One of the best books I ever read had, on its surface, nothing to do with animals. It was Women as Mothers (1978) by anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger, and its message was that there is no "right" way to raise children. Kitzinger drew on ethnographic and sociological studies from around the world, and wrote about the widely divergent beliefs and practices that frame the human journey from birth to adulthood. She looked at everything from toilet training to discipline to education to play to.... You get the picture.
Yesterday, May 9, the last litter that my husband Roger and I bred turned thirteen. How can that be? In the time we were breeding under the kennel name Perennial, we produced eight litters. The puppies, who went to homes from Washington state to Florida, Massachusetts to Arizona, and to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand as well, earned championships and many titles in obedience, agility, herding, flyball, tracking, and other sports. Many were registered therapy dogs. They were all "pets."
|Jay at one day, with his mother, |
Sage (Champion Kantera's Head of
the Class, CD, CGC, TDI). 1998
And guess what? The mothers of those litters were as varied in their mothering styles as were the women of Kitzinger's book. Holly was good to her babies, but quite content to turn their care over to babysitters if the opportunity came up. Missy had only one puppy - a "singleton" - after she came to us, but she tried to take over care of Holly's babies (who were, through their sire, Missy's great-grandpups). Magic wouldn't willingly leave her puppies for the first couple of weeks -- I had to pick her up and carry her outside to take care of her own biological needs! Roger and I have tried to remember how Magic imposed discipline. Neither of us remember her ever being cross with a puppy, nor can be recall any of her puppies giving her any nonsense. (I suspect she had a "look" a bit like the one my own mother used on me!) Satin kept her puppies well-fed and spotlessly clean, but she didn't hover. No, once her chores were finished, she'd hop out of the whelping box and stretch out on the air mattress where I slept the first couple of weeks. (I had to fight her for it on more than one occasion!)
|Holly (Catalina's Simply Irresistible, CD, CGC, TDI) in 1997|
with her puppies: the boys -- Chip, Sage, Harper, Poet,
George, Silky, and Mickey; the girls -- Trophy and Lacy.
Just as not all human mom's are very good at motherhood, not all doggy moms are, either. All of my girls were, but I whelped a litter for another breeder once, and that mama dog had no interest in the job. Had there not been people (or perhaps another bitch) on hand, her puppies would have died. First, she wouldn't voluntarily nurse them, so I had to hold her down while her puppies nursed. Besides that, newborn puppies cannot eliminate without stimulation. Since this gal had no interest in caring for her pups, I had to use a wash cloth several times a day to get them to pee and poop. I didn't mind the job, but I was pretty disgusted with doggy dearest's
All of which is to say that there are all sorts of mothers. I didn't see eye to eye on everything with my own mom, but I am thankful for a couple of passions she passed along: books and dogs. I hope she has plenty of both, wherever she is.