I’m back from the unintended blog break. (The auto-post of that year in review thing doesn’t count as anything more than a lazy woman’s placeholder.)
Since this blog is where I’m honest with the world in spite of how it makes me look, I figure that it’s only fair that I be honest with the world about my current failing–or what feels like my current failing.
I’ve never had a baby, as you probably know, not for lack of trying. During all those years of trying to become a mother I read countless birthing stories that ended with the mother seeing God, tasting rainbows and looking into the face of her newly-birthed child and falling immediately in love.
Somewhere in the back of my mind those accounts live on as the tales of How It Is To Be A Mother. Since I opted for canine children there was obviously no progress from my womb into the world for my kids, yet I’ve loved them all unreservedly.
Gus is a new puppy who arrived on airplane two weeks ago today. He may be one of the cutest dogs ever. (Of course I think most every dog is cute, so I’m biased.) He’s been to the vet, to Indiana for Christmas, to PetSmart for toy shopping and to the yard for a thousand liquid deposits. But two weeks later I still look at him and all I see is “dog”. I don’t even feel a large sense of “my dog”, let alone “my kid.” I love him in the objective sense that I’ve committed to him but I don’t look at him and think “I’d take a bullet for you.”
I wonder what is wrong with me and I think that it’s probably good that I didn’t have human children if I don’t have this automatic “you are the reason I breathe!!!” reaction. So I do what I do whenever I worry about myself; I go online to research the issue and at the same time ask my sister. Her younger dog-child is a bit newer; she adopted Freddie about the same time I adopted Gob.
“Did it take you awhile to bond with Freddie?” “No, we pretty much bonded right away.” Well, that doesn’t help. Maybe Google will be better.
Thankfully Google tells me all sorts of facts I had either never known or glossed over with my convenient recall and aging memory. (It’s been 14 years since I’ve had an actual puppy to train.) According to Google there are hundreds of people asking how long it takes to bond with their puppy. Many of them–like me–want to know if they’re monsters for not having an instant to-the-death attraction.According to the vets and professional trainers who answer those folks: A young puppy is not unlike a human baby. For the first 16 weeks they’re pretty much about the eating, pooping, peeing, teething and getting bigger. At about 16 weeks they’re the equivalent of a two-year old. They can process better language and social skills and only then do they start to make real connections with their people. But real bonding doesn’t–can’t–fully kick in until about 24 weeks (or 6 months.) My sister’s dog Freddie was adopted when he was past the 16 week mark. My aged brain doesn’t recall all the emotions of those early weeks with Casey and Quinn but as I look at pictures I’m reminded of the long autumn and winter months when they were just abstract critters with overactive bladders. In retrospect they’re my kids. But when they were where Gus is now, it was the same. I had just forgotten there was ever a time when I looked at them tearfully exasperated and wondered what I’d gotten into.
This is for all you other mothers out there with kids who didn’t automatically ignite emotional fireworks in you. This is for all you people out there who just adopted a young puppy and wonder if you have turned callous and need to rehome the dog*. The bonding comes literally in baby steps. Show up daily and it grows.