Amina (affectionately referred to as Mama Bean, Beans, and a myriad of other nicknames around here!) has, like many mama dogs proceeding her, stolen a piece of my heart. As she begins the weaning process with her puppies, nursing them a little less day by day, I realize that our time together is dwindling. The sun is sinking low in the sky of our foster period, the hues of purple and pink beautiful in their brilliance yet signaling a nearing of the darkness.
Many people have asked me how I can take an animal that I have fostered (and therefore loved) back to the shelter for adoption. How do we not keep each and every one? There is a complicated series of self-talks about completing a job well done and having space for the next animal in need. But, to be honest, the heartbreak of taking the mamas back, their eyes imploring for answers, breaking a contract of trust and love in which they thought we were both invested, very nearly destroys me every time.
And so I am beginning, weeks before Beans will win the hearts of her new family, to say goodbye.
I am appreciating her genius at learning our routines. She knows when we eat, walk, snuggle, and nap around here. Clever girl!
I am stroking her sleek fur as we sit on the couch together. I enjoy our quiet time, just two mothers taking a minute to stare out the window and at each other.
I am responding to her lopsided ears with lopsided smiles.
I appreciate her 100% housebroken-ness. All week I let her out at 6am, but she doesn’t have an accident when I sleep in later on the weekends. She entered this completely new environment, which she couldn’t have viewed as home at first, and kept it immaculately clean. I see and I appreciate her efforts.
I let her distract me from whatever typing I am trying to accomplish. Her kisses are landing on their intended targets more often, despite being constant witness to that same tongue’s duties with doodies (!). I giggle as she rolls around, looking less like the dignified mother she usually resembles and more like the young pup that still has a zest for life and fun.
I am enjoying her enthusiasm for walks. She can barely contain her excitement when I pick up the leash. The wait while I put on my endless bits of cold weather gear is tantalizing in the extreme. She is a pleasure to walk, sniffing the ground like she is a detective hot on a promising trail, and then glancing up at me just to check that I am in on the fun as well. She wags at the larger dogs and defends us with a bark/howl from the yipping smaller ones. She knows our normal walking route around the block but also knows that there’s a chance we might add a trip through the park so she glances back to ask at that intersection every time we pass it.
Beans is not without her quirks (my favored euphemism for faults, both human and canine). She is shy with brand new people. She warms up quickly with some (myself, Anne, and the kids – thankfully! – as examples) and it takes longer with others (sorry, Ryan!). Beans greets some passersby with happy wags and slinks away from others. She may need a family to move really slowly with her, to leave the shirt of someone she isn’t sure about tucked into her cozy bed, to leave a radio playing a male voice throughout the day, to take the time to understand what makes her comfortable. Or, her cautious attitude may simply dissolve once she has the weight of responsibility for her puppies off her shoulders. I remember being extremely selective about whom I trusted with my newborns (not many!) and continue to be selective about who enters my personal space. Amina rewards those in her inner circle with adoring eyes and we are letting her simply have space from those who are not. For now, our goals are keeping her comfortable and secure, trying to make her only stressors those myriad puppy teeth and claws.
And yet, Beans is more and more reluctant to go back into the puppy pen. She lays on the couch and thumps her tail. “Let’s just sit a little while longer,” her eyes seem to communicate. At night, she is no longer tricked by the promise of a treat. I am suckered into sitting on the arm chair in the puppy pen, luring her with my presence, but then feeling too guilty to just slip out. So we sit some more.
I wish she knew, like I know, that this time is fleeting. I wish I could explain to her, in a language she could understand, that she is loved and yet her real, forever family is out there waiting for her. She will soon be done with the tremendous work of raising puppies and be able to bring out her inner puppy more often! I think if I could truly communicate this to her, my heart would hurt a little less.
https://www.facebook.com/humanesocietyhuronvalley/posts/10157297033164230 (use this link to view the facebook post with beautiful puppy pictures created by the Humane Society of Huron Valley).