My Labrador, Jovie, nurtures nine joyful puppies. Four yellows, three chocolates, two blacks.
I have secret names for them all–Biscuit, Nugget, Nella, Scout, Boo, Georgie, Pip, Sassafras, and Honeysuckle–just as I have human names for real children. Just as I remember every student I had by name. I cannot call the nine-day-old dogs Pup 1, Pup 2, Pup 3. I couldn’t even discipline their mama when she was a pup.
Because I wanted her to love me best. I wanted to be her favorite. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
I check on them, I do. But not every hour like husband does.
See, I’m more in awe of mama instincts. The delivery process. The bath-time licks and constant nursing. The arranging and rearranging and safekeeping and keeping warm. Instincts I don’t know if I possess because I’m so inside my own head. Because when I don’t know what to do I go into shutdown mode.
I see more of me when mama barrels out of whelping box, finally free. Poor thing needs a little space.
But as soon as she hears the yips and yelps, she returns. Puts up her paws. Waits for me to hoist her up–back to her babes.
Mama dog is calmer now. Rests her chin on my knee. She’s a little blue. Exhausting, pouring out love. Somehow she must know six more weeks are all we get.
I can tell you which one has a little white stripe on its chest, which one looks most like its mama, which one has a tiny patch on its paw, which one is chubbiest, and which three pink noses are turning brown.
I can also say I want to be indifferent.
Because I do not get to keep.
Because with investment comes the inevitable process of detachment.
And to me, there’s not much difference between puppies and places and friendships and children and students.