It has been a while and a lot has happened.
Ben finally seems to have adjusted to his blindness. He is a cheerful, gentle little follower and brightens up our days. His mate for 9 years, our Dina, sadly had to be put down on the 30th of May 2016, due to cancer which had been undetected and was in the final stage. Her lungs were drowned in fluids and we had no choice other than to end her suffering. Nonetheless, it was a terrible decision to make and a harrowing feeling of guilt still tortures us. We miss her very much and all the places we had been going together remind us every day of her.
For a few days, Ben seemed to be looking for her in the house. When I fed him and Molly, her daughter who had never left her side during the last few agonising days, didn’t eat for a day and seemed to be lost on walks. They went to her little basket and none of them made an attempt to sit or lie in it even though, while she was alive, there often had been a competition of who could snatch whose bed or toys!
I am sure, they both sensed our sadness which led them to show a quiet solidarity to our tears. It is amazing how dogs mirror the feelings and emotions of their owners and try to comfort in their own doggy-ways, like sitting quietly looking at us and trying to be good and please even more than in the usual Cocker Spaniel ways. But, as it is, dogs are living in the moment and as soon as we went back to our daily routine, they seemed to adjust to our life as it was before Dina had left us. We don’t know if their memories work similar to ours but, whenever we remember Dina and mention her name, Ben and Molly seem to look in expectation that she is coming into the door or around the corner. Is it our imagination? Who is to say?
A few days before Dina went over the rainbow bridge, we had our Molly mated with a little poodle. A coincidence which helped us to deal with our grief. A grandchild of Dina and, of course, we planned at once to keep one of the puppies.
Molly had an uneventful pregnancy. She is half-worker and was active throughout her pregnancy, running and jumping up and down the settee as ever. It was me who had a problem, though. With our Dina, we had 3 litters of puppies during her life time, from one of which we had kept our Molly. Dina was a reliable dog, who I had bonded with from the first day in a special way. She was wise. She was gentle. Calm. Highly intelligent and a wonderful caring mother to her pups. Molly is completely different to her – or so I thought. A strange feeling of some kind of jealousy crept into my mind. Whatever Molly did or how ever she behaved, I compared her to my Dina. Molly could do nothing right to live up to my expectation. In hindsight, I think, I was re-living my wonderful experience with Dina and there was no room for Molly to help me with my grief.
I didn’t trust her to be a mum to her pups like Dina. It was me, not Molly, who kindled this ill-feeling about her pregnancy and whelping. I kept saying: ‘She can’t do it like Dina did’, whenever she jumped around, little selfish girl. Several times we went to the vet’s because I thought there was something wrong with her. When a scan revealed she only had 2 to 3 pups, I said to my Eric ‘See, she’s not like Dina. Dina had 10 pups and did so well’. How irrational was my behaviour!
Close to her whelping day we had a terrible heat wave in East Anglia, over 30 degrees C which, of course, made her panting frantically, dribbling saliva, throwing up and whining. I started to panic and on her due day took her to the vet’s again. Even with my experience with a whelping dam, I’d lost all trust in Molly and felt left out by her at the same time. The vet bills exceeded our savings, meanwhile, and they were totally unnecessary in hindsight. All was ok.
After two sleepless nights during the heat wave, on the night after yet another visit to the emergency vet’s, I went to bed and left my Eric to watch over her, even though the vet said confidently that on this night the whelping had started and she would now go into stage II. Whatever devil was riding me, I don’t know.
At 7 o’clock in the morning, my Eric woke me up saying: “Molly did so well. I completely kept in the background while she delivered, cleaned and suckled three little Cockapoos. They are beautiful!” I turned to the other side and said, ‘I am tired. I’ll be down in a minute’. How could I do that? I, a great dog lover, sleeping with Dina and her babies in a pen, studying their behaviour, overwhelmed by the experience of my dogs giving birth to new little bundles of joy? A mother of fourchildren myself, a grandmother to 12 grandchildren, a woman who believes in the circle of life and worshipping the never ending cycle of life – how could I so cold heartedly neglect my Molly? How could I have excluded myself of this precious moment which so often had given me the greatest happiness, the joy of life itself? I have no explanation other than I had not yet come to terms with the loss of my Dina. Grieving her death had kept me from taking the next step to welcome new puppies into my life.
Ben, on the other hand, the blind old boy, showed more compassion and excitement over the new arrivals. He stayed in the kitchen next to the room where Molly was whelping, peeping into the door whenever the little puppy voices squealed. He was there, not directly with Molly but, ever since the moment she had the puppies, taking part in his doggy way, exactly knowing his place in this event.
During the next days, whenever I wanted to have a look at the puppies, Molly growled and snarled at me. She kept me from taking the puppies up to look which gender they are. She growled even when I only took a few steps towards her whelping box. Dina never had behaved like this. From the moment she went into labour until the puppies were weaned, I was close to her, together we shared and lived the experience as intense as possible.
I started to hand-feed Molly with chicken, gave her water. She lets me hand-feed her but still, I am not allowed to touch her puppies. I will have to give her time, I know, I will have to give myself time to adjust and get on with it and enjoy.
As I’ve said before, dogs live in the moment and they mirror our behaviour to the dot. It was action from me and re-action from my dog (I don’t like to use the the word ‘bitch’).
We are a pack, I am sure of that but, my position had changed from the leader to a minor, failing member at the moment when I had decided to doubt Molly’s instinct abilities.
I, the ‘know-it-all’, the woman who had grown up with dogs and never has been without dogs throughout life. I, who have a friend living with and studying wolves and their pack behaviour. I had followed my own human feelings, had given in to my human way of grief. I am not feeling guilty about it. I am the human member of my pack. Molly has shown me this from the moment I’d turned away from her. Only, I didn’t understand. She didn’t understand. Now I have to earn my position from scratch with her, my position of her human leader whom she can trust with her life and that of her whelps. Ben never had lost his position in the pack, it was me who failed. The human member of the great pack.