Saturday, September 22, 2012


(PLEASE NOTE: The latest "new" post just precedes this one...I posted it the same day as this, but this is a post that I had discovered lying unfinished in the draft folder, so although it's old news, I'm publishing it belatedly. The NEW news is the next entry.)

Ella has not given me a lot of pups over the course of her reproductive career, but the ones she has given me have been consistent in their innate talent for tracking...they follow their noses from Day One and some have proven their particular talent for Search and Rescue. Ella's little girl who was featured in January's blog (see photo in last entry) is now a chunky little four-month-old named Elan who can hardly tear her nose from the ground. The snapshot above was taken when she was about ten weeks old...pretty typically showing her zipping around vacuuming scent.

Another of Ella's kids got himself in trouble recently, but ultimately (spoiler alert) independently resolved his dilemma on his own by using that family specialty - his nose. That, and an impressive measure of smarts!

Some of you who follow Facebook may have read of Zhen's travails. It started on a Friday night, when his new owners (who'd had him only a few weeks) went to visit friends in Clarks Summit. Zhen was new to it all, the "Big City" (he's a country bumpkin!), the friends, the new owners. When his new owners left to go pick something up, they thought he'd wait patiently for their return. Wrong-o! Zhen had PTSD flashbacks to his recent uprooting from Hollow Hills and decided he wasn't letting these new folks get away from him...he determined to go looking for them on his own. They returned a short while later to discover that Zhen had bolted past the host as he opened a door, and in that moment Zhen became a dog on the lam.

His new owners contacted me after their own initial efforts proved fruitless, and with unfounded confidence I joined the search. With Ella, Zhen's mom, along, we trudged miles through the neighborhoods, in the rain, calling and trying to deliberately leave a scent trail in a circumference that would capture Zhen's nose and guide him back to the place he had last seen his people. Optimism waned as one day became two, then three. Residents of Clarks Summit proved their affection for dogs, as calls came in at all hours, mostly with versions of "he was just here" that were torturous to us searchers. The sitings did establish a pattern, though, and it was obvious Zehn had set himself up a bivouac that revealed great instincts and/or thinking on his part. Woods in the middle of town provided shelter, ponds provided water, and nearby Baptist Bible provided lots of students which meant potential food sources. But he'd been spooked by too many pursuits, too many scary close calls with automobiles and other dogs, and he wasn't taking any chances, not even when familiar voices and smells were close at hand. Nothing we did convinced him to reveal himself.

But, eventually, it was his choice that brought him home. That, and the innate tracking abilities his family tree has given him. He decided he had to go back to find his way forward, and simply presented himself to his new folks right at their doorstep!

Changing Seasons

This is a birth announcement! Really, it is. I'll get to it. But because I see everything as being connected to everything else, I can't think about anything in isolation. I find myself prompted to want to draw you, my patient reader, into the labyrinth of connectivity.

The most recent birth was textbook. And thinking of texbooks make me consider the reality that "by the book" means nothing, really, except that certain events have been observed to occur a certain way with a greater degree of frequency than in other ways. Births, for example, even "by the book," are laborious by definition, and that's when everything goes "right." As any of my blog readers know, I've become all-too-familiar with the other kind, the kind that requires medical or surgical intervention, and that even with intervention sometimes has tragic outcomes.

Those past experiences of non-textbook births, the near-deaths of mamas and the actual deaths of puppies, have insidiously expanded beyond memory and into an internalized narrative of negative expectation that essentially dictates my responses in the present time and prevents me from accurately perceiving what's happening in front of my eyes, since my mind's DVR player is set to auto-replays of "tapes" from the past. I begin sleeping fitfully a couple of weeks before an impending due date. I fret when the mamas appear to me to be even slightly off-feed or listless or uncomfortable. If labor doesn't commence on schedule, I'm a a nervous wreck, imagining the worst-possible scenarios, from dystocia to a ruptured uterus. When labor does commence, I'm a basket case until every last pup is greedily suckling and mama dog is relaxed and attentive.

So much for the wonder of birth, huh? As a small child, I trusted Nature. I'd watch mama cats, dogs, pigs, or whatever other creature didn't mind my presence as they brought forth life, and it never occurred to me to imagine that anything I could do would be of any greater benefit than the immanent presence of the forces of selection that had perfected this process. I was a witness to miracles, and believed in them fully and worshipfully.

So, what accounts for the transformation from celebrant to a gargantuan worrywart? I could argue that I have good reason to be anxious, that past experiences have given me legitimate reason for my reactions. But there's the thing, the "reactions" are in response to situations that occurred in the past, not the present, and what possible good comes from being disconnected from the present? Events take place only in the present, and we have enough to do to process and comprehend even a fraction of what is actually happening in any given moment, let alone if we're not really tuned in, if we're living in a tape-loop inside our heads. I wonder how many mistakes I've made, how many possibilities I've sundered, because my current actions were responsive to the internal dictates of my fears of history, not present realities.

Granted, a heightened and informed awareness of indications of trouble can, and in my experience as a breeder certainly has, trigger interventions that can be literally life-saving. But what happens to trust, and patience, and wonder, and joyous participation in an event that is larger than my own life, is indeed the fundamental instauration of life?

I'm working on that...on acknowledging that I have no real power, no real control, that all things that I experience are created in my own head. The experience is my own. There may, or may not, be a capital-R reality "out there," but the only reality I can experience is that which I allow to reverberate inside my skull. So, henceforth, my aim is to reclaim that trusting, curious, celebratory, and altogether more wise awareness I seemed to possess during my childhood.

Thankfully, Ember gave me an opportunity to witness miracles again, as three weeks ago she delivered six pups "by the book." All I had to do was catch and towel-dry. At three weeks, they've devoured their first meals and are just as perfect as Mother Nature intended. My task is to be attentive now, to respond to the needs of the present, to enjoy the process as it unfolds, not exist in a limbo within the bars of my own fear.