I don’t remember life without a dog, until now. Our fifteen-year-old Lab died a few years ago and we haven’t tried to replace her. I heard once that you aren’t a real empty nester until all the kids are gone and the dog dies. I guess I’m now official.
The first dog I remember was Emma, a Rat Terrier mixed breed named after my grandmother. One summer she found herself in an unplanned pregnancy and we were blessed with four puppies. We learned a lot about life and responsibility from Emma and her babies.
One Sunday afternoon when the pups were still tiny, we went to see my grandmother Emma who lived about an hour away. Coming home we ran into a torrential rainstorm. For good reason Mom was instantly concerned about the puppies. To escape the August heat, Emma had dug a little cave under the concrete air conditioner base to give birth. Mom knew they were in danger of drowning if Emma couldn’t get them out.
When we finally pulled into the garage we ran to the back yard hoping for the best, but dreading what we might find. I’ll never forget Mom in the pouring rain down on her knees in the mud with a flashlight. What we saw was something I will always remember.
Water was quickly filling up Emma’s birthing room. However, we were fascinated to see the rearranging she had done. This loving momma had taken her babies and lined them up in a row facing her. She would start at one end of the row and with her nose lift each of the tiny noses up out of the water one, two, three, four … then start over one, two, three, four. This little white dog instinctively knew if she took one pup to safety, while she was gone the others would drown.
We could almost feel Emma’s relief when she saw Mom peeking in behind the flashlight. If dogs talked she surely said, “Wow, am I glad to see you. Can you please help me and take over here? I am worn out!” Mom pulled all the helpless babies to safety and Emma was one grateful dog.
In my adult life I have so many times felt like Emma. If I don’t keep each of my responsibilities above water, something is going to drown. My kids, my husband, my house, my friends, my work, my extended family … one, two, three, four. Is everyone happy? Is everything taken care of? Have I forgotten anything? If I don’t keep moving something disastrous will happen.
When I finally step back and realize I am only one person who can only do so much, I relax believing I’m doing the best I can. No one is going to drown and, one more time, I resign from the position of master controller of the universe.