On Wednesday, Anne and I met to walk Beans alongside Teddy and Livie to determine if they could be potential playmates (or at least, spend some tension-free time together).
In the past, mama dogs that we have fostered have enjoyed being able to go on longer walks with Teddy and Livie and then spend a little time upstairs, snuggling on the couch, laying in the kitchen during meal prep, and generally having social time away from the puppies after they’re a few weeks old.
We took Livie and Beans out together first, Livie being the low key introductory option. Livie barely glanced at Beans, but Beans strained on her leash, yipping excitedly, and wagging energetically upon seeing Livie. We walked with Livie in the lead and then Beans in the lead. We waited for Beans to exhibit slightly calmer body language before allowing them to meet nose to nose. But when we extended the leashes, Livie backed away, not showing signs of fear, but rather complete lack of interest in meeting this ball of energy Beans had transformed into. Maybe Beans reminded Livie too much of her overly playful, in-your-face little/big brother Teddy?
We switched Livie for Teddy and repeated the same steps. They met nose to nose briefly and all went well. We decided to pick up where we left off with Beans and Teddy the following day.
In the evening, Beans was favoring her back right leg as she rose from nursing the babies to go outside. Instead of a walk, I let her out for a quick potty break then gave her a once over on the couch. Nothing was in her paw. She didn’t wince when I touched various areas of her leg. She hopped up to get a toy and was walking fine. Had she simply had a pins and needles feeling from laying on her side nursing puppies so many hours of the day?
Later that night though, Beans was limping again. Hmmmm. Maybe she was stiff. I had only put a few layers of towels and thinner blankets in the whelping box to protect the puppies from suffocation. But they were bigger and sturdier now. I moved them out and added some extra cushion before putting them back. I gave Beans food, water, a potty break, and some snuggles and went to bed.
There was no sign of a limp Thursday morning. Maybe the extra layers of blankets had helped ward off the stiffness or pins and needles feeling.
Shortly into the walk on Thursday, Beans and Teddy were walking side by side, sniffing each other and everything else in the world, wagging in unison. Anne rewarded Beans’ “checking in” behaviors with high value treats, cheese in this case. Soon, Teddy caught on and was gazing up at Anne as well. With nary a raised hair or lip, we completed our walk. Clearly, Beans and Teddy had strong friendship potential. We decided to try the same parallel walk with Livie the following day.
But then Beans slipped on the floor coming in and was limping again. Maybe there was actually a latent injury there, exacerbated by the many sedentary hours nursing puppies, the slightly more strenuous walks, and then the slip. I emailed Ann to let her know what was going on, as I like to keep her and the vets in the loop when in doubt. The vets responded that Beans should rest (no walks) for a few days and that we could ice the area for 10 minutes at a time a couple times each day for pain relief.
So our plans to slowly introduce Beans to the resident pups and have her playing and chilling upstairs by next week have been thwarted. Likely, to let Beans heal and not stress any potential injury, she will spend the next four to five weeks downstairs. I have no doubt that we will be able to take our walks together, as Beans passed the dog interaction test quite well, and we will continue hanging out with her as much as possible to relieve the tedium of nursing puppies all day and to satisfy her strong need for social stimulation. As I type this, she is cuddled up on the basement couch at my side, her head resting against my leg, her eyes gazing up at me when I glance at her.
My college bestie (who does not have children) commented on one of her visits to our busy household, “we need to bust you out of here for a vacation away from all this,” this referring to diapers (gladly a phase we have naturally left behind!), meal preparations, animal care, cleaning, carpool, homework help, and general being a mom stuff. Now, while I love traveling with my adventurous, loving, globe hopping friend, I also love the life I am in, and gain immense pleasure from doing all the stuff. I do not feel the urge to get away.
I watch Beans with her puppies and admire her seeming contentedness with her role. She is attentive and nurturing. She finds joy in her walks, meals, and surely all the pets, but she is also aware of her larger role. She accepts it with grace.
So I wonder if my efforts to bust her out of the basement as her puppies grow are somewhat analogous with my friend’s sweet, well-intentioned desires of taking me on vacation. Beans will bust out soon; her puppies will grow into independent doggos and she will move on to her forever home. Likewise, my children will grow and need me less. But right now, Beans has moved to check on her puppies who were making some peeps and I am moving on to complete some of my mom stuff too.