out on the bench with the dog in the afternoons. 

Most evenings, my drive home (all 10 minutes of it) is spent contemplating the preparation of our dinner for the evening and what we might do that night to keep us occupied.  Last night the plans were simple.  Spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and after the dishes were done Mom and I would bake a cake together.  Uh huh.
Things went as normal with the dog flying down the drive, and jumping into the car and then it all went (as the English might say) pear shaped.  The garage door wouldn’t open.  Dad was standing out by the garage, so I asked “what’s wrong with the garage door?” and received the standard reply of “I don’t know, what did YOU do?”  So I parked the car in the drive and went inside to try the other door opener.  At which time I found Mom standing at the stove with a huge pot of potatoes which she was cooking “for our dinner”.  So there went the spaghetti and meatball idea. 

I trudged upstairs, changed clothes and went out to see about the garage door, leaving Mom to tend her boiling potatoes.  Half an hour later I discovered that Dad had managed to shut off the door opener at the switch – although his standard response when I asked him why was “you must have done that and forgotten”.  Heavy sigh.  Yes, Dad, I get out of my car every morning when I leave for work and switch off the opener because it's SO convenient when I come home to NOT be able to open the garage door.

With the car finally tucked away into the garage I headed to the kitchen to try to rescue dinner.  After sitting down to a dinner of potatoes, next came the big surprise of the evening.  Mom had shoved all the potato peels down the garbage disposal and clogged up the sink. Another heavy sigh followed by a string of not-so-sweet words under my breath.  And did I mention that she'd peeled FIVE POUNDS of potatoes for our dinner?  After 10 minutes of plunger-pumping I finally ended up dismantling the sink to unclog the drainpipes.  An hour later it was back in working order and I was wet, dirty, frustrated and tired.

Needless to say, I did not offer to bake a cake with Mom.  Call me neglectful, but at that point I simply wanted to go to bed and bury my head under the covers.  I felt as though I’d been through a full day of chasing puppies and cleaning up after them.  Lovable as they may be, parents are a lot like puppies - fun when they are on their best behavior but frustrating and tiring when left to their own devices.  Puppies at least were confined in a pen or in the kitchen if inside.

These days, this is how my life goes.  I plan and things go out of whack.  One day it’s Mom trying to “do the laundry” and ruining my new and/or favorite clothes or Dad trying to be helpful and mowing the lawn by spending 30 minutes running the mower up and down the driveway blowing off the tree droppings but never quite getting around to the actual grass.

Learning the art of caregiving is difficult at best and downright exhausting at its worst.  I'm learning to hit the door on a run when I get home from work rather than sitting down to rest as I used to do.  I have gained a whole new appreciation for parents who deal with children.  I'm also learning to "childproof" the house - new locks on doors, keeping less food in the house for Mom to move around, and unplugging the washer when I'm not home.   Soon I hope to graduate from the exhausting part to the just difficult part. 

Wish me luck. 

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