My husband and I are now empty-nesters. No, we didn't just pack off the last of the kids to college - we brought our foster pups to the shelter so they can be adopted. For the past five weeks, my life has been absorbed by these pups. I was a reluctant foster parent, but I found them abandoned in the street and couldn't pass them by. The time spent with these puppies has really been a learning experience for me. Sure - there was a lot of learning about how to care for puppies (I'm a cat person and have never had a dog). But I also learned a lot about myself. (For those who just want to skip to the puppy pictures, view the puppy blog.)
Okay, true confession time. When I found the puppies, I thought I would only have them for a day or so. I'd bring them home, check with one of the local shelters and drop them off. The puppies were so young (about 2 weeks), none of the shelters would take them. One shelter would take them, but they admitted that the puppies would be euthanized because they weren't equipped to provide the round-the-clock care they needed. After a few days of denial, I realized I would have to keep them until they were weaned. I honestly didn't think I had it in me to do what needed to be done. And to do it with no anger, regrets or resentment. I surprised myself.
The puppies have consumed my time for the past five weeks. I was pretty much housebound - only leaving for short errands.We started out feeding them with a baby bottle every four hours. Not having children, the concept of 4 a.m. feedings was new to me. Fortunately, the puppies moved through their growth cycle pretty quickly. By the second week, we were able to leave them for six hours at night. That period pretty much cured my insomnia - I slept great in the little time I had for sleep. I have a lot of respect and sympathy for new parents - they have to get by without sleep for a lot longer than I did!
And while I could have done work in my home studio, I found it difficult to concentrate. I worked just enough to meet the deadlines I had. I now find myself with two pieces of artcloth due the end of next week for an ArtCloth Network exhibition. Fortunately I had a vision and created a number of samples earlier this summer. When I started working on the cloth last week, I was able to jump right in.
So, what did I learn from this experience?
I have more patience than I realized.
All that reading I have done on acceptance has paid off. I felt no resentment and was able to accept (and enjoy) the "disruption" to my life.
My practice of living in the present moment has also paid off. I focused completely on the puppies - not just with the caretaking tasks, but also holding them and playing with them.(to the detriment of my studio time!)
As much as I love the puppies (they really are great puppies), I am not ready for the responsibility of having a dog full-time in my household.
It was a bittersweet goodbye today, with plenty of tears. But I know that they will be adopted into good homes. My home was just a stopping point on their journey. And I feel privileged to have been a part of it.